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Asia-Pacific Small Island Developing States: Development challenges and policy solutions

UNESCAP 2020.03.31
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Asia-Pacific small island developing States (SIDS), are a diverse group, despite the broad perception to the contrary. Nevertheless, although they differ in size of landmass, population, national economies and the level of development, they share common development challenges. Those challenges can be classified as economic (small sized, undiversified economies, remotely located and exposed to external shocks), environmental (existential threats related to climate change and environmental degradation), political (ethnic conflicts and political instability) and social (violence towards vulnerable groups). Some of the challenges ? such as environmental and economic vulnerabilities ? cannot be addressed without concerted efforts and the support of the international community. This support is framed within the United Nations’ programmes of action, and more specifically, the SAMOA Pathway for SIDS (2014-2024) and the Istanbul Programme of Action for Least Developed Countries (LDCs) (2011-2021). The solution to the development predicaments of SIDS also lies in a particular type of structural economic transformation, which does not follow the traditional path from agriculture to industry and then to services. As building a manufacturing base in remote islands located far away from global markets is not a viable option, structural transformation in SIDS must be well targeted and aimed at productive, niche services and modernised agriculture and fishery, and at utilising the resources of their exclusive economic zones. This sectoral development of both sectors, if accompanied by productivity gains, will effectively enhance the development trajectory. Subsequently, these actions must be underpinned by economic policies to build economic resilience, create productive capacities and productive employment, and to utilise new mechanisms to finance developmental advancements.

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