Jan. 12, 2004 – The United Nations General Assembly has approved key provisions of a resolution allowing the U.S. Virgin Islands, although it is not a sovereign nation, to participate in a U.N. conference on the sustainable development of small islands later this month in the Bahamas.
At the conference, set for Jan. 26-30 at the Radisson Cable Beach Resort on Nassau, 45 small island governments are expected to begin working on a plan of action addressing a host of crucial issues including a rise in the sea level, water management and sustainable tourism.
According to Carlyle Corbin, the V.I. government's representative for external affairs, the program's roots can be traced back to 1992 and the first Earth Summit at Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where a proposal was made to focus the world's attention on small islands.
Although the '92 summit was primarily focused on environmental issues such as climate change and sea-level rise, Corbin says, the range of topics addressed over the years has expanded to include sustainable development, protection of marine resources, sustainable tourism and many more.
In 1994, the territory took part in the original Global Conference on the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States, where a plan of action was developed to tackle issues such as biodiversity and climate change. In 1999, the territory took part in the U.N. General Assembly's five-year review to assess achievements and future areas of concern.
At the upcoming inter-regional meeting in the Bahamas, the territory will be a full participant in helping to draft a plan of action for small islands in the coming decade. In April, the governments of other U.N. member nations will join the small island jurisdictions in helping to refine the draft program. Activities will culminate in late August, when the plan of action is expected to be finalized and adopted by the United Nations.
According to Corbin, whose position falls within the Office of the Governor, the U.N. initiatives have definitely "raised awareness about sustainable development and issues like solid waste and water management." In addition he points to U.N.-inspired initiatives such as an environmental program, which is administered by the University of the Virgin Islands, to help protect natural resources and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's "Blue Water to White Water" initiative.
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