With still three months left of the cyclone season, Fiji has been devastated by its second deadly cyclone in a little over a month. With the increasing intensity of extreme weather events, recovery becomes even more difficult. These events are an eye-opening reminder of the severe vulnerability small island developing states (SIDS) face to the adverse impacts of climate change and the need for increased support for not only recovery but resilience building.
The People's Climate Vote launched last week echoed sentiments expressed by SIDS leaders time and time again. It was found that in SIDS74% of the public believes that climate change is a global emergency — compared to an average of 64% among the 50 countries surveyed. Climate change is an existential threat to SIDS, and while the global pandemic has turned economies and societies on end, it has remained their priority to ensure that climate action is at the top of the global agenda. As has been emphasized often, the pandemic has exacerbated the interconnected vulnerabilities SIDS face. While their ambitions remain high, many face severe financial fragility and lack of fiscal space to address their challenges. The middle-income status of many SIDS poses an obstacle to accessing finance that could help island states build resilience. SIDS have called for the development of a Multidimensional Vulnerability Index, that takes into account their unique context and can facilitate the reassessment of eligibility for concessional financing. Through its SIDS offer Rising Up for SIDS, UNDP supports SIDS in seeking to enable access to financing for development to unlock pathways for green recovery and sustainable futures.
The inequality of burden and responsibility in the Anthropocene — the case of SIDS
Our economic paradigm is neither sustainable nor equitable. Such rung the words of UNDP Admnistrator, Achim Steiner, in this TED Talk outlining humankind's new relationship to the planet. Reiterating the message of the Human Development Report 2020, he calls attention to the deep flaws in our age where the dominant risk to our survival is ourselves. This acknowledgment that the well-being of people is inextricable from the well-being of the planet is not new for SIDS. The case of SIDS demonstrates one facet of inequality that characterizes the Anthropocene — the inequality of burden and responsibility for the climate crisis. Responsible for only 1 % of GHG emissions, SIDS experience existential threats of extreme weather events and slow-onset impacts of climate change. But along with the acknowledgement of this inequality comes also a recognition of agency and the ingenuity of humankind to innovate for a brighter future. SIDS are calling for a balanced development and taking the lead in advocating for a future for people and planet — rising up for SIDS, means rising up for planetary health and global sustainable development.
All over the world, COVID-19 has inspired a dramatic increase in innovation across societies and economies. Lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic offer an opportunity for mitigation and adapting to new emerging risks. In Jamaica, the government has adopted an innovative emergency response mechanism as part of its "Rebuild Jamaica" strategy. The Emergency Response Coordination Platform (ERCP) allows for the country to respond to the current crisis and potential future national emergencies in a more coordinated, efficient and accountable way. The pilot platform gives enough information to support a more efficient and effective coordinated response and has the potential to address emergencies across multiple sectors. The initiative offers an example of how digital technologies are key to resilience building — the technology offers the flexibility needed to adapt as needs arise or evolve — a prime example of agile digital transformation. With digital inequality identified as a key risk in the World Economic Forum's 2021 Risk Report, ensuring inclusive, holistic digital transformations in SIDS is more important than ever. As part of the digital transformation pillar of the UNDP SIDS offer — Rising Up for SIDS — UNDP is rolling out a new a rapid digital readiness assessment tool to serve as an entry point for building national digital strategies with governments by assessing priorities for a whole-of-society approach to agile, inclusive digital transformation. The tool has been piloted in Dominica and Grenada and is set for expansion across SIDS in 2021.
Biodiversity loss and land degradation has affected approximately 50% of Grenada's land resources.Increasing pressure from unsafe agricultural practices, expanding human settlements and climate change, is resulting in habitat loss, overexploitation of biological resources and pollution. To curb these adverse impacts, the Government of Grenada is implementing an initiative to accelerate Climate Resilient Agriculture and Integrated Landscape Management practices. Grenada will apply an integrated approach to agroecosystems management for biodiversity conservation and to emerge stronger from the pandemic, implementing technologies that support climate-resilient agriculture will be a key aspect of the initiative, with participation from public and private sectors, academia and civil society. Digital transformation, including blockchain technologies, facilitates developmental leapfrogging and resilience building. Applying technology and innovation in SIDS like Grenada can have significant benefits and can lead to strong social, economic and broader development outcomes and enhance climate resilience. Solving food systems challenges through digital solutions is also the focus of UNDP's Global Center for Technology, Innovation and Sustainable Development in Singapore. Among these initiatives is exploring the use of blockchain for food traceability. With the COVID-19 pandemic, our world is witnessing the direct results of biodiversity degradation. However, SIDS are rising up, powering innovation and collaborative solutions aimed at build inclusive green economies and boost the digital revolution.
