UNDP SIDS Bulletin | Issue 33

Rowely Parico • 5 March 2021

Issue 33 | March 2021

This week, the global community commemorated World Wildlife Day under the theme, “Forests and Livelihoods: Sustaining People and Planet”. From the mangrove forests of Cuba, which are found along 70 percent of the coastline, to the rare cloud forests of Papua New Guinea, forest ecosystems are essential to biodiversity in SIDS. They provide significant value to human livelihoods and the broader needs of societies and economies. The day is a reminder of the importance of promoting development that protects and restores nature as the key to not only prosperous growth but to survival on the planet.  

SIDS are advocating for a balanced development that puts people and planet at its center. Amidst the pandemic, SIDS have continuously reiterated the necessity to amplify climate ambition and push for a green recovery. 2021 marks the culmination of a number of important international conferences and forums including the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, the High-Level Dialogue on Energyand COP26. Momentum is rising and SIDS are at the forefront of championing climate advocacy and action. 

In this issue of the SIDS bulletin, we explore how SIDS are taking steps to transition to greener societies. Learn how tapping into the blue economy can support this ambition and how digital transformation can facilitate transformative whole-of-society change. 

Country Corner
Image from the website of Antigua and Barbuda government

The COVID-19 pandemic brought significant challenges to SIDS, including the twin-island state of Antigua and Barbuda. The near total halt to international tourism, devastated the Caribbean nation where the sector accounts for 70 percent of employment. However, the government’s strict approach in eradicating the virus proves that preparedness is the key in responding to the pandemic. Notwithstanding the great economic impact brought by the pandemic, SIDS are rising up to challenge to proactively prepare for the unimaginable threats posed by climate change—reminding the global community that climate action should to be the utmost priority. “Pernicious and disastrous as the pandemic is, small island states know the effects of climate change are far worse”, said Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda, Gaston Browne, at the global Climate Ambition Summit, December 2020. Setting an example in pursuing an ambitious green recovery, Antigua and Barbuda proposes several policies to steer the energy sector away from the use of fossil fuels—which still accounts for more than 95 percent of the energy mix. The government is also invested in incorporating nature-based solutions and digital transformation in improving their disaster risk and management policies and in increasing resilience. On top of these, the government proposes the key pillar of transitioning the workforce by 2030 through creating “decent and quality green jobs.” Thus, despite their small sizes and limited resources, SIDS are committed to executing their ambitious climate strategies. As the COP26 approaches, SIDS are calling for (1) an ambitious NDCs to reach the 1.5C climate target, (2) new financial pledges for support, and (3) action plans to protect the vulnerable. Under its global Climate Promise, UNDP has been providing both financial and technical support to Antigua and Barbuda, with a particular focus on data collection, applying a gender lens to climate action, and support for transitioning to a low-carbon economy. Along with Antigua and Barbuda, UNDP is supporting 27 other SIDS through its Climate Promise under the framework of the SIDS Offer. Read UNDP's 20 insights from NDCs in 2020, to learn how SIDS despite being small in size and economic might, are big in climate ambition.

As SIDS seek to protect vulnerable ecosystems from the evolving impacts of climate change, it is crucial that governments be able to fully visualize the biodiversity they are managing. Digital transformation in the blue economy will be essential in order to collect data on current conditions and future threats, introducing innovative methods for mapping coastal and underwater ecosystems. And these efforts are made even stronger through regional cooperation. Such is the case with Mauritius and Seychelles, who are introducing ArcGIS as a tool to strengthen the administration of the world’s largest jointly managed maritime zone. Established in 2012, the Joint Management Area (JMA) covers 396,000 square kilometers beyond the existing exclusive economic zones (EEZs) of these two countries and represents a global strong example of collaborative ocean governance. Following a series of trainings produced through a partnership between UNDP and Department for Continental Shelf, Maritime Zones Administration and Exploration in Mauritius and facilitated by ESRI South Africa, experts will use ArcGIS to drive marine spatial planning and development a system for the collection of data critical for adaptive management strategies. By modernizing the administration of this JMA, Mauritius and Seychelles are maintaining their place as leaders in ocean conservation and ensuring that they can effectively address the challenges of a changing climate. Likewise, through the introduction of remote sensing technology called Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR), Palau is enhancing the collection of spatial data for better disaster management strategy, accurately assessing environmental needs. Thus, the modernization of data collection is enabling SIDS to optimize climate responsiveness and effectively guard their unique natural resources, demonstrating the interconnected nature of UNDP's SIDS Offer in how its three pillars—digital transformation, blue economy and climate action—work together to effectively support island adaptation.

