Small Island Developing States (SIDS) are maritime countries that tend to share similar sustainable development challenges, including small but growing populations, limited resources, remoteness, susceptibility to natural disasters, vulnerability to external shocks, excessive dependence on international trade, and fragile environments. Their growth and development is also held back by high communication, energy and transportation costs, irregular international transport volumes, disproportionately expensive public administration and infrastructure due to their small size, and little to no opportunity to create economies of scale.
The SIDS were first recognized as a distinct group of developing countries at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in June 1992. The Barbados Programme of Action was produced in 1994 to assist the SIDS in their sustainable development efforts. The United Nations Office of the High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States (UN-OHRLLS) represents this group of states.
Many SIDS now recognise the need to move towards low-carbon, climate resilient economies, as set out in the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) implementation plan for climate change-resilient development. SIDS often rely heavily on imported fossil fuels, spending an ever-larger proportion of their GDP on energy imports. Renewable technologies have the advantage of providing energy at a lower cost than fossil fuels and making SIDS more sustainable. Barbados has been successful in adopting the use of solar water heaters (SWHs). A 2012 report published by the Climate & Development Knowledge Network showed that its SWH industry now boasts over 50,000 installations. These have saved consumers as much as US$137 million since the early 1970s. The report suggested that Barbados's experience could be easily replicated in other SIDS with high fossil fuel imports and abundant sunshine.
Currently, the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs lists 57 small island developing states. These are broken down into three geographic regions: the Caribbean; the Pacific; and Africa, Indian Ocean, Mediterranean and South China Sea (AIMS)., including Associate Members of the Regional Commissions. Each of these regions has a regional cooperation body: the Caribbean Community, the Pacific Islands Forum and the Indian Ocean Commission respectively, which many SIDS are members or associate members of. In addition, most (but not all) SIDS are members of the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), which performs lobbying and negotiating functions for the SIDS within the United Nations system. The UNCTAD website states that "the UN never established criteria to determine an official list of SIDS" but it maintains a shorter, unofficial list on its website for analytical purposes.
|Caribbean||Pacific||Africa, Indian Ocean, Mediterranean and South China Sea (AIMS)|
|Antigua and Barbuda||Cook Islands[c]||Cape Verde[e]|
|Aruba[a][f]||Federated States of Micronesia||Comoros[g]|
|British Virgin Islands[a][b][c]||Kiribati[g]||São Tomé and Príncipe[g][e]|
|Dominican Republic[f]||New Caledonia[a][b][c]|
|Guyana||Northern Mariana Islands[a][e][c]|
|Jamaica||Papua New Guinea|
|Netherlands Antilles[d][f][c]||Solomon Islands[g]|
|Saint Kitts and Nevis||Tonga|
|Saint Vincent and the Grenadines||Vanuatu[g]|
|Trinidad and Tobago|
|United States Virgin Islands[d][e][c]|