• Says existing socio-economic challenges requires a new era in global cooperation

Georgetown, Guyana (December 10, 2020) His Excellency Dr Irfaan Ali urged the international community to bolster their support for Small Island Developing States (SIDS) in addressing food security amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The Head of State made this call during his address at the Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) virtual High-Level Dialogue which was held this morning under the theme, Weathering Covid-19 in Small Island Developing States: A Pathway to resilience.

“Preserving and improving the food economy should be an essential component of the socio-economic response to the COVID-19 crisis.  Addressing food security, however, cannot be undertaken in isolation to other socio-economic challenges.  The complexities of the challenges facing Small Island Developing States demand multidimensional and integrated approaches.”

President Ali reminded all of the united stand of the Group of 77 and China on the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on the global efforts to halt climate change.  The Guyanese leader was chair when that high-level meeting was hosted by Guyana in late October. 

“A resounding echo from that forum is that the world, especially developed states, needs to support developing countries both during and after the pandemic.” 

The President also expressed deep concerns about the wide-ranging economic, social and environmental implications of COVID-19, particularly the difficulties faced by SIDS, which have been disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 crisis. 

The vulnerabilities of SIDS, he added, have also been compounded by their dependence on food imports, especially given their limited natural resource base. 

“The COVID-19 pandemic placed limitations on trade, which was compounded by the lack of timely access to markets.  These disruptions can further undermine the economies of Small Island Developing States if not quickly remedied…As the FAO recognises, the pandemic has adversely impacted food security, nutrition, climate resilience, health, tourism, education, and remittances.   Increased public health outlays have led to a reduction in resources which would otherwise have been devoted to other areas, including food systems and supplies.”   

As a consequence, the  President called on  More Developed Countries (MDCs) to immediately take steps to support SIDS through a menu of mechanisms, including debt relief; balance of payments support to help them meet their food import bills; technical support for agriculture; capacity building; and financing for agricultural development.

This he said was vital, as Small Island Developing States also have a responsibility to accelerate progress towards sustainable, nutrition-sensitive food systems in addressing their food security and nutrition challenges.


President Ali reiterated that International organisations, such as the Food and Agricultural Organization, must become strident advocates on behalf of small and vulnerable states, including SIDS. 

“These international organisations must support the calls for the suspension of debt service payments and deploy these deferred payments to enhance food security in Small Island Developing States.” 

He also urged international stakeholders to come up with solutions to the challenges which many small states face such as resource-constraints; difficulties in accessing supply chains for essential goods not produced locally; limited access to concessional financing and Official Development Assistance (ODA); and susceptibility to catastrophic natural disasters.

“I therefore call on the international community to advance SIDS’s visibility and provide the requisite financial and technical support to bolster resilience-building efforts… We are duty-bound to think collectively and act in solidarity to save humanity.”

In closing, President Ali commended the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations for leading the international charge in assessing and responding to the effects of COVID-19 on food systems and the economies of SIDS.