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SMALL STATES - Our series exploring how the UN and others can better serve these countries →

Small States

Small states are countries with a population of fewer than 10 million, and they make up the majority of United Nations member states. 

Small States include some of the most and least developed nations, resource-rich and resource-scarce countries, and both island and landlocked states. The diversity of small states is significant, in terms of their geography, cultures, circumstances, interests, policy priorities, and resources. 

Small states face structural and capacity barriers to their participation in diplomacy and policymaking at the UN because their foreign ministries and missions are smaller than their larger counterparts, the relative costs of engagement are higher for small states and they often face capacity problems in filtering and processing the vast quantities of information they do receive. 

PassBlue Small State Series

In this series by PassBlue, we offer interviews and resources that explore how international institutions, including the United Nations, can better serve countries particularly vulnerable due to geography, economic position, or climate change.

NICOSIA, Cyprus — The last chance for the long-divided Mediterranean island of Cyprus to reunite may be seized as the relatively new envoy for the United Nations coaxes the two

ST. JOHN’S, Antigua and Barbuda — An unusually blistering heat wave smothered this Caribbean island nation just as thousands of participants from across the globe — including 22 heads of

As the humanitarian crisis and the hostage ordeal in Gaza worsens in the seven months of war, questions are being raised about accountability and compensation for the loss of life

In its eight years of operation, the Green Climate Fund, a United Nations entity, has approved $1.2 billion worth of climate-related funding for Pacific small island developing states. Although it

BANJUL — Gambia, a tiny country of 2.6 million tightly knit people, located right in the middle of Senegal in West Africa, is still struggling to recover from the brutal

As intense negotiations begin on the Pact for the Future — the highly anticipated outcome document to crown the Summit of the Future at the United Nations in September —

Upcoming Small States Events

4th International Conference on Small Island Developing States (SIDS4)
Charting the Course Toward Resilient Prosperity
27-30 May 2024; Antigua and Barbuda

POSTPONED – New date has not been set
Third UN Conference on Landlocked Developing Countries (LLDCs)
18-21 June, 2024; Kigali, Rwanda

Recent Small States Events

“Future of multilateralism and the role of small states”

UN TV recording of a high-level meeting at UN Headquarters in NYC on 4 April 2024: How to restore overall confidence in the multilateral world order with the United Nations and the Charter at its core.

Forum of Small States (FOSS) Resources

Small States
By Chew Tai Soo
The history of the founding of the Forum of Small States (FOSS)
From the book 50 Years of Singapore and the United Nations
World Scientific Publishing Co
September 2015

Wikipedia page on the Forum of Small States (FOSS)(includes list of member states)

Wikipedia page on landlocked developing countries (LLDC)

Wikipedia page on Small Island Developing States (SIDS)

FOSS Members Visit to Singapore Under the 12th Forum of Small States Fellowship Programme by Permanent Representatives to the United Nations, 19 to 23 February 2024
18 February 2024

FOSS for Good launched
A technical assistance package to provide a peer-learning platform for FOSS members to share experiences, best practices, and solutions to tackle common challenges.
May 2022

Informal High-level roundtable on “Small States, Multilateralism and International Law
H.E. Mr. Abdulla Shahid|publisher
United Nations
28 April 2022

What small states can learn from the Gulf – and vice versa
by Steve L. Monroe
Economic Research Forum (ERF)
MARCH 22, 2022

Secretary-General António Guterres’s remarks at Meeting of the Members of the Forum of Small States
17 March 2022

WHO Director-General’s remarks at the Forum of Small States
Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus
3 February 2021

Secretary-General António Guterres’s remarks to the Small States Forum
19 October 2019

Welcome remarks by PM Lee Hsien Loong, Government of Singapore, at the Forum of Small States (FOSS) Reception on 25 September 2019.

The Forum of Small States awaken
New Zealand’s Minister for Foreign Affairs Martin McCully spoke at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy on his assessment of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), focusing on its engagement with small states and how it treats issues that concern them.
Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy
Aug 02, 2018

Remarks by Mr. Michael Møller
United Nations Under-Secretary-General
Director-General of the United Nations Office at Geneva
25th Anniversary of the Forum of Small States (FOSS)
Monday, 04 December 2017

Small States at the United Nations: Diverse Perspectives, Shared Opportunities
May 2014
Andrea Súilleabháin, Policy Analyst at the International Peace Institute.

Secretary-General Tells Forum of Small States Their Size Does Not Mean Absence of Big Ideas as They Are Well-Placed to Be Bridge-Builders, Mediators
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s remarks on the occasion of the twentieth anniversary of the Forum of Small States, in New York, 1 October
1 October 2012

Small States at the United Nations: dissertation presented to the Faculty of Arts, University of Malta
February 2010
Stephanie Borg Psaila
The dissertation looks into the role small states have played – and continue to play – within the United Nations. It looks at definitions, characteristics and small states’ behaviour within the General Assembly, and with regards to the Security Council. It also looks into some of the proposals initiated by small states which have eventually lead to the establishment of legally-binding norms, international agreements and initiatives, co-operation models, and some of today’s well-known institutions. Finally, it highlights the lessons learned from the role small states have played within the United Nations, which serve as potential strategies states – in particular, but not exclusively, small states – can continue to adopt.

The United Nations Security Council: Options for Small States
Reykjavik, Iceland
16 June 2008
Colin Keating: Executive Director, Security Council Report, New York

Additional Small States Resources

UN-OHRLLS  – The United Nations Office of the High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States (UN-OHRLLS)

Wikipedia page on landlocked developing countries (LLDC)

Wikipedia page on Small Island Developing States (SIDS)

SIDS Data Platform from the United Nations
Development Programme (UNDP) — This tool aids SIDS development by providing comprehensive, updated data on Digital Transformation, Blue Economy, and Climate Action.

Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS)


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