Island Voices, Global Choices

The picturesque village of Vatia is surrounded by national park in American Samoa on October 3, 2009. The village lines a cor
The picturesque village of Vatia is surrounded by national park in American Samoa on October 3, 2009. The village lines a coral-fringed bay which is home to large colonies of frigates, boobies, white terns and noddy terns. AFP PHOTO / Torsten BLACKWOOD (Photo credit should read TORSTEN BLACKWOOD/AFP/Getty Images)

As the special islands summit draws to a close here in Samoa, I hope global leaders have not only seen for themselves the beauty of our islands but also that they have heard our calls for durable partnerships to deal with the major global problem of our time -- climate change.

We did not greet leaders in Apia with our hands out for aid -- we extended our hands in friendship and as invitations for lasting partnerships to forge hands-on solutions needed to vault the barriers facing Small Island Developing States (SIDS), all of which are connected to oceans and climate change.

In an increasingly interrelated world climate problems recognize no borders and ride rough-shod over sovereignty so the big problems of small islands will be your problems in very short order. But, we do not want to be the proverbial canary on the miner's shoulder. Asphyxiated canaries, after all, can't do much so we want solutions we can all sing about for a long time, together.

We also want you in the larger countries to recognize that the quality of the advice given is not determined by size of the giver.

Don't forget, it was we islanders, 22 years ago at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, through our Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) who fought fierce resistance, to place climate change on the international agenda -- where it has grown to be the defining global issue of our age.

Our message is the same today as it was in Rio in 1992: we small islanders contribute the least to climate changing emissions -- yet we suffer most from the effects of climate change. We do not want your pity or your donor dollars -- we want you industrialized countries to partner effectively with us to beat back these challenges.

Our oceans, which absorb most of carbon emitted by industrialized nations, are suffering and sea-levels continue to rise as the hopes of many island states diminish. However, we believe there are still opportunities to curb the problem if we work together with the world community. After all, we are not disconnected: the word "ocean" derives from the Greek "okeanus" which means a great river encircling the world -- carrying our small island problems onto your big continental foreshores.

And don't forget, most of your populations live within the deadly reach of a small tsunami, and certainly well within reach of the "silent tsunami" of sea-level rise.

The Samoa sessions were not meetings hosted by my small island state for other small island developing states, rather, the representatives drawn from the United Nations membership of 193 countries gathered in Apia to discuss ways and means of dealing with the threats to our ways of life on this planet we all share.

Small island countries are the front lines in this global battle for sustainability in the face of climate change, and like all vanguards, small island developing states absorb the biggest assaults and require the most rapid reinforcement.

My thanks go out to the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon for dignifying our meetings by staying for most of the summit. The Secretary General knows the climate debates in small islands are not about the finer points of science, but they are about shattered communities and forced evacuation as rising seas drown the hopes and aspirations of entire nations.

We are hoping the outcomes of our historic conference this week in Samoa will influence the Secretary-General's Climate Change Summit in New York on September 23.

And, here's hoping the eloquence and articulate passion of the island voices heard over the last few days will be heard by the rest of the international community as they make the global choices we have to make together to beat back the rising tides of climate change.

This post is part of a month-long series produced by The Huffington Post in conjunction with a variety of events being held in September recognizing the threats posed by climate change. Those events include the UN's Climate Summit 2014 (to be held Sept. 23, 2014, at UN headquarters in New York) and Climate Week NYC (Sept. 22-28, 2014, throughout New York City). To see all the posts in the series, read here.