Gender disparities often render women disproportionately vulnerable to the adverse impacts of climate change and when women are underrepresented, these experiences and perspectives remain unheard, neglected in policy and law — leading to less beneficial outcomes overall. In the Solomon Islands, women are leading efforts for inclusive resource management, integrating a crucial perspective into conservation. To bolster the representation of women in government decision making for land resources, the Traditional Governance Bill was passed which helps regulate traditional governance systems and preserve cultural heritage. As Nanette Panda from Vella La Vella and Member of the Western Province Women’s Caucus, Solomon Islands said, “Consultations should include a dialogue with communities to capture their real experiences to improve policies [...] At the end of the day, it is the equal involvement of men and women that will help us build resilient and inclusive communities.” With the 2030 Agenda as the guiding thread, through the Inclusive Governance of Natural Resources Project, women are making their voices heard. Consultations with women leaders are facilitating peacebuilding and sustainable development within traditional governments for enhanced resource management. Similar efforts are underway in the Caribbean through the EnGenDER project, integrating a gender perspective into climate adaptation with a variety of initiatives — from ensuring equitable NDCs and national strategies to providing grants from women-owned MSMEs. There can be no genuine sustainable development without gender equality, and initiatives like these ensure an inclusive pathway forward for SIDS in ensuring a brighter future for people and planet.
Riding the innovation wave
through a SIDS-SIDS learning network
From a tourism recovery program in Cabo Verde to an innovation challenge for sustainable urban development solutions in the Dominican Republic in post-COVID times – SIDS are riding the innovation wave accelerated by the pandemic. The crisis has highlighted the complexity of today’s challenges, and among those most vulnerable to these drastic socio-economic shocks are SIDS. To address this new breed of challenges, UNDP’s Accelerator Labs are shifting the dynamics of traditional development thinking. As previously reported in the bulletin, the network of Accelerator Labs in SIDS has expanded – covering 75 % of SIDS where UNDP has presence and representing all three regions. The SIDS labs promote locally led solutions to their common challenges, with the potential for scaling up innovation across islands states. In an demonstration of the power of joint Accelerator Lab efforts, the teams in India, Morocco, Cabo Verde and Timor Leste, tapped into one emerging trend of digitalization —growth of the gaming industry— to tackle an emerging challenge: an infodemic. The CoronaChampion game engages young people to explore the extent to which myths around the pandemic are unverified while they learn factual information. The game has been adapted to the local contexts of Timor-Leste and Cabo Verde and translated into local languages. In Timor-Leste, a newly developed feature of the app — a ChatBot — has already been used by +10,000 people, asking over 173,000 questions about the virus. Follow along the journey of the SIDS Accelerator Labs in this new feature of the SIDS bulletin!
With the upcoming COP26 and the first United Nations High-Level Dialogue on Energy in 40 years, 2021 comes with high hopes for green recovery and the long-term mitigation of climate change. To preserve progress on human development, it is crucial that we channel, accelerate and expand climate finance to ensure no one is left behind. Investment must dramatically increase, ending the use of detrimental fossil fuel subsidies. In fact, reaching net-zero by 2050 would require US$130 trillion between 2016 and 2050 — meaning that funding must escalate beyond current numbers to meet our climate goals. The climate finance system must also be decluttered for streamlined public-private partnership that is channeled to high-priority goals, serving the most vulnerable areas and meeting all aspects of climate action, especially adaptation. With improved climate finance, SIDS can decrease dependency on imports, adapt to climate change and achieve their NDCs — for green recovery and sustainable communities in the long term. Now is the time for strong, effective action. Renewable energy has never been more affordable, and the health of the planet has never been more at risk. The Climate Investment Platform — a partnership between UNDP, International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), The Green Climate Fund (GCF), and Sustainable Energy for All (SEforALL) — is supporting SIDS in access climate finance by streamlining multi-partner investment, channeling it where it is most needed, and maximizing its impact. Initiatives are already underway in São Tomé and Príncipe, Vanuatu, Grenada and Comoros.
