Issue 30 | January 2021

This week, three SIDS were announced as Global Champions for the UN High-Level Dialogue on Energy. In their roles, the Dominican Republic, Mauritius and Nauru will spearhead advocacy and inspire commitments and action on the three of the five themes for the Dialogue — namely, innovation, technology and data, enabling SDGs through an inclusive, just energy transition and finance and investment. With energy as a critical enabler for development and with 2021 shaping up to be a pivotal year for action on achieving SDG 7, the hope of raised ambition and accelerated action holds promise for a more sustainable, resilient post-COVID era of green recovery for SIDS. 

2021 also holds the promise of a heightened focus on and steps towards addressing another key priority for SIDS' recovery and economic transformation — debt sustainability and access to development finance. Discussions are gaining momentum, and last week, Caribbean leaders and academics met in a side-event to discuss moving from purely income-based classifications for SIDS to categorizations based on their reality of complex risks and vulnerabilities. In 2021, SIDS leaders continue to emphasize, that now is the time for a revision of past practices that lead to inequitable outcomes and for the recognition of the multidimensionality of vulnerability towards a more just and sustainable future where no one is left behind. 


Header Image: Le Morne Brabant, Mauritius

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Country Corner
Image: Koror, Palau Malakal Island, Palau

Along with many of its fellow SIDS, Palau faces immediate risks of sea-level rise and increasing intensity of extreme weather events induced by climate change. 25 % of the country's landmass lie below 10 meters above sea level. Slow-set impacts of climate change and extreme weather events cause severe disruption of economic activity, diversion of scarce fiscal resources and loss of livelihoods. New technologies can be game-changers in monitoring risks and coordinating responses — assisting SIDS in achieving their ambitions of bolstering climate resilience. Supported by UNDP and the Japanese Government, Palau is conducting its first-ever nationwide digital survey using state-of-the-art remote sensing technology called Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR), which uses a pulsed laser to measure distances to the Earth. This project marks a significant step forward in increasing Palau's resilience to the impacts of climate change and extreme weather events. It will supply critical spatial data to form a baseline for monitoring shorelines and resource management and inform the country's climate change adaptation strategy. As part of its commitment to harness digital transformation to strengthen resilience under the SIDS offer, UNDP is supporting SIDS with similar initiatives, including through the Pacific Ridge to Reef programme

Following the economic downturn of COVID-19, SIDS have led efforts to diversify economies and facilitate Digital Transformation to reskill tourism employees through online trainings to transition into new positions or move existing business online, an objective that will both accelerate recovery and ensure island economies remain resilient to future shocks. Dominica was still recovering from Hurricanes Irma and Maria when tourism numbers suddenly declined by 70–75%. With around 33% of jobs linked to tourism and 58% of people reporting job losses or reduced income during the pandemic, urgent action was needed to rebuild livelihoods and diversify the economy. Through a pilot initiative by the Government of Dominica’s Ministry of Public Works and the Digital Economy, UNDP collaborated with IsraAID to deliver a 12-week training, the Work Online Dominica program, to provide an alternative pathway of employment and to leverage and build skills to find freelance opportunities online. Through a competitive open process, 60 participants were selected to complete the training — 72% women and more than 60% under the age of 30 — from a diverse mix of regions, including the indigenous Kalinago territory. As a result of the training, participants secured over 50 job interviews and more than half of the applicants (32) got at least one job online while others received jobs locally. Across the world, UNDP has also partnered with the Pacific Tourism Organisation, Australia Pacific Training Coalition and Fiji Hotels and Tourism Association to expand opportunities for Pacific island tourism and hospitality businesses and workers through a series of virtual micro-credential training courses, a low-cost option that provides users with a digital certification when complete. Through digital reskilling, tourism employees can maintain their livelihoods, and vulnerable populations can avoid further marginalization through unemployment.  

2021 is shaping up to be a turning point, a critical moment to raise ambition and accelerate action towards the SDG 7 energy targets. With the High-Level Dialogue on Energy this year, the time for a new approach to supporting energy transition in SIDS is now.  Three SIDS — Nauru, Mauritius and the Dominican Republic — are Global Champions for the UN High-level Dialogue on Energy representing all regions of the SIDS. Along with fellow Global Champions, they will each spearhead advocacy, raise awareness and inspire commitments and action on one of the five themes for dialogue. In Nauru, UNDP, with funding from the Global Environment Facility has assisted in implementing the Supporting Mainstreamed Achievement of Roadmap Targets on Energy in Nauru (SMARTEN) project, which aims to accelerate renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies through policy, financing and training to support socio-economic development. Energy transition is crucial in transforming fuel and food supply chains for SIDS, making these countries more resilient to economic shocks. Mauritius is working to sustain its energy transition through the purchase of a new battery energy storage system with the support of the Green Climate Fund, enabling the electrical grid to continue to increase its renewable share, providing more Mauritians with clean energy. And in Trinidad and Tobago, UNDP has supported the Cashew Gardens community in establishing the country's first solar- and wind-powered community greenhouse, a vital resource in helping to overcome current food shortages. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of reliable energy access, and universal access to clean and affordable energy is indispensable for achieving many SDGs. To support SIDS in overcoming one of the main obstacles to achieving their transitions, UNDP also has partnered to develop the Climate Investment Platform aimed at decluttering the climate finance landscape and providing integrated and streamlined support to developing countries  service offers include financial de-risking and enabling access to capital markets. 

