This week, the 2021 High Level Political forum (HLPF) kicked off virtually. This year’s theme is: “Sustainable and resilient recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic that promotes the economic, social and environmental dimensions of sustainable development: building an inclusive and effective path for the achievement of the 2030 Agenda in the context of the decade of action and delivery for sustainable development".
This theme hits home for SIDS, where the impacts of the pandemic have created a ripple effect, affecting every aspect of their development. SIDS do not have the luxury of time; and have been raising their voices during the HLPF, bringing the climate emergency, vaccine equity, access to finance, building forward differently and innovatively. As we are at a tipping point in our human history, we need integrated, bold, and intelligent choices by everyone, most importantly by decision makers, because these choices will define the wellbeing of people and planet for generations to come.
Right now, the greatest Achilles heel to the global economic recovery is the growing number of countries that are potentially facing debt distress. Moreover, few institutions have supported SIDS in mitigating the impact of the pandemic, with only 4% of available COVID-19 funding for developing countries being spent on SIDS. This call is being echoed in the official meeting taking place this morning, “Coming together to help Small island Developing States to get on a path to realize the SDGs” where high government officials reiterated the need for a metric that takes into account the multidimensional and cross-sectoral vulnerability of SIDS, and called for tangible and swift action to build resilience at speed and at scale.
The climate crisis is considered "as a crisis multiplier that has profound implications for international peace and stability" by the United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres. And while SIDS have been rallying behind more ambitious climate action, they are still facing the brunt of the climate crisis. Such is the case for Tuvalu, consisting of three islands and six low-lying atolls scattered across the middle of the Pacific Ocean. This island state is facing unprecedented existential security-related risks created by human-induced climate change; including displacement and forced migration due to irreversible degradation to livelihoods, food sources and coastal erosion, increased social tensions related to access to fisheries and land resources, food insecurity, uncertainty on national maritime zones and boundaries. According to IPCC 1.5°C Special Report for Policy Makers, rising sea levels and more frequent and intense climate-related disasters threaten to sink Tuvalu in 30 to 50 years.
But why does inclusive dialogue matter? The impacts of the climate crisis are more intensely felt by the marginalized groups; and women, the elderly, children, persons with disabilities, Indigenous Peoples, and other marginalized groups are inherently vulnerable but often left out of decision-making. The dialogues and informative workshops are some of the ways to encourage inclusion at all levels of climate adaptation and resilience-building, ensuring that no one is left behind.
The COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare the digital divide between countries. To support SIDS bridge the gap and gather high-level insights into a national digital strengths and areas for improvement; UNDP released the digital readiness assessment tool to help countries develop national digital strategies and achieve an inclusive digital transformation. This tool is part of the Digital Transformation pillar of the UNDP SIDS offer — Rising Up for SIDS, to help shape the digital transition of SIDS. It is also intended to offer “entry points” for the development of transformative digital initiatives going forward.
In the Pacific region, the Solomon Islands recently participated in the digital readiness assessment to take the human-centered approach in the digital transition of the country. Likewise in Timor-Leste, the country released the parliament's digital assessment report that identifies clear priorities, goals and workplans for digital transformation activities, and establishes a clear channel of communication with citizens and civil society. Across the world, in the Caribbean, Dominica is spearheading an inclusive digital transformation- starting with a citizen survey that aims to all citizens in shaping the national digital strategy.
With the 2030 Agenda as a guiding thread, UNDP aims to harness technology’s transformative power and ensure the best possible digital future for all. While the COVID-19 crisis has amplified the digital lag in many SIDS, it also presents the opportunity for a sustainable and inclusive digital transformation.
Read SIDS Bulletin Issue 41 to read about UNDP Guinea-Bissau's digital transformation vision shaped by the Digital Readiness Assessment Tool.
According to the World Economic Forum, an estimated 47 million more women will fall into extreme poverty due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Moreover, the International Labour Organization stated that unemployment for women rose by 9 million in 2020 compared to 2019 and this number is projected to increase by another 2 million in 2021, whereas the men's unemployment rate is forecasted to decrease. Gender inequality is still prevalent in the modern world, and the Generation Equality Forum, hosted in Paris by UN Women and the governments of France and Mexico, launched plans to radically speed up progress over the next five years. As the largest international conference on women's rights, the forum sees billions of dollars pledged to advocate for gender equality.
