"The SIDS conference has been a great success," said Mr Brahima Sanou upon his return from Apia, Samoa, where the Third International Conference for Small Island Development States took place from 1 to 4 September 2014.
"Everyone recognized that ICTs are key to the socio-economic development of Small Island Developing States," he added. "The conference provided an opportunity to build new partnerships and strengthen existing ones. The road ahead is long but, if we travel together, we will reach our destination: to connect the unconnected and achieve socio-economic development for all."
"I had interesting conversations with many leaders of Small Island Developing States and I was encouraged to hear their stories and how ICTs have made a difference in people's lives. Yet, they confirmed that too many people, especially those living in remote areas, are still unconnected."
Before the conference ITU organized two events on Addressing Connectivity for SIDS and on Disaster Risk Reduction and Climate Change Adaptation for SIDS.
On 2 September, ITU held a high-level roundtable moderated by Ms. Helen Clark, UNDP Administrator and Chair of the UN Development Group, on Bridging Barriers of Braodband for SIDS through genuine and durable partnerships.
"I was pleased to welcome so many prominent personalities at our event, including Samoan Prime Minister Tuilaepa Lupesoliai Sailele Malielegaoi," said Mr Sanou.
In his keynote speech, the Samoan Prime Minister said that there are numerous benefits of having access to broadband. "The Faculty of Medicine of Samoa is using online learning facilities. In this case, brodband connectivity is a must. For this reason, broadband should be faster to enable online teaching to students scattered all over the world," he said. The Prime Minister urged leaders "to support the development of broadband as a key initiative for the implementation of the SAMOA Pathway to sustainable development."
Opening the high-level dialogue, Ms Clark spoke about the existing digital divide and said that the digital gap "will start to marginalize, disempower and set-back people even further." "For SIDS, ICTs and broadband open up opportunities we never saw before," she added.
All the panellists reiterated the importance of ICTs in the post-2015 development agenda.
H.E. Mr. Enele Sopoaga, Prime Minister of Tuvalu invited the audience "to come to Tuvalu to develop partnerships" that can help connect the rural people in his country.
His words were echoed by the Prime Minister of Tonga, H.E. Mr. Lord Tuʻivakanō who added that "with broadband connection the world is getting smaller."
At the event ITU, ITSO Intelsat, Inmarsat and Kacific and eleven small island developing states signed an agreement on the Development of Satellite Communications Capacity and Emergency Communications Solutions for the Pacific. The aim of the project, which will be implemented from 2014 to 2017 for a period of three years, is to improve connectivity in the remote areas of the signatory countries. The objective is to develop low cost, reliable, and diverse satellite communications capacity for the socio-economic development of the Pacific Islands region. To get the best return on investment, the same telecommunications/ICT infrastructure/resources will be used for emergency telecommunications to ensure public safety when disasters strike. It is hoped to replicate the project in Africa and in the Caribbean.
The conference, the largest international meeting ever held in the Pacific, was attended by 28 Heads of State and governments and 4000 participants, including policymakers, business leaders and representatives from civil society.
Participants took part in a series of partnership dialogues, where governments, the private sector and non-government organizations had the opportunity to establish new joint initiatives on six priority areas: sustainable economic development; climate change and disaster risk management; sustainable energy; water and sanitation, food security and waste management; oceans, seas and biodiversity; and social development, which includes health and non-communicable diseases as well as youth and women.
The outcome document, named Small Island Developing States Accelerated Modalities of Action – or SAMOA Pathway – was unanimously endorsed at the last plenary session on 4 September. In the 214 points of the SAMOA Pathway, counties agree to strengthen their support for small island developing states.