Global Policy Forum



Because they are so small, and often so isolated, the world's microstates are very vulnerable to social, economic and environmental disturbances in the global system. Microstates are dangerously exposed to the vagaries of the global marketplace, including price shifts of their primary exports. Many face the threat of hurricanes, rising sea levels and global climate change. With scant educational and technical capacity, they are in danger of being left behind by a fast-evolving world. But microstates increasingly work together to address their common concerns, to plan joint action and to advocate for solutions to their special problems.


UN InitiativesGPF Perspectives | Articles  


UN Initiatives


The Barbados Programme of Action (1994)

The Barbados Programme of Action is a blueprint for Small Island Developing States (SIDS) and the international community to address and support the sustainable development of SIDS. This blueprint proposes a number of ‘specific actions' for SIDS and the international community to adopt, which revolve around issues such as climate change, biodiversity, and science and technology. (United Nations)

Small Island States' Strategy (January 30, 2004)

This report by the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) summarizes the proceedings of the Interregional Preparatory Meeting for the 10-year review of the Barbados Programme of Action (BPoA), and makes firm recommendations for the 10-year review. (United Nations)

UNEP's Assistance in the Implementation of the Barbados Programme of Action (December 2003)

This report describes the methods the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) uses to ensure member states implement the Barbados Programme of Action for the sustainable development of small island developing states (SIDS). UNEP's work focuses on issues such as climate change and sea level rise, marine resources and biodiversity, disaster prevention, and waste management. (UNEP)

GPF Perspectives

Small States and Territories

In this essay, GPF Director James Paul considers unusual aspects and special problems of these micro-members of the international community.



 2009 2008 | 2007 | 2006 | 2002


Andorra's Model: Time for Change

French President Nicolas Sarkozy has threatened Andorra with severe sanctions if it does not fall into line with new rules concerning tax havens. The other economic bases of Andorra, winter ski and duty-free shopping, have been hurt by poor weather and the recession. The new Andorran government will have to make serious changes if Andorra is to survive economically. (openDemocracy)


Paradise Lost: Climate Change Forces South Sea Islanders to Seek Sanctuary Abroad (June 6, 2008)

The fate of the small island nation of Kiribati is in serious jeopardy. Climate change is destroying crops, causing floods, and polluting water, making the island uninhabitable. But few countries have agreed to accept Kiribati refugees. Kiribati President Anote Tong urges other national leaders to look beyond short-term economic development and take action to counter climate change. For Kiribati "it's not an issue of economic growth, it's an issue of human survival." (Independent)

Sinking Without Trace: Australia's Climate Change Victims (May 5, 2008)

Serious floods caused by climate change are threatening the existence of the Island of Murray and several other islands in the Torres Strait. The Torres islands constitute the most vulnerable area of Australia, but the government has not included the region in its action plan to challenge global warming. Some islanders are asking for relocation but others are determined to stay despite the uncertainty of their future. They fear that moving away may endanger their local culture. (Independent)

Wanted - Home for Small Island People (April 4, 2008)

During the Bangkok Climate Change Talks, the Small Island Developing States (SIDS) warned that rising sea levels are threatening the very existence of their countries. The Pacific island nation Tuvalu, forced to find a new home for its population in the next couple of years, has made a deal with New Zealand to accept 17 Tuvaluans on its territory each year. At the Bangkok conference, the SIDS have urged donor countries to provide them with aid to overcome the threats of climate change, hoping to escape the fate of the Tuvaluans. (Inter Press Service)

Climate Refugees in Political Pass-the-Parcel (March 13, 2008)

Climate experts warn that the Pacific island nation Tuvalu will become inhabitable and eventually disappear as a consequence of rising oceans. The island's government has approached Australia and New Zealand for help in gradually relocating its population. However, the consequences of climate change do not solely affect small island nations. Frank Biermann, professor at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, proposes that people start already moving away from dangerous coastal zones as a preemptive measure. (Reuters)