From international conferences to locally driven community initiatives, the fight against gender inequality is ever the more necessary in SIDS. For instance, in Dominica, advocacy work on women farmers’ resilience and the arts intersect to produce a theatre piece to inform farmers and the general public of the work of the "Strengthening Disaster Management Capacity of Women in the Cooperative Republic of Guyana and Dominica" project facilitated by the UNDP Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean in collaboration with sponsors and the Government.
The play highlighted the many issues faced in agriculture, such as praedial larceny, underestimation of the women's contribution to agriculture, respect for women in agriculture, farmers' naivety about the cost of production, and higher influence of women than men on children's decision to pursue agriculture. This project is part of the work of UNDP Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean in its commitment to promoting economic diversification, job creation and resilience with the "Blue Economy for Green Islands" vision.
Curious to learn more about SIDS-led initiatives that help fight for gender equality? Read Samoa's latest newsletter!
The global oceans’ annual value of goods and services is estimated to be worth US$2.5 trillion (about 5% of global GDP and the 7th largest economy). Leveraging this untapped source of economic development is a valuable opportunity for SIDS. Off the cost of West Africa, this is especially the case for Guinea-Bissau, considered to possess one of the richest biodiversity areas in the region. In a recent high-level dialogue, the Government of Guinea-Bissau, together with UNDP and other partners, discussed strategies on how to unlock the potential of and maximize the opportunities of the Blue Economy in the country. During the event, the stakeholders discussed how Guinea-Bissau's socioeconomic recovery can be more sustainable, resilient and inclusive so as to build a smarter ecological future that addresses the lessons derived from the Covid-19 pandemic. Blue ocean development is a priority goal by the Africa Union to achieve the aspiration of a thriving Africa in tandem with the 2063 Agenda. Propelling Blue Economy is also a core pillar of UNDP's integrated offer 'Rising Up for SIDS' that aims to support SIDS in preserving their marine and coastal biodiversity while empowering local livelihoods.
The Executive Board of the Global Fund for Coral Reef (GFCR) endorsed a 10-year Investment Plan outlining a strategic vision that unites GFCR conservation and sustainable finance goals for coral reefs and reef-dependent communities. The Investment Plan, developed by the Board together with the Conservation Finance Alliance, lists 34 countries in its initial country prioritization scoping, of which 9 are hailing from SIDS.
The GFCR will intervene in selected "Focal Areas" based on both Bioclimatic Units (BCU’s) identified by “50 Reefs” and sub-regions determined by “UNEP Coral Bleaching Futures” to be more resilient to climate change. Since SIDS are largely surrounded by one or several BCU’s, an entire country could potentially be a “focal area” in which the Fund can focus its intervention efforts. As a way to support the blue economy programs, the Board approved funds to scale and replicate reef-positive business models across four Mesoamerican Reef countries, where one of the recipients is Belize. The Global Fund for Coral Reefs is a 10-year, $500 million blended finance vehicle that leverages grants to unlock private sector investment in blue economy, incubate investable projects and scale up coral reef conservation. A joint initiative that UNDP leads, GFCR is the first UN fund that is dedicated to SDG 14.
As most nations around the world still grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) has generally endorsed The Pacific Approach, 2021-2025, a new 5-year strategy to support resilience-building against economic shocks and promote inclusive and sustainable growth in the 12 smallest Pacific Island countries (PIC-12) – the Cook Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, Kiribati, the Marshall Islands, Nauru, Niue, Palau, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu.
From $568 million in 2015, ADB projects that its portfolio for the PIC-12 will grow to $1.34 billion in 2021 to meet the region’s growing financial needs. The strategy outlines new operational priorities, including a new climate strategy and a heightened focus on long-term capacity development for both public and private sectors. It also highlights a growing focus on gender equality by encouraging inclusivity in project designs and policy dialogue. For its first objective, ADB will help strengthen the PIC-12’s public financial management and healthy systems and support disaster risk reduction and economic recovery. This is followed by financial and asset management support for core energy, transport, and urban infrastructure. On the other hand, the third objective seeks to support inclusive growth by strengthening business environments, increasing access to finance for medium, small, and micro businesses, and helping develop social protection systems for the most vulnerable. According to ADB Director General for the Pacific Leah Gutierrez, the strategy reflects ADB’s modified approach in the region, which has been greatly affected by the pandemic: “This new and tailored approach to our work is also motivated by the growing frequency and intensity of climate change and natural hazards in the region,” she added.