Amidst a global pandemic that upended many societies and economies globally, SIDS remained steadfast as leaders of climate action, insisting that this agenda remain a top global priority. Last week, UNDP released the results of the largest global opinion survey on climate change, the "People's Climate Vote," in partnership with the University of Oxford. Of the SIDS represented, the People's Climate Vote surveyed 8,000 people across Fiji, Belize and Trinidad and Tobago. Using an innovative approach, the survey was conducted through in-game adverts in many popular mobile gaming apps. Along with the Climate Promise and Mission 1.5, this survey is part of UNDP’s role in supporting countries to develop their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) under the Paris Agreement — illustrating a unique global perspective on public sentiment towards the climate emergency and allowing governments insight into policies their populations would be supportive of. Overall, the Peoples’ Climate Vote found that “nearly two-thirds (64%) of people in 50 countries believe that climate change is a global emergency” with the highest response occurring in SIDS at 74% of the public believes in the climate emergency. People from SIDS were most supportive of climate policies, second only to high-income countries, with majority support for ten climate policies. The policies with the most popular support among SIDS are climate-friendly farming (68%); green business and jobs (66%); using solar, wind and renewable power (64%); and conserving forest and land (62%). Policy support levels were also even higher than in high-income countries for promoting plant-based diets (+9%), investing in green businesses and jobs (+6%), and climate-friendly farming (+5%). Moreover, in SIDS, among the group of people who said that climate change is indeed an emergency, 70% believe that we must act by doing everything necessary urgently, reaffirming their role as leaders on the international scene.
Of the 800,000 tons of residential waste generated in Jamaica annually, and 15% is estimated to be plastics. Of this, one-quarter is not properly disposed of and ends up in drains, rivers, gullies, beaches and, ultimately, the ocean.SIDS are particularly vulnerable to plastic pollution, also threatened by other countries' plastic debris in addition to their own waste. Jamaica is working with UNEP on a number of initiatives under the Plastic Waste Minimization Project. In the Kingston neighborhood of Rae Town, residents are participating in the Plastic Recycling Pilot Project to lead clean up activities and repurpose plastic through 360 Recycle, a local social enterprise that manufactures and sells recycled plastic products. And through a partnership with local grocer Lee’s Food Fair, the Eco-Rewards Plastic Recycling Pilot program is helping customers earn points for plastic brought in to be recycled. To support SIDS in tackling this issue, International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), along with Searious Business, is launching three toolkits for hospitality, tour and cruise companies through the Plastic Waste Free Islands (PWFI) initiative with practical guidance for preventing plastic waste, outlining best practices as well as the costs and benefits of sustainable alternatives. The PWFI project supports Fiji, Vanuatu, Samoa, Antigua and Barbuda, Saint Lucia and Grenadato facilitate evidence-based solutions for plastic waste and establish island working groups to locally implement pilot programs. Through community-based innovation, SIDS around the world can learn to scale programs to their own contexts, lessening the threat of pollution. Check out the resources section for insight on how the circular economy can ameliorate the burden of plastic waste.
According to the OECD, the value-added generated by ocean industries globally could reach US$ 3 trillion in 2030. For SIDS, with some 19.1% of all the world’s Exclusive Economic Zones, opportunities for ocean-industry development are enormous. The recognition of this economic potential has led to increasing interest from multiple actors and industries. However, a recent qualitative review study alerts that past rapid and uncontrolled expansion of economic activities in the ocean has resulted in 10 categories of social and environmental risks: 1) dispossession, displacement and ocean grabbing; 2) environmental justice concerns from pollution and waste; 3) environmental degradation and reduction of ecosystem services; 4) livelihood impacts for small-scale fishers; 5) lost access to marine resources needed for food security and well-being; 6) inequitable distribution of economic benefits; 7) social and cultural impacts; 8) marginalization of women; 9) human and Indigenous rights abuses; and, finally 10) exclusion from governance. In order to avoid the above issues and streamline blue justice in sustainable blue economy processes, the author warrants a change in ocean governance, namely through greater representation of SIDS, civil society organizations and indigenous peoples in global decision-making bodies. In a previous bulletin, we highlighted an important study focusing on gender inclusion in Fiji, Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands, which laid out best practices for empowering women through meaningful participation. The study advises a focus on gender relations, clarity on issues and terms and cross-cutting integration into all initiatives.
Material flows in Vanuatu across all sectors distinguishing the import, extraction, usage and final output (see full image here)
SIDS communities rely on healthy, yet limited, natural resources for their livelihoods, leaving them especially vulnerable to pollution. However, by rethinking economic practices for Climate Action, SIDS can conserve these resources for sustainable production. In Vanuatu, 59% of the economy is circular, meaning that it relies on secondary and regenerative materials and energy sources that are recovered after use — a powerful tool that could be leveraged to fulfill the promises in its NDC. According to a new report, commissioned by UNDP and the Government of Vanuatu as part of the NDC Support Programme, new opportunities in the circular economy could have a profound impact — avoiding 48% of solid waste produced between now and 2030, decreasing primary resource extraction by 8% and reducing national greenhouse gas emissions by 10%. Proposed steps include: using silvopastoral livestock systems, implementing anaerobic digestion for organic waste, developing circular procurement to reduce the environmental impact of development investment, increasing revenue by taxing pollution, and collecting and sorting recyclable materials. These circular economy opportunities can be transferrable to fellow SIDS. As an example of strong SIDS-SIDS cooperation on promoting circular economy approaches, the Implementing Sustainable Low and Non-Chemical Development in Small Island Developing States (ISLANDS) a US$ 450 million initiative covering 27 SIDS — including Vanuatu — seeks to implement regional and national solutions for preventing and managing waste and pollution in SIDS. In the Caribbean region, for example, it aims to eliminate over 9,000 metric tons of contaminated material and more than 150,000 metric tons of marine litter.
