The Difficulty of Small Island Diplomacy

 

Screen Shot 2017-05-25 at 23.47.19Recently, climate change has been at the forefront of the vulnerable Small Island Developing States (SIDS).[1] They argue that climate change affects them more than it does industrialised countries who must now share a common responsibility to tackling it.[2] SIDS claim the reason for this is because of the vast difference in levels of technology, human capability and other more important drivers like economics and finance.[3] However, the difficulty for SIDS and their diplomatic approach is that all states have a duty and a responsibility to tackle climate change, so there are no free riders according to Daniel Esty, a prominent professor of environmental law and someone who regularly advises SIDS.

Another problem for SIDS lies in their limited diversified economies and weak institutions coupled with the new knowledge economy and the advent of information technology that continue to pose challenges for them.[4] All this makes it difficult for them to be heard or recognised. To add to this, the growing influence of interdependence among states makes SIDS more vulnerable to decisions made by industrialised and emerging nations like Brazil and China.[5] And to make matters worse, non-state actors with more resources and influence get to have an input in bilateral and multilateral negotiations at the expense of SIDS.

Interestingly, because of these very reasons, SIDS own political systems become more vulnerable to manipulation by outside actors and they are then prone to external pressure resulting in their weaknesses in the diplomatic arena.[6] This can be observed with the lack of military and economic power, for example, therefore deals are made with other industrialised countries for protection. However, this comes at a cost.

On the other hand, there have been measures taken to try and alleviate this conundrum. SIDS form strategic diplomatic partnerships and adopt different kinds of diplomacy to achieve their stated goals. For example, they can utilise Associative diplomacy, multilateral institutional diplomacy, Diaspora diplomacy, and increasingly cyber diplomacy to make their voices heard on international issues and especially climate change.[7]

It is important to end on this note and that this diplomacy for SIDS is a necessity. The populations of these countries constitute 5% of the world’s population.[8] They are more likely to be affected by climate change, public health issues and technological factors as a consequence of their size. But, as mentioned previously, their vulnerability to manipulation is rife and although most SIDS join diplomatic blocks, there are still others who choose not to join. Take this example, some SIDS urged the World Trade Organisation (WTO) to relax some rules for them regarding their economies, but whilst 37 states took part only 22 members were full members of the WTO.[9]  Therefore, there is going to be some difficulty for SIDS in the near future unless their diplomatic approach begins to work.

Endnotes

[1] Aosis.org. (2017). About AOSIS | Alliance of Small Island States – AOSIS | Alliance of Small Island States – AOSIS. [online] Available at: http://aosis.org/about/ [Accessed 25 May 2017].

[2] Aginam, O. (2011). Climate Change Diplomacy and Small Island Developing States – Our World. [online] Ourworld.unu.edu. Available at: https://ourworld.unu.edu/en/climate-change-diplomacy-and-small-island-developing-states [Accessed 25 May 2017].

[3] Domingo, S. (2011). Climate change diplomacy and small island states – United Nations University. [online] Unu.edu. Available at: https://unu.edu/news/announcements/climate-change-diplomacy-and-small-island-states.html [Accessed 25 May 2017].

[4] Cross-Mike, S. (n.d.). Caribbean Diplomacy: Research on Diplomacy of Small States. [online] Available at: http://archive1.diplomacy.edu/pool/fileInline.php?IDPool=352 [Accessed 25 May 2017].

[5] Mohamed, A. (n.d.). The Diplomacy of Micro-states. Netherlands Institute of International Relations.

[6] Aginam, O. (2011). Climate Change Diplomacy and Small Island Developing States – Our World. [online] Ourworld.unu.edu. Available at: https://ourworld.unu.edu/en/climate-change-diplomacy-and-small-island-developing-states [Accessed 25 May 2017].

[7] Mohamed, A. (n.d.). The Diplomacy of Micro-states. Netherlands Institute of International Relations.

[8] Cross-Mike, S. (n.d.). Caribbean Diplomacy: Research on Diplomacy of Small States. [online] Available at: http://archive1.diplomacy.edu/pool/fileInline.php?IDPool=352 [Accessed 25 May 2017].

[9] Mohamed, A. (n.d.). The Diplomacy of Micro-states. Netherlands Institute of International Relations.

 

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One thought on “The Difficulty of Small Island Diplomacy

  1. jazz006 May 26, 2017 / 3:40 pm

    Its a good argument of climate change and public diplomacy on small island. However i feel more examples would have made the argument more interesting.

    Like

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