On 30 July, 2015 the Security Council held an open debate on security issues facing Small Island and Developing States. The debate Concept Note recognized that the 52 SIDS, including 37 Member States or one-fifth of all members, face a range of peace and security issues exacerbated by particular vulnerability due to size and geographic location. New Zealand, currently holding the Security Council presidency, proposed the debate and emphasised the special role of island states on the ‘frontlines of climate change.’ Secretary General Ban Ki Moon opened the debate, stressing that "small island developing states do not have the resources to combat threats by themselves. Only through global partnership can we secure their sustainable and peaceful future." Briefings were given by the Prime Ministers of Samoa and Jamaica as well as the Minister of Finance and Trade from the Seychelles. The majority of state representatives addressed the effects of climate change and highlighted the need for cooperation between neighboring island states and larger land-locked states. Statements were given Member States, including 20 SIDS, as well as the European Union and an observer from the Holy See.
Of the over 70 speakers at the debate, only seven mentioned gender in their statements. Portia Simpson Miller, the Prime Minister of Jamaica, emphasized the vulnerability of SIDS to trafficking in weapons, drugs and people, particularly women. The representative of South Africa said his country supported the development of a SIDS strategy to eliminate violence against women and girls while Australia, Barbados and Sweden addressed gender equality more broadly, stating that women’s empowerment is essential to peace and security. Papua New Guinea and Trinidad and Tobago specifically advocated for the inclusion of women in peacebuilding and conflict prevention processes. Papua New Guinea referenced the 1990s conflict in Bougainville, which demonstrated that women are just as capable as men at peacemaking and need to be integrated into, and given leadership roles in, decision-making.
Many states missed the opportunity to discuss gender equality as a cross-cutting issue that impacts upon many of the concerns addressed in this debate. It’s been show that climate change and food insecurity affect women differently than men, and often disproportionately. Additionally women are often the victims of human trafficking and frequently subjected to sexual/gender-based violence during the process.
In addition to climate change, piracy, sanctions regimes, illegal fishing, organized crime and narcotics, many states were concerned with the prevalence of small arms and light weapons in small island states. Eleven speakers mentioned illicit arms flow as a primary security concern for SIDS. Australia, Sweden and Trinidad and Tobago called on more SIDS to implement agreements such as the Arms Trade Treaty. However SIDS often lack the capacity to investigate and prosecute arms trafficking or to implement disarmament measures and will need the partnership of larger states to effectively deal with this issue.