The COVID-19 pandemic upended the global economy in many ways, resulting in the proliferation and increased affordability of digital infrastructure to adapt to the current situation. In SIDS, this prompted a realization that investment in innovations, creativity, and technology is crucial to achieving transformative development. For instance, in Sao Tome and Principe UNDP in collaboration with other country offices in African Portuguese Speaking Countries (PALOP), including Cabo Verde and Guinea-Bissau, and Fábrica de Startups--a large innovation hub in Brazil--launched an innovation contest called e-Voluir. Applicants are asked to present creative solutions in the areas of “ e-Governance and Digital Transformation”  and “ Work and Economics.” Selected candidates are expected to test their ideas with the help of upskilling, all while supported by mentors who have collaborated with the organization in the Empreende Jovem Project. The capacity of these e-Voluir participants is also expected to be developed through workshops on design thinking and innovation methodologies. One of the key goals of the e-Voluir project, “to strengthen the innovation ecosystem of Portuguese-speaking countries” through skills development. Fostering knowledge sharing and South-South cooperation is key to achieving the 2030 Development Agenda and the SAMOA Pathway. As e-Voluir extends to topics such "Disaster Mitigation", "Community Resilience" and "Mobility," other SIDS could look at this as an opportunity to find solutions in these pressing areas. With initiatives where investment in upskilling is prioritized to find climate change solutions — such as e-Voluir and Youth Co:Lab — SIDS are working to close the digital divide, to tap into new digital opportunities, and diversify their economies.
Image: Jamaica / UNDP Told with Exposure 

By 2037, Jamaica envisions to generate 50 % of its energy supply from renewables. The Government’s Integrated Resource Plan (IRP), sets out a 20-year roadmap with some US$ 7.3 billion of investment planned to transform the energy sector. Jamaica, like many fellow SIDS, is highly dependent on fossil fuel imports, these ambitious plans to increase energy self-sufficiency and transition will bolster resilience as well as boost green economic growth. As part of an ongoing initiative to cut fossil fuel imports and associated public sector energy costs, UNDP is supporting the Government to install solar energy, implement energy saving initiatives and conduct capacity building efforts across six public hospitals in the country. Already, three of the hospitals have been retrofitted with LED lights that use only one-third to one-thirtieth the energy of incandescent and fluorescents. This is good news for Jamaica’s Health Sector, where energy use contributes to an annual importation of 20.8 million barrels of oil at a cost of $1.2 Billion USD. An analysis of the retrofitting initiative conducted in February this month, shed light on exactly how much the hospitals were saving. The hospitals recorded cumulative savings amounting to $1.5 million JMD over the six-month period. The changes have also had positive impact for hospital staff, improving standards of their workspace as they dealt with the health crisis. The next step of the initiative is to install solar energy systems across three hospitals involved. With increased investment in the renewable energy sector, Jamaica is tapping into a sector with immense potential for economic growth and improvement of welfare for people and planet. In fact, it is estimated that doubling the share of renewables in the global energy mix by 2030 will increase global GDP by as much as 1.1 % and contribute with 24.4 million employment opportunities in the renewable energy sector.  With the UN High-Level Dialogue on Energy scheduled for September this year, momentum is building to increase ambitions and support on SDG 7.   
Submit a UNDP story to the Country Corner section
In the News

