Small Island Developing States (SIDS)
Environmental resilience and sustainability
Priority 2: Enhancing SIDS resilience and the sustainability of human interactions with ecological, freshwater and ocean systems
SIDS are big ocean sustainable States (BOSS). Protecting their terrestrial, aquatic and marine biodiversity, as well as their heritage, and securing equitable access to land and ocean resources are essential for their sustainable development. In terms of natural resources, SIDS face numerous challenges due to their biophysical settings, which leave them vulnerable not only to extreme climatological and seismic events but also other adverse environmental impacts, including pollution of groundwater and surface water resources, sustainable energy access, saline intrusion, soil and coastal erosion, biodiversity loss and coral bleaching, among others. For instance, in many SIDS groundwater quality and quantity are threatened by population growth, urbanization and climate change. Supporting SIDS to overcome these challenges is a priority which can be advanced through capacity enhancement of biodiversity, marine, natural and social sciences, engineering education, as well as through research and technology transfer and the application of traditional and non-traditional knowledge, tools and approaches.
Four priority areas in the natural sciences are particularly relevant to address sustainable development in SIDS:
- Science, technology and innovation;
- Environmental science;
- Resilience and adaptation;
- Human and institutional capacity-building.
Science, technology and innovation
To develop and implement policies, strategies and action plans that promote the use of science, technology and innovation (STI) as a driver for achieving sustainable development in SIDS.
- Assist decision-makers in designing transversal STI policies, institutional frameworks and policy instruments, and setting up monitoring and evaluation systems, with links to sustainable development processes.
- Support the development of data-driven marine and freshwater (surface water and groundwater) assessment tools in SIDS regions to inform coastal and ocean policies.
- Assist in developing engineering policies for SIDS to address the SDGs.
- The implementation of STI policies were further developed and strengthened in the Bahamas through capacity building in 2016.
- Preliminary discussions on a proposal for a regional STI policy development project for Tonga, Samoa, Vanuatu, New Caledonia and Kiribati were initiated in 2016.
- At the regional level, in Latin America and the Caribbean, UNESCO organized the Science Open Forum CILAC 2016, in September in Montevideo, which proposed a policy agenda for STI for governments, universities, scientific companies and civil society organizations, in line with the priorities established in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
- In West Africa, the capacity of participants from Cabo Verde was enhanced on STI policy development and management during an expert meeting in September 2016 in Dakar.
- An activity on innovation and enterprise development and promotion of the Global Strategy for Youth in West Africa – Sahel, was organized in June 2016 in Cabo Verde.
To mobilize the natural sciences, including ecological and earth sciences, hydrological sciences and technologies, and ocean sciences, alongside local and indigenous knowledge systems, to bolster knowledge of terrestrial, freshwater, renewable energy sources, coastal and ocean ecosystems and reinforce the sustainability of human-environment interactions.
- Upgrade scientific institutions, in the fields of the environmental, earth, ocean, hydrological and climate system sciences, as well as in the management of natural resources, through strengthening universities and research centres and mobilizing international science cooperation.
- Support further assessment of SIDS water resources shortages and water supply systems and promote/develop Integrated Water Resource Management (IWRM) policies and strategies that address the multiple causes of the dearth of freshwater (surface water and in particular groundwater). Analyse threats of poor sanitation, water contamination (surface and groundwater), saltwater intrusion related to over-extraction, sea-level rise affecting groundwater quantity and quality, and ocean-spray (groundwater quality) while exploring possible solutions.
- Study and disseminate island and coastal strategies to preserve biodiversity and heritage, promote sustainable development, and adapt to and mitigate the effects of climate change, in particular through the World Network of Island and Coastal Biosphere Reserves.
- Encourage the development of biosphere reserves across SIDS regions as learning sites for promoting and disseminating new socio-economic activities based on the conservation of biodiversity and sustainable use of natural resources.
- Support SIDS efforts to create an enabling environment for sustainable use and application of locally available renewable energy resources and energy efficient technologies by promoting related capacity development, knowledge management, as well as the development of related strategies and targeted measures.
- Strengthening SIDS capacities through promotion of the participation of SIDS in the Global Ocean Observing System (GOOS), and ensure access to data and information for supporting climate change adaptation and local decision measures.
- Broaden awareness of ocean acidification and its impacts on SIDS and increase cooperation and collaboration in order to detect local impacts on SIDS of ocean acidification via the Global Ocean Acidification Observing Network (GOA-ON).
- Assist in broadening the knowledge and creating capacity to protect and to manage coastal carbon ecosystems sustainably, such as mangroves, saltmarshes and seagrasses, through the Blue Carbon Initiative.
- Increase support to SIDS through the programmes and activities of the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC).
- In the area of scientific understanding of ocean and coastal processes, IOC refocused its ocean science programmes with the aim of increasing awareness and mobilizing the scientific capacities of its Member States to address the challenges defined by the SDGs, the Samoa Pathway, the Sendai Framework and the Paris Agreement on Climate.
