SIDS Bulletin 64

Mariam Abdelaty
Mariam Abdelaty • 13 October 2022
SIDS bulletin

With each UN General Assembly, the challenges facing SIDS become even more central to discussions. This shows positive momentum, but also illustrates the urgency of action, especially climate action. During the high-level opening of UNGA77, UN Secretary General António Guterres addressed Loss and Damage to the Assembly. "Today, I am calling on all developed economies to tax the windfall profits of fossil fuel companies. Those funds should be re-directed in two ways: to countries suffering loss and damage caused by the climate crisis; and to people struggling with rising food and energy prices."   

Many SIDS leaders followed with calls for urgent and innovative action. The "Rising For Nations" Initiative led by Tuvalu, Marshall Islands and Kiribati, aims towards a political declaration to preserve Pacific atoll nations and mobilizing finance for adaptation and resilience. As H.E. Kausea Natano, Prime Minister of Tuvalu, mentioned in our exclusive interview for this bulletin, "The RNI aims to establish a blueprint for a transformational and climate-resilient “Digital Nation State,” which will ensure our hopeful continuity in the digital space – and also allow a connection to the offline space. Economically, we can continue to support ourselves, including through the sustainable use of our EEZs."  

As we head toward COP27 UN Climate Conference in Egypt, SIDS are making sure that these issues remain at the center of negotiations while pushing for actionable solutions for a way forward. In line with these priorities, this bulletin features recent SIDS’ leadership, innovations and perspectives across the pillars of the SIDS Offer – Rising Up For SIDS - and their efforts towards addressing loss and damage, preparedness to climate change events, enhancement of education, and innovative solutions to generating sustainable renewable energy.

Image: Getty Images#RisingUpForSIDS #UNDP4SIDS

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A new disaster preparedness hub in Barbados is enhancing Caribbean emergency response capacity 

Caribbean islands are at the frontlines of devastating impacts of climate change ranging from rising sea levels, marine heatwaves and ocean acidification to catastrophic hurricanes and destructive storms. Over the past 70 years, Small Island Developing States have been hit by 511 climate disasters, stressing the urgency of reinforcing capacities in emergency response. In this regard, almost 90 percent of the SIDS have identified the development of early warning systems as a priority in their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDs).  

In an effort to expand their climate response capacities, Caribbean SIDS are enhancing their emergency response systems through a new disaster preparedness hub that will be established at Barbados’ international airport. The new hub aims at strengthening and reinforcing the boarder disaster management system, stocking relief supplies and equipment within the Caribbean, and enhancing the logistics infrastructure. This will result in allowing regional institutions and national governments to foster the deployment of key equipment needed in the initial phase of response to climate crisis. This initiative showcases how SIDS-SIDS collaborations could help address structural challenges linked to limited geographical areas and financial resources. 

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Transforming challenge into opportunity: how Caribbean SIDS are exploring the use of sargassum for electricity generation 

As the temperature of the ocean rises, sargassum is reaching historic records. In June 2022, more than 24 million tons of sargassum blanketed the Atlantic, inundating Caribbean nations and resulting in billions of dollars losses from tourism. This challenge has offered a clear opportunity for innovation to Caribbean SIDS.  Sargassum is a natural resource that has long been a staple of coastal societies as a source of energy, fodder, or biofuel - albeit one that faces several challenges in scaling to meet modern needs. In a concrete demonstration of the interlinkages between ocean action and climate action, Belize is addressing a blue economy challenge by exploring the use and valorization of sargassum for electricity generation in the Caribbean. A delegation of SIDS, led by Belize Prime Minister John Briceño, negotiated an MOU with a German technology firm to use sargassum for electricity. This technology is one more tool for the energy transition of SIDS which can simultaneously reduce the burden of sargassum overload, offer a new energy source, and reduce deforestation by offering sustainable biofuel. As Belize has shown recent leadership in digital transformation, additional renewable energy sources will be essential to support the country’s development.    

Other SIDS have also been exploring alternative uses of sargassum, including in Barbados, where a recent study explored the optimization of opportunities for sargassum in biogas, fertilizer, bio sorbents, food products, and pharmaceuticals. The study showed a few key challenges that remain in sustainable energy extraction, given low bioconversion efficiency, and showed that the co-digestion of these seaweeds with organic municipal solid waste is economically and energetically advantageous, potentially enhancing energy recovery by 5-fold. These innovations are another example of how SIDS can be innovation laboratories and turn challenges into opportunities. 

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Vanuatu is unlocking the potential of digital transformation by issuing digital IDs to enhance their e-governance

Vanuatu is transforming government services through the introduction of its new national digital ID cards. The country’s leadership envisioned the revolutionary potential of digital ID as an effort to develop a voter registry to support the electoral commission to deliver fair elections. This was rapidly scaled up to a government-wide effort to deliver digital public services, with UNDP supporting the effort from the outset. The government has been rolling out the use of biometric data such as fingerprints, which together with a unique and universal identification number, will guarantee every person in the voter register has a single identity. This is enabling the government to implement many more innovative uses of digital ID cards, saving costs and delivering services to the people most in need. For instance, the National Disaster Management Office is now using the ID Card for disaster planning and response and is able to allocate relief packages via the village locator and an individual’s exact location, while in the past duplications of deliveries and assessments were not uncommon due to inconsistencies in data. Due to its efficacy, the swift uptake of the digitized national identity card is now at about 77 percent of the population.

Enhanced data collection and synchronization are leading to better urban planning, more targeted health policies to communities in need, better allocation of public benefits and education. As we have highlighted in a previous SIDS bulletin, SIDS have been unlocking the potential of digital transformation and taking serious steps to digitalize their governmental services which is key to transform their challenges related to geographical dispersion and small population size into unique benefits.  

Read the rest of the SIDS Bulletin 64 here.

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