After 2020 delivered the worst year on record for tourism with one billion fewer international arrivals, SIDS are innovating ways to invigorate this industry — transforming their vulnerabilities into strengths for an enhanced tourism product. The Maldives, for example, is deemed to be the biggest 2020 international tourism success story by harnessing its natural geographic remoteness to support a COVID-safe environment, complete with strict hygiene protocols and distancing. Likewise, while SIDS have been left especially vulnerable to the shocks of the current pandemic, they also possess distinct qualities useful for overcoming them. The 2021 United Nations Year of Creative Economy for Sustainable Development has determined creative and cultural industries — or the Orange Economy — to be critical tools in boosting economic performance. New innovations in the creative and cultural sectors are helping SIDS gain a competitive edge amid COVID-19, enabling visitors to experience their unique cultural heritage and biodiverse ecosystems at a new level. The benefit to the tourism sector is two-fold. Through new technologies and offerings, such as augmented, merged and virtual realities, visitors receive an immersive experience before and during travel as well as the opportunity to sustainably engage with vulnerable environments like coral reefs. UNDP is supporting digital transformation in the tourism sector through its SIDS Offer, empowering SIDS to grow their creative and cultural industries to sustainably showcase their assets to wider audiences, overcoming the challenges of COVID-19 and safeguarding environments for future generations.
Check out our Resources to learn more about challenges and opportunities in SIDS tourism.
Climate change – and the effect it has on SIDS – does not only affect the people, biodiversity, and identity of these islands but has also a direct impact on peace and security matters. This is why this topic was discussed at a UN Security Council meeting on 23 February, where the Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda, Mr. Gaston Browne, asked “what international plan and system would my country have recourse to, in the aftermath of such an attack to our peace and security?”, referring to Hurricane Irma that destroyed 90% of homes on Barbuda in 2017, miraculously sparing the island of Barbuda. Disaster Risk Reduction tools and early warning systems, however, can only go so far and aim to minimize the damage. The question is, what will happen if this is not sufficient anymore? When it is not about prevention and dealing with the aftermath, but actively making decisions that would venture into an unknown area of international collaboration and law? One of these topics involves the 1951 Geneva Convention on Refugees, which concerns refugees in times of war, but does not include refugees born out of environmental changes, so-called climate refugees. End of January 2020, the United Nations Human Rights Committee “ruled on the legal protection of people seeking refuge due to the adverse effects of climate change”. Whereas it acknowledged that climate change creates socio-political instability in the island nation of Kiribati, it nevertheless upheld New Zealand’s decision to decline a request for refugee status based on the grounds of sea-level rise of a Kiribati islander in 2015. In the meantime, climate researchers from the University of Copenhagen’s Niels Bohr Institute believe that, under a worst-case warming scenario, sea levels could rise as much as 1.35 metres by 2100. Where does this leave us? So far, the efforts of SIDS to make their voice heard and have their concerns translated into a tangible binding agreement, such as a Resolution, have not been successful so far. 
Image: Seychelles/ UNDP Ecosystems and Biodiversity
Rising sea levels, more frequent severe weather events, such as hurricanes, and a continuing erosion of island area are only some of the challenges SIDS are facing today. Whereas some scientists are proposing geo-engineering approaches to address these, such as slowing down the ice flows into the ocean, voices internationally have grown louder to make use of nature-based solutions. What does this entail? Simply put, it advocates a concept wherein natural resources and ecosystems are instead utilized and enhanced to provide benefits to biodiversity and human well-being. All ecosystems provide crucial services that fall into the categories of either provisioning, regulating, supporting, or recreational services. One regulating service that is essential for SIDS, is the flood control of coral reefs by acting as a barrier and wave breaker to large volumes of water that would otherwise amplify and reach the islands unchecked, causing great damage and inundation. Complementary coastal protection measures employed, such as seawalls, are not always effective in the same manner and can also prove problematic to wildlife, such as marine turtles coming to the beach to nest. The protective value of its natural resources – the coral reef – was recognized by the Seychelles, which took a big step to action with its recent Coastal Management Plan, endorsed in 2019. This Plan proposes coral reef rehabilitation and management in 5 out of 18 priority areas, to be implemented alongside grey infrastructure other nature-based solutions. Strategies for the coral reef restoration were developed by the government together with the World Bank, an effort that was funded by the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery, prioritizing 15 locations on the three main islands to enhance biodiversity and reduce coastal risks. A result of this study was that, to make coastal protection more effective. Coral restoration would require to be combined with artificial structures in most locations to deliver significant coastal protection. This is why Seychelles now opts for a hybrid solution, producing so-called blue barriers – a combination of submerged structures serving as a substrate for coral colonization and the restoration of existing coral reefs. This may allow for the ecosystem to recover and for the island to be protected from storms and waves. Whereas is only one strategy of how SIDS can use the natural resources around them in protecting their people and biodiversity, this is certainly an innovative approach that may be replicated in other SIDS if it proves to be successful. Certainly, mobilizing efforts and funds are needed for reef conservation efforts. And under the UNDP's Global Funds for Coral Reefs, a 10-year, $500 million blended finance vehicle which features public-private partnerships, supports business models that finance sustainable coral reef restoration through technical assistance, capacity development, and monitoring and evaluation. Read how the GFCR works

One of the most powerful tools for SIDS' transformative development has been their ability to collaborate regionally and internationally for shared progress. Thus, as technological transformation continues to accelerate, so does the need for high-quality data that resides in more than one country. Cross-border data flows are critical in achieving the SDGs and are worth trillions of dollars for global GDP. Therefore, it is important that data governance be used to best leverage its benefits. As a leading voice for responsible digital transformation, the Singapore Global Centre for Technology, Innovation and Sustainable Development has published a report outlining the key policies, norms, principles, and technical foundations necessary to maximized cross-border data—placing a specific emphasis on privacy rights, data protection legislation, intellectual property rights, and cybersecurity as well as technical interoperability to encourage data sharing between systems. This information is intended to help guide governments in avoiding data localization and encouraging the establishment of a robust data ecosystem that ensures the protection of information transferred. It can provide SIDS with key policies, norms, principles, and technical foundations to drive the positive progress of cross-border data. UNDP adheres to eight data principles published in late 2020 that inform data-driven development and seek to break down data "silos." Two of these eight principles speak specifically to the goals of "open data" and "data availability," emphasizing further the importance of international collaboration. Explore the UNDP COVID-19 Data Futures Platform to find resource and SIDS data to inform decision-makers and collectively assess country responses to the current crisis.
WATCH: How SIDS can harness digital technologies to turn challenges into opportunities
Image: John Rae, UNCDF

