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VSA goes to SIDS

Published on 22nd August 2014

The Third UN Conference on Small Island Developing States (SIDS) will be held in Apia, Samoa, from September 1-4 this year. SIDS, as a group of countries, are particularly vulnerable as they tend to suffer disproportionately from natural disasters and economic shocks. SIDS were first recognised as a distinct group in 1992, and this conference is a way to shine a spotlight on their particular needs.

SIDS logoTwenty of the 52 SIDS are in the Pacific, and VSA volunteers work in half of those to improve the lives of people living in poverty and hardship.


The theme of the conference this year is “genuine and durable partnerships”. Nikhil Seth, Director of the Division for Sustainable Development, Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), says they expect around 150 delegations, totalling around 1,000 attendees. This is the first time the UN has had a formal meeting about partnerships, he says, which marks a move away from the traditional “north-south” approach to development. “It is a new paradigm for cooperating and the spirit of solidarity.”


VSA CEO Gill Greer, who will attend the conference alongside VSA’s International Programme Manager Junior Ulu and Polynesia Programme Manager Ryan Brown, says “genuine and durable partnerships” are VSA’s core business, and volunteers play a crucial and unique role in building those partnerships.


“We send people, not money”, she says, “and those volunteers build relationships between our partner organisations and the people and communities we work with that have an impact beyond their assignments. Volunteers work across all areas of the Millennium Development Goals and globally have been responsible for so many of the successes under the MDGs. A volunteer’s work will ripple out across communities and generations – and they bring those links back to New Zealand with them, strengthening our ties with our Pacific neighbours.”


Mr Seth says that as the international community approaches the end of the MDG period, the SIDS conference is an important precursor to the work of setting out the post-2015 agenda. “If you don’t get it right for SIDS, who do you get it right for?”


The Conference pre-event will take place in Apia from 28-30 September, and various side-events will take place over the course of the conference. VSA CEO Gill Greer will facilitate “Stronger Partnerships through Volunteerism at SIDS”, an interactive session with UN Volunteers.


All speeches from the conference will be webcast at sids2014.org.


VSA has a number of volunteers attending, including Olivia Owen and Ellie van Baaren, who are volunteering with UN Women in Suva, and volunteers who’ve taken special short-term assignments for the conference:

  • Christine Hartley (Communications Advisor, Samoa Tourism Authority)
  • Phoebe Newsham (seconded to High Com for three weeks during SIDS).
  • Sophie Dowson (Event Management Adviser, STA)
  • Hani Jossi (Volunteer Training Adviser, STA)
  • Bernie Gruschow (Sound Engineer Adviser, STA)
  • Pamela Fleming (Writer/blogger, STA)
  • VSA volunteer Ken Wong has supported the Scientific Research Institute of Samoa to produce gluten-free breadfruit flour, which will be used by conference caterers.






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