FIAMĒ NAOMI MATA'AFA, Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade of Samoa, spotlighting the impact of climate change, said the first half of 2023 was characterized by worldwide record temperatures, intense water temperatures in various ocean basins, droughts in parts of Africa, Europe and Asia, severe flooding and cyclones and devastating wildfires in Greece, north-eastern Canada and Hawaii. “We will continually face these ever-worsening disasters if we continue to deny addressing their root causes,” she stressed, adding that scientists have warned of imminent, more frequent and extreme weather events. Reducing global emissions, including through investing in clean and affordable energy, as well as moving towards green resilient economies, tackling deforestation, reducing the reliance on fossil fuels and protecting nature must be a priority. She also highlighted the importance of operationalizing the Loss and Damage Fund as quickly as possible.
“For all Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) members, maintaining global temperatures below 1.5 degrees Celsius is a point of no return. Crossing this threshold spells the end of many of our island societies,” she asserted. Calling for the better protection of biodiversity, she said more than 1 billion people rely on forests for their livelihoods and land. Further, the ocean absorbs more than half of all carbon emissions and requires responsible stewardship that is integral in maintaining the Pacific identity. “The ocean is in us, and we are the ocean,” she declared, urging Member States to combat illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing in the Pacific region, which deprives small island developing States of needed revenue in a time of increased fiscal stress. In that regard, the adoption of the new treaty protecting biodiversity on the high seas is an important milestone in sustainably managing the high seas and oceans resources. Spotlighting her country’s engagement in the ongoing negotiations on a treaty to end plastic pollution, she underlined the need to address the global plastic pollution problem, especially in the marine environment.
Non-communicable diseases — a priority area for Samoa and the blue Pacific continent — are currently overtaking communicable diseases as the dominant health problem and are the leading causes of mortality, morbidity and disability, she continued. At the national level, they account for almost half of the deaths in Samoa, which has one of the highest obesity rates, particularly among children. Current data, however, shows some positive trends in falling rates of alcohol drinkers and smokers and an increase in people who are physically active. These statistics are a catalyst for programmes to promote healthier lifestyles. The Government has made people-centred health services and non-communicable diseases control a priority in its Pathway for the Development of Samoa 2019-2025. To help address the rise of non-communicable diseases, it is important to return to locally produced, quality, fresh foods with less reliance on processed imported foods.
Detailing the unique vulnerabilities impeding small island developing States’ ability to achieve sustainable development, she pointed to high indebtedness, which is compounded every time there is rebuilding after a natural disaster. “And we know that natural disasters will increase in frequency and severity as long as climate change remains unaddressed,” she added. A multidimensional vulnerability index, therefore, will allow for the inclusion of more than just income-based criteria to assess eligibility for concessional finance. Highlighting opportunities which arise from an increasingly digitized world, especially in connecting people in remote areas, she warned against the very real threats from cyberfraud and cyberattacks. Samoa needs assistance in ensuring that its infrastructure and financial institutions are safeguarded against cyberthreats and that it can build its capacity to address and combat these threats, she said.
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