Small islands, big threats

OECD Observer

A street destroyed by the earthquake in downtown Port-au-Prince, Haiti, on 3 February 2010. ©Eduardo Munoz/Reuters

Last year, actor Sean Penn called on world leaders to help Haiti deal with the "looming existential threat" of climate change. 

Mr Penn was speaking at the One Planet Summit in Paris in December, where small islands commanded everyone's attention in the wake of a series of destructive hurricanes that showed how Haiti and similar small island developing states–sometimes referred to as SIDS–are particularly affected by extreme weather events and natural disasters. More than 335 major natural catastrophes have hit them since 2000, resulting in damage estimated at US$22.7 billion.

In fact, such disasters destroyed 17% of small island developing states’ GDP between 2000 and 2015, whereas high income countries lost just 3% of their GDP to natural catastrophes in the same period. According to Making Development Co-operation Work for Small Island Developing States, the relatively poor island states are not equipped to respond to extreme events, while climate change has increased the severity and frequency of extreme weather events by an estimated 40-80%, posing additional challenges.

Development co-operation can help mitigate the effects of disasters, the report argues, and help make small island states more resilient. Short-term disaster response from humanitarian donors must be linked with long-term financial support and be mainstreamed into development planning and financing.                 

OECD (2018), Making Development Co-operation Work for Small Island Developing States, OECD Publishing, Paris,

©OECD Observer September 2018

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