In the Caribbean, the Dominican Republic is pioneering river cleaning technology with a smart, sustainable vessel called the Interceptor 004 — a first of its kind in the region. The vessel operates using solar energy and water river currents and is expected to collect, on average, 16 tons of waste per week. Established through a partnership between UNDP and the nonprofit Ocean Cleanup, it is a part of the Rescate Ozama platform, a multisectoral initiative for the protection of the Dominican Republic's rivers, with the goal of transforming sustainable production and consumption for the health of the ocean, tributaries and people. Knowing the immense ecological, environmental and social impact of marine waste and pollution has on Large Ocean States, this initiative offers a powerful example to SIDS of a sustainable method for pollution control as well as the importance of partnership in harnessing emerging technologies. As challenges in this area continue to evolve, SIDS-SIDS knowledge sharing for water resource management will be essential for spreading best practices and ensuring thriving Blue Economies and community sanitation. SIDS in the Atlantic and Indian Oceans came together through the GEF-funded project Integrated Water Resources Management in the Atlantic and Indian Ocean Small Island Developing States (IWRM AIO SIDS) with UNDP and UNEP, which included Cabo Verde, Comoros, Maldives, Mauritius, São Tomé & Príncipe and Seychelles. These six countries worked together in the implementation of an ecosystem-based approach to the management of freshwater resources — utilizing micro-irrigation kits for agriculture, executing an awareness campaign for cleaner rivers and supporting an integrated water supply system, among many other programs.
In the News
Image: UNDP Jamaica

The 2020 UNDP Human Development Report acknowledged that we are living in the Anthropocene, and that our actions as human beings are the dominant force impacting the health of the planet. After last year's "super year" for the environment was derailed due to COVID-19, 2021 presents a new opportunity to transform our actions and safeguard the wellbeing of the planet, including its oceans. This year's beginning of the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development calls for an enhanced "participative and transformative process" between scientists, policymakers and industry actors. A new study from Duke University in the United States and the Stockholm Resilience Centre in Sweden titled "Ocean 100" shows that the world's 100 largest transnational corporations account for 60% of the ocean economy's US$ 1.9 trillion yearly revenue. Furthermore, it is suggested that imposing a "global ocean tax" on just 0.1 % of revenues of Ocean 100 corporations in the ocean industry has the potential to yield $1.1 bn annually — revenue that could be invested in developing a sustainable blue economy. UN Special Envoy to the Ocean, Peter Thomson, has outlined the possibilities of targeted collaboration among these organizations, including emissions reduction, sustainable mariculture for increased production and renewable energy. A new level of partnership between these corporations and regulatory bodies could have a significant impact on the health of the ocean through improved industry standards, legislation and consumer demands. In 2020, our oceans reached their hottest level in recorded history; this is, indeed, a pivotal moment for the world — especially for SIDS as healthy oceans are key to their economic well-being and climate resilience. On January 14, the High Level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy, which includes the leaders of PalauFiji and Jamaica, held its U.S. Launch of the Ocean Panel Transformations and Report, which emphasizes the fact we do not have to choose between production and protection in the ocean economy. In December, the group of 14 countries announced that they were committing to sustainably managing 100% of their national waters by 2025. 
Image: Bijagós Archipelago, Guinea-Bissau

As guardians of about 80% of the world's biodiversity, indigenous peoples are key actors in SIDS' pursuit of Climate Action — guiding and inspiring innovation with centuries of knowledge on adaptation.  The Bijagó people, an indigenous group in the Bijagós archipelago of Guinea-Bissau, are an excellent example of this. Living deeply intertwined with nature, the Bijagó's traditional knowledge is key to protecting the country's biodiversity, adding a valuable, spiritual perspective to this endeavor. These communities are under threat, both from climate change and the migration of the community's younger population. However, despite their assimilation into the global economy, some youth are beginning to marry scientific advances with indigenous knowledge and values — practicing conservation with agroecological farming, for example. UNDP is supporting the reviving of traditional knowledge for adaptation through on-the-ground programs, such as a recent salt-making workshop in Fiji, to re-teach practices for climate-resilient livelihoods. Through its Climate Promise, UNDP is also assisting 28 SIDS in updating their National Determined Contributions (NDCs) ahead of COP26, engaging community members in participatory processes that prioritize vulnerable populations — such as indigenous peoples. Papua New Guinea is the most recent SIDS to update its NDC, aiming to reduce its carbon emissions by 50% in 2030 and become carbon neutral by 2050. View UNDP's 20 Insights from NDCs in 2020 here.
Image: Belize

