Statement by the Republic of Maldives

on behalf of the Alliance of Small Island States

at HABITAT3 Informal Consultations

29 April 2016

Co-Chairs, Excellencies, Distinguished Colleagues,

1. I have the honour to speak on behalf of the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS). AOSIS associates itself with the statement delivered by the Kingdom of Thailand on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, which highlighted many of our concerns, particularly on the need for clear linkages and coordination between the New Urban Agenda and our other agendas and frameworks.

2. AOSIS welcomes this week's discussions. Having listened to the discussion, we would like to add some perspectives, which we feel, could be further elaborated.  Firstly, is that our shared goal for the New Urban Agenda should be to make cities and towns of all shapes and sizes more functional, resilient, accessible and sustainable as live-able spaces, while recognizing the vast diversity in cities, towns, and villages, as well as urban-rural relationships. We need to think pragmatically about how the New Urban Agenda can support settlements of all sizes in realizing public and ecological health, and promoting cooperation around thoughtful planning and innovation.

3. I am glad you mentioned the origin of the definition of cities, as one suggestion we would like to add is for the New Urban Agenda to reflect an understanding of SIDS' challenges and vulnerabilities, our unique circumstances in terms of governance arrangements and size, and the vast differences that exist from island to island. "Urban" in SIDS can mean small towns stretching along a costal perimeter, or a series of islets, not to mention large city-states, or larger islands featuring multiple sizes of towns and cities. As a result, SIDS have significantly varied governance arrangements, from community or sub-national actors, to national level management of settlements across hundreds or even thousands of islands. We raise this point because "one size fit all" solutions will not be effective in the new Urban Agenda. In addition we propose that the New Urban Agenda to reflect the reality in human settlements and the urban-rural divide in SIDS so that we are not excluded from opportunities resulting from Habitat III, such as funding, partnerships, or knowledge and technology sharing.

4. The inclusion of SIDS issues in the Habitat arena provides mutual benefit to SIDS and other member states that share similar challenges, beginning with the need for resilience, and the opportunity for a land-sea perspective, at the heart of integrated planning.  As we know, climate change and related extreme weather events are important issues for SIDS – they cause halted or reversed economic growth, redirected resources to emergency efforts, overburdened institutions, loss and damages to vital public and private infrastructure, and damage to housing in areas of already high land scarcity. Climate realities serve as a barrier preventing advancements for many SIDS around concerns such as access to food, energy, water, housing, and economic opportunities, which are already hindered by remoteness, as well as land and resource scarcity.

5. In identifying the challenges specific to SIDS is understanding the type of support and capacity building that may be helpful given many unique cultural histories, approaches to spatial planning and governance, all deserving of recognition.  This could involve coordinated mechanisms to give local authorities access to knowledge, skills and capacity building, with the goal being local populations having ownership of their urban development. Specifically this may include expertise in technology and urban planning; funding; and training in monitoring and data analysis.

6. Taking the ideas of data and capacity a step further, it is important that reporting at the global level account for smaller settlements. As many SIDS have national populations under 400,000 or even under 100,000, we would appreciate finding creative ways to collect baseline data and track progress in smaller urban centers to empower thoughtful, evidence based policy decisions. Many countries with limited capacity to report, including SIDS, will require support to national statistical commissions and other relevant actors through capacity building for data collection and analysis to make informed decisions in how to implement the urban agenda, and then to track progress. We recommend any mechanisms to improve data collection and analysis be made in coordination with the many other UN entities who have existing commitments to provide capacity building through the 2030 Agenda, Addis Ababa Agenda, or others.

7. Alongside coherence, planning and capacity building is the need for an accessible financial architecture that will support capacity building; not only around data, but also support to broader efforts by urban authorities around long-term planning and engagement with citizens and other stakeholders. We will need to establish clear linkages with funding mechanisms established by the other processes to identify where gaps exist in terms of either access to local or sub-national authorities, or gaps on substantive issues not directly addressed elsewhere.

8. In conclusion, we welcome the upcoming Habitat III conference, to be graciously hosted by Ecuador, as a chance to reconsider urbanization for all categories of human settlements. Underlying this plan must be a cohesive integration of the three pillars of sustainable development across urban rules and regulations, urban planning and design, and financing and investment in urban basic services.

9. AOSIS looks forward to the opportunity to begin discussing the outcome document for this universal agenda and continue sharing perspectives.

Thank you.