The multidimensional nature of SIDS' vulnerability has become clear over the past year, with the rapid decline of tourism and the rise of natural disasters. The recent tropical cyclone Ana in Fiji is a stark reminder of this. In order to protect island communities and safeguard progress in sustainability, systems of development finance must be reimagined — expanding access and increasing funds. The Prime Minister of Saint Lucia H.E. Allen Chastanet has outlined three priorities to help SIDS unlock innovative financing to achieve the SDGs, placing emphasis on domestic, regional and international investment in human-centered progress. By creating an "actionable and context-driven blueprint," SIDS can use data-based evidence to direct multi-partner investment to the highest priorities. By "identifying mechanisms for unlocking capital" within SIDS, these states can harness domestic industries, resources and human capital in their sustainable development in addition to international finance. Lastly, by adopting a "collaborative approach through regional integration," SIDS can work together for a blue-green recovery. Although the pursuit of development finance does not involve a one-size-fits-all approach, SIDS can benefit greatly from this kind of knowledge sharing to promote best practices for their unique circumstances. On January 14, Caribbean leaders met at a side event for the XII Ministerial Forum for Development in Latin America and the Caribbean called "Towards a new classification for Caribbean economies" to discuss how to expand access to financing through criteria that more accurately reflects these states' specific vulnerabilities.
The Digital 2021 Global Overview Report has been published through a partnership between We Are Social and Hootesuite, highlighting the expansion of technology and the internet around the world. Trends include a rise in social media usage and e-commerce, dependency on mobile devices, and changing online behaviors. The report also features in-depth country reports, including profiles on individual SIDS. Download the report here.
Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP), the Pacific Community (SPC) and country partners have introduced the Pacific Environment Portal to promote evidence-based decision making by expanding access to regional and national data. Users can view environmental datasets for monitoring, evaluating and analyzing environmental conditions and trends to support planning, forecasting, and reporting.
The new Small-Scale Fisheries (SSF) Resource and Collaboration Hub is an online, multi-lingual community for small-scale fishers, fish workers, and their communities and allies to connect members with each other and with valuable resources and tools, strengthening these small-scale fisheries and advocating for their position on the global agenda. Visit ssfhub.org to get involved.
A new report from UNDP, the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) and the African Development Bank (AfDB) analyzes the textile and apparel sector's contribution to the Mauritian economy and proposes policy options for its re-invigoration, including vertical integration, educational reforms, transition to a knowledge-based industry, environmental sustainability and support for SMEs.
In this 2020 review, three key lessons from a trying year for Jamaica are outlined: strengthened crisis response and prevention must be a priority, investment should be prioritized for digital transformation in society and the economy, and policies should be flexible to provide services quickly during future crises.
Upcoming Opportunities and Events
SEforALL, a UNDP strategic partner, will host its first-ever SEforALL Youth Summit on February 9–11, 2021. This virtual summit aims to: educate youth on the scope and importance of SDG7 for global development; connect youth across the globe to networks, academic and career opportunities in the energy sector; and inspire youth to actively participate in achieving SDG7 during the Decade of Action. We invite SIDS youth, as powerful drivers of sustainability, to register and expand their influence in the energy transition.
Unprecedented international collaboration across a range of stakeholders is needed to ensure that AI is harnessed to contribute to our environmental sustainability. Startup Inside, in collaboration with UNESCO and UNEP, is organizing a global virtual conference dedicated to the theme of AI for the Planet on February 16th, 2021. This conference will be followed by a series of monthly dialogues that will bring together the world’s best experts and AI pioneers to share concrete use cases, identify best practices, celebrate successes, and inspire further actions in this field. We invite SIDS stakeholders to attend and stay up to date on how technological innovations could benefit green growth in SIDS.
#Challenge4ClimateAction calls on students to ideate solutions that help contribute to addressing real-life climate challenges. This year’s event is focused on UN SDG 13: Climate Action and is comprised of a Challenge stream and a Datathon stream: In the Challenge, Teams will be presented with a list of problem statements, based on real-world climate and related issues, and then ideate a solution which helps solve their chosen problem statement. In the Datathon, Teams will be provided with data sets to develop actionable insights and/or predictive models. We invite SIDS youth and students to join the challenge and inspire SIDS-led change. Spread the word and join below.
#Challenge4ClimateAction will kick off with a free conference on February 18. Learn more.