Each year, 8 million tonnes of plastic ends up in the world's oceans, causing significant damage to marine ecosystems and threatening the success of SIDS' Blue Economies and tourism industries. Without dramatic intervention, this number is set to nearly triple by 2040. Through the Blue Economy pillar of the UNDP's SIDS Offer, small island developing states are prioritizing the conservation of marine resources, employing nature-based solutions for greater resilience. A recent scientific discovery could help to expand these programs in SIDS through the use of coastal vegetation to filter dangerous microplastics, the most abundant form of marine plastic debris. Research has determined that underwater seagrass in coastal areas can be used to actually clean up this plastic debris. The observed seagrass ecosystem trapped microplastics in natural bundles of fiber until they eventually left the marine environment through bleaching — a technique which SIDS could harness, in the future, to combat plastic pollution. Ultimately, this newly discovered benefit of seagrass only adds to the importance of their protection and restoration through the management of coastal areas. These spaces are of particular importance in UNDP's work to support SIDS in adapting to the exogenous influences of pollution and climate change. Through the Adaptation Fund, in partnership with Manglar Vivo, UNDP is working in Cuba to implement a comprehensive package of solutions to reduce the vulnerability of coastal communities in now 24 municipalities. This initiative involves an ecosystem-based adaptation approach for mangroves through an intensive water rehabilitation project, including reforestation, enhanced monitoring and control efforts and the creation of detailed vulnerability assessments to better understand how climate change is affecting communities and their ecosystems.  
Image: Vomo Island, Fiji

According to the UNEP 2020 Adaptation Gap Report, around the world, countries are struggling to adapt to climate change and acquire the funding needed for resilience. Annual adaptation costs for developing countries are estimated to be US$ 70 billion, reaching US$ 140–300 billion by 2030. SIDS, in particular, due to shared complex challenges, such as remoteness and lack of diversification, experience several obstacles in financing resilience — the most serious of these being often heavy debt burdens. On average, natural disasters cause damage worth 2.1% of GDP in SIDS every year. A recent UNCTAD study has determined that, in addition to climate vulnerability, SIDS' challenges with debt are driven by per capita GDP, terms of trade and export diversification, not to mention the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result of the pandemic, a deficit of -12.3% of GDP is forecasted for 2021 — increasing the vulnerability of SIDS to climate change. Greater sustainability through access to financial support and improved debt management must be prioritized as a tool for resilience. This study introduces innovative policy recommendations to facilitate financial support, including technical assistance to national statistics offices for measuring impact, debt-for-nature swaps and extending hurricane clauses in debt restructuring agreements to include other climate events. It also points towards private insurance coverage against climate change to support real resilience, as one example the InsuResilience Global Partnership, of which UNDP is a member, aims to build local capacity and resilience through climate and disaster risk finance and innovative insurance solutions. As part of ongoing discussions on the structural obstacles of many SIDS in accessing finance to build resilience and accelerate development, Caribbean leaders and academics discussed the issue of a new classification for these economies at a recent event
Image: Fiji / © 2019 UNCDF John Rae

Women represent approximately 47% of the workforce in the small-scale fisheries sector, and it is estimated that they contribute around 50% of annual coastal fisheries catch in the Pacific. Despite their important contribution, historically women have been under-represented in decision-making processes and experience inequitable access to resources. However, greater inclusion has a positive impact on community wellbeing and coastal management outcomes, and a study focusing on gender inclusion in fisheries in Fiji, Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands identified ways fisheries can more effectively achieve equality. As often policies are surface-level, aiming to "reach" women rather than "empower" or "transform," the study advises several points for streamlining equality in the fishing sector, including expanding capacity for specialists, opening community discussion spaces and partnering with development organizations. In addition to fisheries, women are also valuable leaders in efforts for climate adaptation in SIDS. Women have formed successful climate alliances in SIDS all over the world — from the Jamaica Environment Trust to the Pari Women’s Development Association in Papua New Guinea — ensuring that a gender perspective is included in sustainable development. In the previous bulletin, we highlighted how the UNDP-supported Tuvalu Coastal Adaptation Project is empowering women to join decision-making spaces and facilitating collaboration among government and civil society for gender empowerment programs. Through meaningful participation, placing women as valuable leaders and empowering them as community members, SIDS can build not only inclusive communities and livelihoods but more prosperous local economies. 