- IOC-led Global Ocean Acidification Observing Network (330 members from 67 countries), allows Member States to improve the monitoring of Ocean Acidification and supports the observation of its impacts on marine life. The updated GOA-ON implementation plan, including updated chemical and physical guidelines for OA observations was published in June 2017. It is comprised of inputs from 67 countries, including Fiji, Palau and Samoa.
- A Global Oxygen Network (GO2NE) was established to support research with regard to deoxygenation of the ocean, and includes scientists from SIDS. In order to assess the impacts of climate change and global trends of phytoplankton in the ocean, more than 300 time series were analysed, divided into Arctic, North Atlantic, South Atlantic, Antarctic, Indian, South Pacific and North Pacific Oceans, for both phyto- and zooplankton, covering more than five inter-comparable marine ecosystems, including data from SIDS.
Resilience and adaptation
To improve increase resilience and adaptation of SIDS in the face of environmental challenges, including those related to climate change, tsunami or other hazards.
- Integrate climate change knowledge and action in policies, development programmes and educational programmes through climate change ESD and the Sandwatch Programme.
- Improve understanding, knowledge-sharing and capacities for disaster risk reduction and the reduction of loss and damage.
- Monitor sea-level rise with both real-time applications, as in the case of tsunami early warning systems, and adaptation to coastal changes in the long-term through the sea level stations of the Global Sea Level Observing System (GLOSS). Mobilize efforts of ocean climate research community on developing methods for prediction and projection of future regional sea-level rise in the twenty-first century and creating corresponding scenarios to improve SIDS adaptation planning.
- Further develop and coordinate the establishment of early warning systems for tsunamis and other coastal hazards and support the reinforcement of human and institutional capacities, in particular Tsunami Information Centers (TICS), for improving tsunami and coastal hazard preparedness and enhancing strategic partnerships and resources.
- Provide a platform for the exchange of information among regional and global networks to improve freshwater (surface and groundwater) resource management considering projected climate change and linked human effects on SIDS freshwater.
- In the framework of coastal resilience and climate change education, in the AIMS, Caribbean and Pacific SIDS; the capacities of teachers’ and community groups’ were enhanced to introduce climate change across formal and informal curricula through UNESCO’s course on Climate Change Education Inside and Outside the Classroom.
- The extension of the Sandwatch project was ensured through dedicated action in support of the global roll-out of the Global Sandwatch Database as a “citizen science” climate change coastal monitoring tool.
- IOC engaged 14 Caribbean SIDS in harmonising and standardizing tsunami early warning systems. These countries were also very active at annual CaribeWave Exercises, where monitoring and warning services are tested. The same 14 Caribbean SIDS and four South-West Pacific SIDS have benefitted from regional or in-country trainings to develop or review their Tsunami Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs), in Cook Islands, Solomon Islands, Tonga and Vanuatu.
- The installation of new sea-level monitoring stations in Aruba, Jamaica and Saint Lucia contributed to enhanced sea-level monitoring capabilities in the Caribbean, for tsunamis and other coastal hazards. A solution for the continuation of the work of the Caribbean Tsunami Information System was recently found with the help of the Government of Barbados and a voluntary contribution to the IOC Special Account by the Government of the Netherlands.
- In the area of the protection and sustainable management of ocean and coastal resources, the GEF LME:LEARN project – for generating, learning and sharing knowledge among GEF Large Marine Ecosystem projects and practitioners and related coastal and marine initiatives – held an inception workshop and a first project steering committee at UNESCO in March 2016. The project delivered its most visible output, namely, the 18th Annual Large Marine Ecosystem Consultation Meeting in December 2016. The meeting featured a record-setting 128 participants from 52 different countries, including three from SIDS.
- The Global Ocean Science Report is envisaged as a knowledge resource that will aid Member States, their local and national governments, academic and research institutions as well as international organizations and donors, in making informed decisions regarding the status of ocean sciences research, investment, and productivity. The drafting process is close to completion. A questionnaire sent to all IOC Member States was answered by 34 Member States, with fewer than 20% from SIDS. The interdisciplinary, international Editorial Board was established and met from 24 to 26 May in Helsingor, Denmark, to review five draft chapters and identify data gaps. The content and outline are aligned with major pillars of sustainable development. A second Editorial Board meeting was hosted by Korea in November 2016.
- Global cooperation in the geological sciences was expanded, in particular, through the promotion of Earth Science education in Latin America in 2016. An open call was issued for experts in this field, resulting in the identification of individuals including from SIDS: Belize, Cuba, Jamaica, Saint Kitts and Nevis, and Saint Lucia, who helped finalize a questionnaire that was sent out on this topic across the region.
- At the first IGCP Council meeting in February 2016, the Council agreed to fund four new and 16 existing projects. In addition, six projects have been extended without funding. Although none of the project leaders are from SIDS, the project participants include Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Papua New Guinea, Singapore, Timor-Leste and Vanuatu. Of 142 project leaders, 25% are women.
