Alliance of Small Island States
|Headquarters||New York City, New York|
|39 members and 5 observers|
Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) is an intergovernmental organization of low-lying coastal and small island countries. AOSIS was established in 1990, ahead of the Second World Climate Conference. The main purpose of the alliance is to consolidate the voices of Small Island Developing States (SIDS) to address global warming.
These island countries are particularly vulnerable to climate change and its related effects on the ocean, including sea level rise, coastal erosion and saltwater intrusion. The members are among the nations least responsible for climate change, having contributed less than one percent to the world's greenhouse gas emissions. These states advocate for international policy and mechanisms for addressing the inequity of climate impacts.
AOSIS functions primarily as an ad hoc lobby and negotiating voice for SIDS through the United Nations (UN) system. It has no regular budget, permanent secretariat or formal charter. There is a Bureau, which is made up of the chair-person and two vice chairs.
SIDS are among the nations least responsible for climate change, having contributed less than one percent to the world's greenhouse gas emissions. However, they are particularly vulnerable to its affects, with some islands even at risk of becoming uninhabitable due to sea level rise. AOSIS has consistently raised this threat of uninhabitability created by climate change in climate negotiations.
SIDS, of which AOSIS is predominantly comprised, account for less than one percent of the global GDP, territory, and population, meaning that individually SIDS hold little political weight in international climate negotiations. The aim of AOSIS is to amplify the voices of its members by joining together states which face similar issues. This is to increase their ability to influence climate negotiations and raise awareness for its concerns.
AOSIS has been very active from its inception. It has played a leading role in the global arena in raising awareness on climate change and advocating for action to address climate change. The creation of the alliance marked the beginning of the growth in influence of SIDS in climate politics. Despite their size and their relatively small economic and political weight, AOSIS member states have pulled above their weight in climate change negotiations.
AOSIS played an important role in establishing the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and was an important actor in the negotiations of the Framework in 1992. Its advocacy was instrumental to the inclusion of references to the greater vulnerability and special needs of SIDS in Article 4.8 of the UNFCCC. However, AOSIS was unsuccessful in its attempts to persuade nations to include commitments to specified greenhouse gas emission reduction targets in the Framework.
AOSIS continued to advocate for the special needs of SIDS during the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 and the ‘special case’ of SIDS was recognised in Agenda 21, the political action plan which resulted from the Summit. AOSIS’ proposal to create an ‘international insurance fund’, funded by developed countries to compensate SIDS for damage caused by climate change, was turned down. In Rio, AOSIS broadened its mandate beyond climate change to also include the sustainable development of SIDS. AOSIS negotiated for the inclusion of a small program area on the sustainable development of small islands in Agenda 21. However, Agenda 21 was not legally binding and some academics contend that the program was too vague to promote meaningful action.
AOSIS did manage to secure the inclusion in Agenda 21 of a call for a global conference on this issue, which led to the first Global Conference on the Sustainable Development of Small Island States, held in Barbados in 1994. AOSIS played a prominent role at the Conference. It was the first UN conference entirely devoted to SIDS. The Conference resulted in the translation of Agenda 21 into a more comprehensive programme, the Barbados Programme of Action on the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States. However, the five year review of the Barbados Conference, conducted at a special session of the UN General Assembly in 1999, found that the SIDS efforts to make progress towards sustainable development had been limited, while the ten year review of the Barbados Conference, which took the form of an international meeting in Mauritius in 2005, found that its implementation was largely unsuccessful.
AOSIS put forward the first draft text in the Kyoto Protocol negotiations as early as 1994. AOSIS member states Fiji and Anitgua and Barbuda were the first states to ratify the Kyoto Protocol in 1998.
AOSIS has used formal and informal meetings scheduled in advance of UN climate change conferences to raise awareness and political momentum for its mission. AOSIS has also used the media to raise awareness for its concerns. For example, in the lead up to the 2009 UN Climate Change Conference (UNFCCC) in Copenhagen, members of the cabinet of the Maldives, an AOSIS member state, held an underwater cabinet meeting to create awareness of the threat that climate change poses to the very existence of the Maldives. The stunt garnered international attention.