How can Pacific SIDS resolve the challenge
of scaling digital finance services?

Since its launch in 2008, the Pacific Financial Inclusion Programme (PFIP), has helped over two million low-income Pacific Islanders access formal financial services and financial education. At time of the conception of the initiative, the region saw low levels of financial inclusion and no mobile money or agent banking services existed. The potential for expanding access to mobile money and agent banking models to lower the cost of distributing financial services was promising. Fastforward to 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic underscored the power of digital financial solutions for improving financial inclusion and safeguarding progress on the SDGs. While the PFIP has shown significant success - for example, through a partnership with Vodafone to offer Fijians fee-free digital remittances during the pandemic - key constraints persist with regards to scaling digital financial services in the South Pacific. In fact, most projects focused on the distribution of digital financial services have had difficulty with sustainability. Through a set of country-specific recommendations and general advice on strategic operations, UNCDF offers a pathway forward to overcoming a key structural challenge of SIDS, scale. The report highlights the importance of concerted efforts, for example, government policies to encourage greater transactions per customer on digital financial service platforms and regionally aligned policies to facilitate companies serving customer bases across countries and sharing infrastructure like agent networks within them. Efforts on expanding financial inclusion and access to digital financial services are essential for SIDS to achieve progress on the SDGs and SAMOA Pathway. Explore UNCDF’s Impact Pathways tool to visualize the intricate role of digital finance in reaching the Sustainable Development Goals

Image: Papua New Guinea/ UNDP Papua New Guinea

The Global Action Programme on Food Security and Nutrition in Small Island Developing States determined that fish provides 50-90% of animal protein in the diets of people living in SIDS. Surrounded by the ocean, and an EEZ that often comprises a much larger area of water than of land, SIDS are relying heavily on the natural resources on and around their islands. The production of seafood is part of the larger blue economy that is perceived to be a major solution to hunger by offering an alternative source of food. But is this correct? In a study published in One Earth, center researcher Max Troell and colleagues, among others from the Solomon Islands, counter these assumptions and offer a more differentiated picture of the ocean economy. In particular, they identified so-called “blind spots”, which seem to be unfounded statements that the authors assessed and rectified. These blind spots are:
  • Growth in the blue economy will lead to growth in blue food production and consumption
  • Increasing food production will directly lead to reduced hunger
  • Mariculture production will replace declining capture fisheries
However, a more focused attention on these narratives that include a growing commodification of ocean resources without considering the consequences is considered to be more important. If these narratives remain invisible, that negligence may be to the detriment of the people most reliant on the resources, such as people in SIDS. In short, the author’s first argument takes up the notion of seafood as common resources affected by the tragedy of the commons. Although increased consumption of oceanic resources is welcomed in general, there is emerging evidence that the industrialization of the ocean economy that we see today may compromise its potential to provide more food, due to unprecedented production levels. UNCTAD reported in 2018 already that almost 90% of the world’s marine fish stocks are now fully exploited, overexploited or depleted. The second argument, of seafood leading to reduced hunger, is also not entirely applicable, as the reduction of hunger is mostly an issue of distribution of food and access to it, not of producing more. And the third argument, that attempts to substitute high sea fisheries with maricultures, is flawed because maricultures can only complement capture fisheries to arrive at a production – an employment level – that provides these resources in a sufficient number to people dependent on these. This is why the authors believe that only policies considering these “blind spots” can effectively alleviate hunger and thus contribute to the achievement of the UN Sustainable Development Goals, particularly Goal No. 2: Zero Hunger.
Further Resources