- SIDS Member States have reduced their vulnerability and enhanced their resilience to natural hazards by strengthening their capacities in DRR, in particular, through the implementation of the UNESCO-VISUS multi-hazard school safety assessment methodology, which helps policy-makers in deciding where to focus their risk reduction efforts and interventions based on available resources and scientific evidence. The methodology is currently under implementation in 100 schools in the north of Haiti.
- A ToolKit on Loss and Damage, to help collect baseline data about loss and damage in the agriculture and tourism sectors in selected Pacific SIDS was developed. The ToolKit can be expanded to include other sectors.
- Awareness-raising was advanced through events such as the information session for the GRULAC Member States on the VISUS methodology. Capacity-building was enhanced through training of more than 40 experts from 13 countries in the Caribbean on various technical issues related to DRR for the education sector, including assessment of critical facilities infrastructure.
- La Hotte in Haiti joined UNESCO's World Network of Biosphere Reserves (WNBR) in 2016. Twenty biosphere reserves are located in SIDS. One research programme, promoting sustainability science and sustainable development, is being conducted in three SIDS Biosphere Reserves: Macchabee-Bel Ombre in Mauritius, Principe in Sao Tome and Principe and Saint Mary’s in Saint Kitts and Nevis.
- SIDS have continued to be supported in order to improve groundwater governance at local, national and transboundary levels. Under the Transboundary Waters Assessment Programme (TWAP), 42 SIDS benefitted from specific assessment on groundwater. Moreover, nine SIDS have benefitted from an expansion of the institutional support for drought monitoring systems in Cuba, Haiti, Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Bahamas, Saint Lucia, Trinidad and Tobago, Mauritius and Cabo Verde. In addition, Cuba, Haiti, Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Bahamas, Saint Lucia, and Trinidad and Tobago have benefitted from training on water scarcity. Additionally, Saint Lucia was trained on water quality.
Human and institutional capacity-building
To increase access to technical assistance, training and institutional and human capacity-building on the natural environment and sustainable development.
- Promote science education and its role in development, enhance public interest (especially for youth) in science, and strengthen scientific capacity through science teachers’ training, e-learning and updated science education curriculum material, in cooperation with partners well-established in open and distance learning.
- Strengthen and update SIDS water education and awareness at all levels, including a multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary approach to advance scientific knowledge through the training of scientists, as well as to strengthen and enhance the water sector through the training of water professionals and decision-makers.
- Support SIDS capacities to manage and sustainably use the oceans, seas and their marine resources through marine spatial planning, integrated coastal management and other decision support tools.
- Assist SIDS in developing a global network of training centres to increase national capacity in coastal and marine knowledge and management and to facilitate transfer of marine technology, based on local needs, in particular through the IOC Ocean Teacher Global Academy programme.
- Assisting SIDS in identifying the most vulnerable species and habitats in need of protection through the collection of marine biodiversity data, building on global databases such as the IOC’s Ocean Biogeographic Information System (OBIS).
- Develop engineering education teaching methods for SIDS that directly address the effective application of engineering and innovation to poverty reduction, sustainable development, addressing the adverse effects of climate change and the elaboration of green technologies.
- In collaboration with the University of Mauritius, a regional conference was implemented in Mauritius (February 2016) aimed at ensuring that basic and applied sciences are accessible to all, through low-cost and easy replicable science experimentation teaching. A follow-up conference was held in February 2017.
- Support was brought to Cabo Verde in the organization of the national mathematics Olympiads, and in the implementation of a postgraduate programme in basic sciences for development.
- Assistance was brought to Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, and Trinidad and Tobago in the setting-up and extension of the UNESCO’s Global Microscience Programme. A microscience model for PALOP countries in Africa, which will benefit Sao Tome and Principe, and Cabo Verde, is being conceived by IBSP in collaboration with the Africa Department.
- In the promotion of the use and application of renewable energy, reviewing the existing technologies and sharing best practices and experiences on renewable energy technologies and policies in South-East Asia, UNESCO strengthened two regional institutions, namely ASEAN Center and SEASN.
- The UNESCO African Schools on renewable energy policies and strategies trained participants from Sao Tome and Principe.
- Through collaboration with the International Centre for Pure and Applied Mathematics (CIMPA), more than 22 research and innovation-oriented schools have been organized, providing training to more than a thousand young scientists, among them 200 in SIDS.
- During the previous biennium, Cuba benefitted from UNESCO’s support to organise the 14th edition of the Carlos Finlay UNESCO prize in Microbiology, the same support was provided to the country for the 15th edition in 2017.
- UNESCO is in the process of strengthening its STEM programme with the IBSP playing the role of a strategically-oriented platform with an emphasis on teacher training and on Africa and least developed countries, which will benefit to a SIDS on a global level.