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Small Island Developing States and Marine Security Problems

The Small Island Developing States or SIDS is a distinct group comprising of 38 UN member states and 20 non-UN Members of the United Nations regional commissions. These regions are currently at risk in terms of social, economic and environmental domains.

The SIDS are located in the Caribbean, the Pacific and the Atlantic, Indian Ocean and the South China Sea. The regions are rich sources for wildlife and flora diversity but at the same time face adverse aftereffects due to constant degradation in the environment. Keeping in view their environment and development, the United Nations in 1992 recognised their special case at the Conference held in Rio de Janeiro.

Having proximity and easy access to the massive water bodies around them works both ways—in and against their favour. Although there is a large scale production and investment in marine resources, the states are steadily losing their sole source of economic advantage due to climate change-induced biodiversity loss and hence exposure to global environmental challenges. The trading channels facilitating import-export between these states and the rest of the world turn out to be highly expensive and cost-ineffective. Mainly because of their remoteness and seclusion from the thriving international markets, the states ought to suffer huge economic losses especially during times of natural calamities when their sole breadwinner, that is, the produce from the ocean is at stake. The ocean covers up at least 28 times the landmass in these regions giving them a tag of Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ).

But with technological augmentation and deeper marine exploration for natural resources, the already fragile oceans’ ecosystem has been deteriorating over time. Hurricanes and storms following worsening climate change have threatened residents' livelihood - “Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Maria, and Nate turned the 2017 tropical cyclone season into one of the deadliest and most devastating of all time, destroying communications, energy and transport infrastructure, homes, health facilities and schools.” Biodiversity holds utmost importance in the economical and spiritual lives of the communities residing on the landlocked islands as a rich source of revenue and food, but their heavy dependence on the marine resources and international traffic, a high growth rate of population, less resilience to calamities and lack of strong communication networks are pushing these regions to a declining phase of economic sustainability.

These biodiversity hotspots being disconnected from the mainstream media and the world are also susceptible to illegal activities and threats ranging from ‘traditional armed conflict to transnational crime and piracy, illicit exploitation of natural resources, climate change and climate-related natural disasters, and uneven development.’

These regions, unfortunately, act as a budding spot for illegal trafficking of drugs, weapons and even people that creates unwanted hindrances for the residents as well. The oceans become a breeding spot for possible transnational crime including robbery, terrorism etc and piracy with limited power status and capabilities of the Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs). The area also caters to illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) exploitation of the marine ecosystem raising a genuine concern for livelihood and economy. With an increase in the levels of greenhouse gases, effects of global warming are rampant in almost all the nations, but SIDS being in close proximity to oceans face the threat of impending disasters due to the melting of icebergs eventually leading to a rise in the sea level.

The regions may have been given unique status but there is a lack of international exposure and networking, limited resources and geographical boundaries and lack of financial independence. Despite the enforcement of counter-terrorism measures or non-proliferation obligations, their limited resources continue to drain evasively.

Therefore, there is an ample number of threats to the peace and security of the residents and with the rise in illegal marine exploration the abundant natural resources are also on the verge of being endangered. Being small nations with limited capabilities and power dynamics, the SIDS truly require the attention of the multilateral institutions to emancipate them from financial and political restrictions and instead work in harmony to safeguard the international interests as well as the well-being of residents paving the way to termination of terrorism and other illicit operations that threaten the very sustenance of the landlocked islands and flourish as independent, futuristic flagbearers of maritime imports and exports.


  1. July 2015 monthly forecast about ‘Security Challenges for Small Island Developing States.’

  2. About SIDS-UN-OHRLLS (

  3. Office of the High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States. (

  4. United Nation’s resolutions on SIDS


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