A recently published UNCTAD report revealed that the collapse in international tourism triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic could cause a loss of more than US$4 trillion to the global GDP for the years 2020 and 2021. For many small island developing states (SIDS), this is an economic lifeline that generates approximately US$30 billion per year. While the outlook for international tourism is not getting better, as it is forecasted to rebound only in 2023, there are some silver linings for SIDS. Recently, the Commonwealth proposed the development of a global ‘Tourism Action Plan’ to help spur a much-needed recovery. “This crisis has given us the perfect economic lab to examine the impact of tourism because we have lost it for 18 months… We now know given the fallout that the economic impact of tourism in our own destinations is very far-reaching and creates opportunities that maybe were not taken advantage of in better days,” stated by Hon. Allen Chastanet Prime Minister of St. Lucia. The action plan, which is based on information from a recent Commonwealth report, ‘Tourism and COVID-19: Mapping a Way Forward for the Commonwealth Small States’, offers a variety of practical policy alternatives for revitalizing the tourism sector in the short, medium, and long term. As part of COVID-19 recovery efforts under the vision, "Blue Economy for Green Islands," UNDP Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean lead the FUT-Tourism project to support governments, national institutions, and the private sector including Micro, Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (MSMEs) to quickly adapt and respond to the needs of new tourism demand. A key component of this is a 5-part FUT-Tourism Regional Dialogues that facilitate discussions that will contribute not only in reimagining tourism but also in advancing inclusive and sustainable development throughout the region and building resilient communities that can withstand shocks and crises.
Community-Based Adaptation (CBA) is a vital and cost-effective approach to the management of climate change impacts and resilience-building of local communities. It provides information and recommendations on climate change mitigation that are location-specific and community-managed. For more than 10 years now, UNDP's GEF Small Grants Programme and the Australian Government Overseas Aid Program (AusAid) have been implementing the CBA program in 37 small island developing states by providing financial and technical support to the community-driven initiatives that address global environmental issues while improving local livelihoods. The goals of the Community-Based Adaptation programme were to:
reduce the vulnerability and improve the adaptive capacity of local communities to the adverse impacts of climate change;
provide countries with concrete ground-level experience on locally led climate change adaptation; and
provide clear policy lessons, scale up community- based adaptation (CBA) practices and mainstream CBA within national planning and processes.
To achieve these goals, the CBA approach heavily focuses on social inclusion and cohesion to ensure that all members of society have a voice, a role, and access to opportunities and services, irrespective of gender, age, ethnicity, or mental and physical abilities. To bridge the gap between local, national, and regional actors, various multi-level consultation meetings and dialogues were held throughout the project cycle. As a result, the consultations with stakeholders does not only serve as space for the communities' voices to be heard but as the foundation for tailor-made recommendations. From sustainable land and forest use to coastal zone management and water resource management, this publication features nine success stories of SIDS that adapted the CBA program for inclusive adaptation and resilience-building.
Click the image to watch recordings of SIDS Summit for Health sessions
Equitable and resilient health systems are crucial to the sustainable development of Small Island Developing States. However, due to their remoteness and distinct vulnerabilities, they are facing acute health and existential threats such as climate change and related natural disasters, the burden of noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) and malnutrition, and the ongoing unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic with its profound social and economic impacts. To discuss these urgent health challenges, the World Health Organization (WHO) hosted the SIDS Summit for Health, the first global gathering of leaders focusing exclusively on health in SIDS. This aims to amplify SIDS voices, promote collaborative action, and strengthen health and development partnerships and financing. To achieve a healthy and resilient future in SIDS, strategic actions will be based on 4 key principles: (1) give high political visibility to the health challenges in SIDS; (2) respond to already-defined demands of SIDS with strengthened bottom-up approaches; (3) bring together and scale-up work across WHO its existing programs; (4) track progress, including through indicators aligned with the 13th Global Programme of Work.
The outcome document, "For a Healthy Resilient Future in Small Island Developing States,", underlined the urgency facing SIDS from health challenges and unprecedented consequences of the climate crisis. Among the calls to action was accelerating the use of a set of effective and prioritized NCD interventions, through primary health care and advances in universal health coverage. What is certain is that health must be addressed fully in the climate change movement and enhanced access to development finance is crucial to achieving this.
