Tides of Transformation: Steering Sustainable Futures for Small Island Developing States


The Sustainable Development Goals Summit held in New York in September 2023 marked the mid-point of implementation of the 2030 Agenda. Its overarching message was sobering: progress towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is far off track, with only 12 percent of targets showing sufficient progress and 30 percent lagging or even regressing. In this problematic global environment, Small Island Developing States (SIDS) find themselves particularly challenged, primarily as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic which dramatically reduced tourism and economic growth. In 2020, SIDS made up 65 percent (13 out of 20) of the countries that suffered the largest annual contraction in GDP, leaving them particularly vulnerable to subsequent global economic shocks.

The increasing frequency and intensity of natural disasters compound these challenges, erasing decades of development progress. In SIDS, natural disaster costs represent, on average, approximately 20 percent of GDP. Responding to these losses, along with their toll on human beings and the related imperatives for climate change adaptation, the United Nations Joint Sustainable Development Goals Fund is providing dedicated support to address vulnerabilities and strengthen resilience in SIDS, as recommended by the Secretary-General in 2021. The Joint SDG Fund has a proven track record of providing tailored, integrated policy advice through joint programmes that emphasize collaboration, flexibility, coherence and effectiveness, and leverage the expertise and resources of the UN development system.

In the wake of COP28’s historic pledges in November 2023 to the Loss and Damage Fund, which aims to provide financial assistance to nations most vulnerable and impacted by the effects of climate change, and in anticipation of the 4th International Conference on SIDS in May 2024, which will redefine long-term goals and pathways to the SDGs, this report provides an overview of the Joint SDG Fund’s results in its support to SIDS along with forward-looking recommendations to sustain and scale up UN support through the Fund.