To Relocate or Not to Relocate? (March 3, 2008)

Climate change has caused extreme drought in Swaziland, a microstate in Southern Africa. In some regions, farming is no longer possible and several communities can not support themselves. The government owns unused farms in viable parts of the country but wants to incorporate them into large-scale agricultural projects instead of making them available to small farmers. Poor families can not afford to move to better areas. Agriculture officials and NGOs raise the question whether the affected Swazis should be relocated to other regions. (Inter Press Service)

Tough Love Key to Nauru's Future (January 22, 2008)

After running out of phosphate reserves, Nauru, once one of the richest islands in the South Pacific, depends on Australian aid since 2001. In return, Nauru lets the Australian government use the island as an asylum seekers facility. Opposing this arrangement, the author proposes an associative status between the two countries which would allow Nauruans to work in Australia. The author argues that remittances from Nauruans living in Australia could boost economic growth in the country and grant Nauru real independence. (Australian)



The First Refugees of Global Warming (May 2, 2007)

This Chicago Tribune article highlights the problem that inhabitants of low-lying coastal areas face as a result of global climate change. The author argues that the citizens of Bangladesh – a country comprised of many river islands – have already started to experience such effects as many people who live close to the coast have had to move their houses several times as waters continually swallow up the land.

Islands in the Beijing-Taipei Storm (May 2, 2007)

This Asia Times article discusses the importance of the sovereignty of island nations in the context of St. Lucia's recognition of Taiwan. The author argues that because small island nations generally have limited resources they cherish their sovereignty in the UN system which gives them equal voting rights in the General Assembly. It is sovereignty in this context that causes Taiwan – which is not recognized by the UN – to court these small states for recognition and out of the 25 countries that recognize Taiwan's government 12 are Central American or Caribbean nations.

Tiny Island Is A Feudal Time Warp (March 8, 2007)

This Los Angeles Times article highlights the archaic feudal governance system in place on the island of Sark – a fiefdom of the UK. The author states that the island may be forced to abolish feudalism and adopt more modern laws in line with the rest of the Europe – due to complaints from the British government that the feudal system is not "human rights compliant."

Island Populations Thinning Out From Migration (January 2, 2007)

This Inter Press Service article argues that high migration from Pacific island nations to developed countries threatens the continued existence of the island states. The high migration is especially prominent among doctors and teachers as they leave in search of higher wages and a more stable political environment. This in turn jeopardizes the ability of these nations to provide basic services to their citizens such as healthcare and education and might ultimately lead to the collapse of governments in these countries.



Disappearing World: Global Warming Claims Tropical Island (December 24, 2006)

Rising sea levels caused by global warming have led to the disappearance of India's Lohachara island – the first inhabited island to be permanently inundated – and researchers state that other islands in the area are also at risk. This Independent article argues that numerous islands and even entire island nations such as the Maldives are at risk of submerging beneath the rising seas in the coming years.

The Coming of the Micro-States (June 5, 2006)

Montenegro's decision to separate from Serbia has inspired a handful of small "statelets," eager for independence, to announce plans for referenda on their futures. As many ethnic minorities claim a right to decide their own futures, experts fear that "frozen conflicts" will reignite and that the global order will fragment into a collection of unviable states. This desire for self determination clashes with another fundamental principle of international law – that of uti possidetis and respect for a state's territorial integrity. (Christian Science Monitor)


The Diplomacy of Micro-States (January 2002)

Ali Naseer Mohamed of the Netherlands Institute of International Relations examines the foreign policy and diplomatic practices of microstates. He concludes that for many states embassies abroad remain vital and dedicated to maintaining economic and trade relations.


FAIR USE NOTICE: This page contains copyrighted material the use of which has not been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. Global Policy Forum distributes this material without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. We believe this constitutes a fair use of any such copyrighted material as provided for in 17 U.S.C § 107. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.