Image from the The Blue Economy in Practice - Raising Lives and Livelihoods report
Blue Economy consultancy NLA International has released its analysis of over 70 case studies on different Blue Economy approaches all over the world. Featured examples include how the potential impacts of climate change are being modelled to inform transport decisions in the Caribbean and how governments and venture capitalists are investing in Blue Economy innovation. The Blue Economy in Practice – Raising Lives and Livelihoods also outlines a new step-wise process for developing a Blue Economy and five core principles to improve the quality of human and marine life: Regenerative, Adaptive, Inclusive, Sustainable, and Evidence-led. The report is part of Blue Economy Pulse, NLAI’s project for identifying and sharing common themes and developments in sustainable ocean activities. There is a growing interest in the Blue Economy globally, but covering these developments can be too tedious for many.
However, by presenting tangible examples of practice within an easily accessible headline structure, stakeholders can find the successful approaches they need most. The analysis suggests that the best Blue Economies will be built on approaches that are regenerative of the ocean environment; adaptive to a changing climate and new knowledge; inclusive of all stakeholders, particularly those who depend most on ocean resources; sustainable environmentally, socially and economically; and evidence-led.
This policy brief articulates the Mauritius government recovery proposals in the 2021-2022 national budget. It places emphasis on building back better through three strategic areas namely: building and sustaining the private sector, rethinking of the tourism sector as a core pillar of the economy; and leveraging the potential of digitisation.
Listen to Episode 1 of “Climate Islands” - a new series exploring climate change and coastal communities - and the sea journey to find solutions. This episode focuses on the islands of Morobe Province, in Papua New Guinea, where the biggest issue is drinking water, among other stark challenges. Listen to the story of Dr John Poulsen, a climate change and disaster risk reduction expert has worked across the world on the impacts of climate change on communities in the tropics.
The Pacific Community (SPC), which supports 22 Pacific Island Countries and Territories (PICTs) with overall coordination and capacity building for their engagement with climate finance mechanisms such as the GCF, is the delivery partner for the Federated States of Micronesia's National Designated Authority. Learn how the integration of diverse one-off projects into a cohesive national approach can increase the positive impacts on communities.
Planet Tracker has announced an interactive tool aimed at encouraging investors to consider funding the regeneration of wild fish stocks by issuing “blue bonds.” Blue Recovery Bond Dashboard aims to show how fishing companies and investors can benefit from temporary declines in fishing levels that help wild fish stocks recover.
Hosted by the Republic of Ireland in partnership with the Federated States of Micronesia, Republic of the Marshall Islands, U.S., Curaçao, Guam, Local2030 Islands Network, Hawai‘i Local2030 Hub, Global Island Partnership, UN Foundation, and shift7. This event will showcase the ways in which islands are coming together through the Local2030 Island Network to achieve the SDGs during the Decade of Action, despite the current challenges faced by the COVID-19 pandemic and climate change impacts.
Under the theme, "Sharing Knowledge For Resilient, Sustainable And Prosperous Islands Worldwide," this year's summit will collectively cover all aspects of sustainable development using the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as a framework and will emphasize the need for input and partnerships from across the private, public, academic and NGO sectors. Stay updated!
The International Seabed Authority (ISA) launched the Secretary-General’s Award for Deep-Sea Research Excellence which recognizes and encourages the achievements of young researchers from developing countries who have made outstanding contributions to the advancement of scientific knowledge of the deep-sea environment, or to the development of environmentally sustainable regulatory frameworks. Nominations and applications must be supported by two sponsors and should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org no later than July 15, 2021. The name of the awardee will be announced on July 24, 2021.
The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) are accepting nominations for the 2021 Pathfinder Award. This award seeks initiatives focused on sites with innovative, integrated approaches to protected and conserved area management that successfully conserve nature while making development gains related to1) human health, 2) climate change mitigation and adaptation, and 3) sustainable land management. Four award winners will receive a financial grant of US$ 10,000 and a plaque and certificate of achievement, promotion and visibility, and an invitation to the awards ceremonies. The call accepts nominations in English, French, and Spanish. The deadline of the nomination is July 15, 2021.
Greening the Islands (GTI) launches the 7th edition of GTI Awards, which aims to gather good practices and innovations on islands to give them public visibility globally and foster their replication. The GTI Awards will recognize the best projects on energy, water, mobility, waste, agriculture, sustainable tourism, and governance & inclusion. Submission is open until October 1, 2021.