Biodiversity is a critical cross-cutting issue in all aspects of UNDP's SIDS Offer — building ecosystem resilience to climate change, protecting marine species from unsustainable fishing and catalyzing digital technology for data collection on nature. And this year holds significant opportunities for bold collaborative action for biodiversity, including the meeting of the UN Convention for Biological Diversity (CBD) and the launch of the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration. At the recent One Planet Summit, 50 countries announced a commitment to protect 30% of Earth's land and oceans. As hosts to enormous ecosystems of biodiversity — 20% of all plant, bird and reptile species on 3% of the planet's land area — SIDS have the potential to be influential leaders in the international campaign for conservation as well. To guide this important era of biodiversity protection, the Global Landscapes Forum (GLF), along with the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) and UNEP, have published a set of seven policy recommendations as well as eight guidelines for implementation. The recommendations include: considering public health perspectives, transforming financial structures, enabling community ownership, supporting inclusive knowledge-sharing platforms, promoting rights-based approaches, scaling local initiatives and supporting the most vulnerable communities. The need for action is urgent.  In September, CBD released a report concluding that none of the 20 Aichi Targets were fully completed, only six completed in part. In addition to supporting bold post-2020 strategic frameworks for biodiversity, UNDP is supporting on-the-ground implementation of such policy in SIDS through its Ridge-to-Reef program with the Global Environment Facility (GEF), supporting SIDS all over the world — from Grenada to Fiji — to involve local communities in the co-management of natural resources. 
Further Resources
Suriname's Multi-faceted COVID-19 Response
In Suriname, UNDP has supported local leaders in carrying out a COVID-19 response that is strategically engineered to minimize the risk of marginalization — publishing a Socio-economic Impact Assessment (SEIA); distributing PPE to social institutions, a COVID-19 awareness video book for the hearing impaired, and an audiobook for the visually impaired; and strengthening the Suriname Gender-Based Violence (GBV) Referral Pathway Programme. Learn more about their approach.
Priorities for Climate Finance in the Year Ahead
This paper outlines 11 main issues related to climate finance in 2021, identified through extensive consultations, as well as beginning steps for overcoming them. This has been published to aid stakeholders in preparation for COP26, which will take place this November. Additionally, each of these priorities are interlinked, and countries will need to engage in holistic and targeted action in order to comprehensively address climate finance.
Study tracks changes to fishing, culture in Bahamas
A study based on interviews with fishermen and women on the island of Andros in the Bahamas illustrates how tourism and modern development have affected the culture and environment. Findings indicate that tourism related to fishing has led to environmental degradation and a need for increased production to fuel economic growth. Research like this will be instrumental in helping SIDS reimagine tourism systems for sustainability and thriving Blue Economies.

5 Lessons from Food Security Interventions in Pacific

In response to the impact of climate disasters and COVID-19 on Pacific SIDS, the Accelerator Lab Pacific designed the Pacific Response Challenge to address food insecurity. Here are five insights from the results of this program: the reemergence of the traditional barter system, the emergence of communal farming, shift in the public image of farming, strengthening of traditional food preservation and preparation techniques, and food altruism.
Can coral reef restoration save one of the most vulnerable ecosystems to climate change?
A new report aims to assist decision-makers to deliver a strategy to improve eco-systems services.
Upcoming Opportunities and Events
The innovation challenge calls on students to ideate solutions which help contribute to addressing real life climate challenges. Students choose from problem statements such as how technological solutions can help tackle the issue of energy security or proposing smart agricultural solutions to solve issues of food insecurity in SIDS. The Top 10 Teams will present their ideas to the Judges with the 1st place winners awarded CAD$6,000, 2nd and 3rd places CAD$4,000 and CAD$2,000 respectively. Spread the word and join below! We invite SIDS youth and student to join the challenge and inspire SIDS-led change!
The online international Climate Adaptation Summit (CAS) 2021 on 25 and 26 January, hosted by the Netherlands, convenes global leaders and local stakeholders. It will see the launch of a comprehensive Adaptation Action Agenda that sets out clear commitments to deliver concrete new endeavors and partnerships to make our world more resilient to the effects of climate change.
When: January 25–26, 2021
View Programme
"Espacios de Futuro" in the Dominican Republic

Experts in urban and architectural issues are invited to submit proposals for the transformation of the design, distribution and use of public and private spaces in the Dominican Republic. 
The virtual dialogue will take place February 9–10, aiming to enhance youth empowerment for climate actions in the lead up to the Asia-Pacific Climate Week and the COP 26.

The Economist Group’s World Ocean Initiative has launched the Ocean Changemakers Challenge for business solutions to ocean-related sustainability challenges. 
Receive a UNEP course certificate upon course completion. Access 6 hours of free learning materials, available in 7 languages.

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