This three-part animation series by the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) depicts the story of loss and damage due to the devastating impacts of climate change in the least developing countries (LDCs). The first installment, available in English and Pijin, features the severe reality faced by the Solomon Islanders and the call for urgent financial and technological aid to support countries facing the exacerbated climate impacts. 
While the technological wave has advanced adaptation in many aspects, it must also ensure that the poor communities are not left behind. The Technology and Innovation Report 2021 by UNCTAD put forward the major concern of perpetuating inequalities as new technologies emerge. This report calls for effective national governance and strong international cooperation to safeguard equitable innovations among nations. 
This article underlines the experience of Fiji in successfully combatting not only the COVID-19 pandemic but the tropical cyclone Harold as well, generating lessons focusing on three areas: (1) "preparation and proactive investments in resilience or response; (2) close collaboration with international development partners; (3) an embrace of the key pillars of sustainable development: environmental health, social and human health, and economic growth."
Regarded to be a first of its kind, the Office of the Pacific Ocean Commissioner published the Blue Pacific Ocean Report 2021 (BPOR), a cross-cutting and multidimensional review of the current situation of the Pacific region's ocean governance. This report also highlights the progress of the region and addresses the current gaps and implementation challenges which are substantial in the forward-looking strategies in the sustainable use of ocean resources. 
In this episode of Frontier Dialogues, Fernando Galindo featured three Maldivian development practitioners of the UNDP Accelerator Lab team: Hussain Rasheed- Head of Experimentation, Fathimath Lahfa - Head of Exploration, and Khadeeja Hamid - Head of Solutions Mapping to talk about their roles, experiences, and outlook for 2021 in the Accelerator Labs. 

Beneath the blue: dive into a dazzling ocean under threat

From the sunlight zone (200m down) to the abyssal zone (4.5-6km down), this interactive report showcases the different aspects of marine life, how human pollutants (e.g. microplastics, oil spills) and activities (e.g. noise pollution from ships, deep-sea mining) disrupt the marine ecosystem. But with all the challenges mentioned, the report highlights the necessary actions and innovations to counter these problems. This piece is part of the Seascape: the state of our oceans by The Guardian.
Upcoming Opportunities and Events

Ocean Governance Capacity Building Training Program

An introductory course tailored to the Pacific region which tackles global ocean governance and highlights public international law related to the oceans and the international legal framework for the blue economy. This online course consists of pre-recorded lectures, reading materials, and live online discussion sessions. Organized by the World Bank, Melbourne Law School, DOALOS and ISA. Click here for more information. 

Deadline: March 8, 2021 at 11:59PM EST.


Are we building back better?

This online UN-Oxford conference is an avenue for exploring green recovery efforts from the COVID-19 pandemic to build back better. It will also serve as a "launch pad" for a new report from the Global Recovery Observatory, highlighting the recovery efforts of the top 50 economies of the world--analyzing whether these are working towards the environmental goals.

When: March 10, 3:30PM (CET)


The government of Aruba and OECD are facilitating a knowledge-sharing workshop to raise awareness among SIDS of the role of skills and institutional mechanisms for implementing SDGs. The output of this event seeks to contribute to the ongoing OECD consultation to develop a practice Guidance Note to enhance policy coherence in SDG implementation.

When: March 11, 2:00PM (CEST)

Under the theme Enabling Resilience for All: The Critical Decade to Scale-up Action, the forum aims to be the platform to host discussions about accelerating action and working on practical solutions for climate adaptation. The output of this forum is a set of recommendations on how to boost the current adaptation efforts in the Asia-Pacific region. 

When: March 8-12
With the theme #TurnItAround, the SDG Global Festival of Action is going full virtual to spark debate and inspire action across these four cross-cutting areas: climate action, gender equality, inclusive systems and sustainable finance, and poverty and inequality. The event will be composed of knowledge sharing activities, ideation and upskilling, networking, and many more. Check out the official website to learn more!
When: March 25-26
The Global Environment Facility Small Grants Program (GEF SGP) and UNDP Acceleration Lab announced the 'Green Innovation Challenge,' to upscale selected innovative projects focusing on climate-smart agriculture, air, water or soil quality, energy efficiency, or any similar issues. Concepts that are short-listed will be coached in drafting grant proposals for funding ranging from USD 5,000 to USD 50,000 from the GEF SGP Accelerator Lab Innovation Challenge. Small enterprises and individuals are eligible for a maximum of USD 10,000.
Deadline: March 25-26

Istanbul Innovation Days 2021 is an event not about what development is, but what it could be. the COVID-19 pandemic has certainly triggered new thinking, pushing development as a paradigm and sector. For SIDS, the socio-economic shocks have highlighted to the global community the need to fundamentally rethink a lot of past practices. The IID2021 will explore questions with the objective of unlocking new pathways.  To do this, we need to address the legacies of our pastexplore the edges of the present, and accelerate the progress towards a plurality of futures. IID will consist of 30 curated experiences over the period of 8 weeks, with the main event culminating on March 23-25. 

Learn more and register here

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