At the UN Climate Change Conference in Berlin in 1995, AOSIS advocated very strongly for a commitment to timetables and target measures for climate change. It gained the support of developed nations including China, Brazil, and India. AOSIS had advocated since 2008 for the inclusion of a temperature target to restrain global warming to 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels. Many of the AOSIS member states were present at the Conference in Copenhagen. Democracy Now! reported that members from the island state of Tuvalu interrupted a session of the Conference on 10 December 2009 to demand that global temperature rise be limited to 1.5 °C instead of the proposed 2 °C. This advocacy continued in the lead up to the 2015 UNFCCC in Paris. AOSIS initiated the negotiating agenda item which would lead to the inclusion of the 1.5 °C target and was important in gaining support for its inclusion from vulnerable African and Asian countries and LDC countries. According to writer and activist Mark Lynas, the inclusion of the 1.5 °C target in the Paris Agreement was 'almost entirely' due to the advocacy of SIDS and other developing countries.
At the 2013 Warsaw climate change conference, AOSIS pushed for the establishment of an international mechanism on loss and damages stressed by the wreckage of Supertyphoon Haiyan. As the existence of many AOSIS member states are put at risk by climate change, AOSIS has threatened lawsuits. The results of a recent review of the literature  show that potential liability for climate change-related losses for AOSIS is over $570 trillion. AOSIS raised this issue again at the 2015 UNFCCC in Paris. AOSIS was instrumental in the inclusion of Article 8 in the Paris Agreement, which ‘recognizes the importance of averting, minimizing and addressing loss and damage’ caused by climate change, although the article does not ‘provide a basis for any liability of compensation’. As in previous climate agreements, AOSIS members were among the first to ratify the Paris Agreement, with Fiji ratifying first, followed days later by the Republic of Marshall Islands, Palau, the Maldives, and others.
AOSIS member state Fiji co-hosted the UN Oceans Conference in 2017. Ministers from AOSIS member states, including Fiji, Tuvalu, and Palau used this conference to again raise awareness of the real risk that the impact of climate change poses to the very existence of their nations and to advocate for action to address climate change. Fiji also presided over the 2017 UN Climate Change Conference, making it the first SIDS to preside over a UN conference on climate change, although the event took place in Bonn due to Fiji's remote location, small size and limited infrastructure.
AOSIS has a membership of 39 states from all around the world, of which 37 are members of the UN while 2 (Cook Islands and Niue) participate within the UN, and an additional five states are observers. The alliance represents 28% of the developing countries, and 20% of the UN's total membership. Most SIDS are AOSIS members.
AOSIS has a heterogeneous membership. Member states are spread across many different global regions. AOSIS' focus is SIDS, however its membership also includes low-lying coastal countries, for example Belize and Guyana, and larger islands, for example Papua New Guinea. As well as geographical differences, the member nations also vary economically, as AOSIS includes both wealthy member nations, for example Singapore, and LDC countries, for example Comoros.
The member states are:
In the Atlantic Ocean:
In the Caribbean:
In the Indian Ocean:
In the Pacific Ocean:
In the South China Sea:
|1||1991 – 1994||Robert Van Lierop||Vanuatu|
|2||1994 – 1997||Annette des Iles||Trinidad and Tobago|
|3||1997 – 2002||Tuiloma Neroni Slade||Samoa|
|4||2002 – 2005||Jagdish Koonjul||Mauritius|
|5||2005 – 2006||Enele Sopoaga (acting)||Tuvalu|
|6||2006||Julian R. Hunte||Saint Lucia|
|7||2006 – 2009||Angus Friday||Grenada|
|8||2009 – 2011||Dessima Williams||Grenada|
|9||2012 – 2014||Marlene Moses||Nauru|
|10||2015 – 2017||Ahmed Sareer||Maldives|
|11||2017 – 2018||Ali Naseer Mohamed||Maldives|
|12||2019 – 2020||Lois Michele Young||Belize|
|13||2021 – present||Walton Alfonso Webson||Antigua and Barbuda|
- Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific (ACP)
- Barbados Programme of Action (BPOA)
- Climate change mitigation
- Islands First
- Least Developed Countries (LDC)
- World Ocean Conference
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