Issue 53 | February 2022

The One Ocean Summit took place last week in Brest, France. Over two days, around 40 heads of state and government discussed and addressed 4 main themes: the protection of marine ecosystems, the fight against pollution, the fight against climate change, and ocean governance. This summit kicks off what is expected to be a year full of conferences and international conventions focused on the health and conservation of marine ecosystems and the sustainable development of the Blue Economy sector.
As "Large Ocean States", the oceans are an integral part of the ecosystem of SIDS and they depend on it to build forward a better and bluer future. Moreover, oceans are the largest carbon sink the world has, absorbing around 25% of all CO2 emissions. In the words of Peter Thompson, UNSG’s Special Envoy on the Ocean, hailing from Fiji: “Why do we need to invest in the Sustainable Blue Economy? Because it represents the future of humankind".

The commitments made during the Brest Summit include more than 30 additional countries supporting the 30% protection target, the announcement by France of the extension of the national natural reserve of the French Southern and Antarctic Lands to become the world’s second largest MPA, the pledge of UNESCO to map at least 80% of the seabed by 2030, and the commitment by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) joined the European Investment Bank (EIB) and the development banks of France (AFD), Germany (KfW), Italy (CDP) and Spain (ICO), to provide €4 billion in finance by 2025 for the reduction of plastic pollution at sea, through the Clean Oceans Initiative. These commitments set the stage for the upcoming SIDS Global Business Network Virtual Forum, the Our Oceans Conference hosted by Palau in April and the UN Ocean Conference, co-hosted by the Governments of Kenya and Portugal in late June of this year. These will of course be followed by the anticipated UNFCCC COP27, where SIDS will continue to advocate for action on the ground and the implementation of the long-promised loss and damage Warsaw Mechanism. The high-level segment of the Brest One Ocean Summit also saw the announcement of the One Island Summit to be held in September 2023 in Tahiti, ahead of the recently announced 2024 UN conference for SIDS.

As we prepare for what is shaping up to be a busy calendar and a return to in-person meetings, we invite you to explore stories from the SIDS on themes such as nature-based solutions, vaccination programs, cryptocurrency, blue economy, and internet connectivity.

Image: CreativeCommons ADB


Keywords:  Rising Up For SIDS, oceans, biodiversity, marine protected areas, SDGs, green recovery, coral reefs, blue bond, plastic pollution, digital currency, creative industries, orange economy, sustainable development, machine learning, gender equality, inclusive, blue economy, climate action, digital transformation, water solutions, livelihood empowerment, innovation, renewable energy
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Country Corner
Image: Montserrat Xilotl, UNDP Cuba

Novel Nature-based solutions will restore 1,300 km of coastline in southern Cuba

In Cuba, mean sea levels are projected to increase by 0.29 m by the year 2050 and 0.95m by the year 2100. Projections show that if no intervention is made by 2100, up to 21 coastal communities will disappear with a further 98 being severely affected by climate related threats in the form of loss of assets, livelihoods, access to natural resources such as clean water. Using indicators from previously implemented adaptation projects in Cuba, the UNDP-implemented, Green Climate Fund-funded Mi Costa project is proposing the restoration of coastal ecosystem along 1,300kms of coastline of the Southern Cuba Coastline. Through the project, 11,427 ha of mangroves, 3,088 ha of swamp forest and 928 ha of grass swamp will be restored, in turn improving the health of 9,287 ha of seagrass beds and 134 km coral reefs crests. Together these ecosystems will provide protection and regulation services along the targeted coastline.

The project will provide benefits to 24 communities, and 1,324,114 people in the form of protection from coastal flooding and saline intrusion as well as in the delivery of vital climate and environmental information to communities to better assess their capacity to manage climate impacts; capacity building on sustainable livelihoods and climate resilience and working with national and local authorities to streamline of ecosystem-based adaptation in local and national regulations.The Mi Costa project will allow the Cuban government to innovate using ecosystem-based adaptation (EBA) practices as a principal strategy in coastal resilience and protection. This will provide an important shift in business-as-usual practices that have looked to manage coastal flooding impacts through infrastructure-based solutions.

The project, once implemented, will result not only in protective benefits to the coastal communities within the target areas but will also produce important information that will allow EBA to be upscaled not only nationally but also will allow this model to be used in other island nations with similar conditions. Lack of quantitative information to fully assess the impact of EBA is often cited as an important barrier for its use among SIDS.

Image: UNDP Papua New Guinea

Guinea-Bissau setting an example by vaccinating 36% of its eligible population

With COVID-19 continuing to affect the way we view and conduct daily interactions; Guinea-Bissau has not been unmarred by its effects. In collaboration with the Health and Social Protection Cluster, the Accelerator Lab was tasked with conducting a cycle to understand how to increase the number of vaccinated citizens in the country. The aim is to vaccinate 70% of the population above 18 years old in the country. So far, 36% of the eligible population has been fully vaccinated. Although the number is significantly high when considering the fragility of the health system in Guinea-Bissau as well as its geographical location, more can be done to increase the overall number of vaccinated citizens. In December 2021, the Lab began the exploration phase whereby they held one-to-one interviews with all the key stakeholders involved in the vaccination campaigns, namely: High Commissioner for COVID-19, Immunization and Epidemiological Surveillance Service (SIVE), World Health Organization, UNICEF, Red Cross, and UNDP to understand their role during each campaign; their perceived bottlenecks and what they would change if given the opportunity.

Following these focalized one-to-one sessions, the Lab organized a Collective Intelligence Workshop whereby all the key stakeholders involved got together and engaged in a Problem Tree Analysis activity which allowed them to focus on the solutions as opposed to placing blame. The results of the workshop were remarkable, indicating that the biggest bottlenecks during the various campaigns were notably: poor communication; poor logistics and unclear responsibilities of each stakeholder involved. Several solutions were proposed by stakeholders, which will be analyzed and implemented in the next campaign phase starting in the ensuing weeks, to tackle areas covering: consistency in information being disseminated, citizens' concerns regarding information dissemination, and conduct thorough reviews of campaigns before beginning the next ones. 

Through the flexible and innovative approach of the Accelerator Labs to disrupt development models, they are able to be curious and act fast and close the gap between the current practices of international development in an accelerated pace of change. Through experimentation and exploration, they are able to support the governments in SIDS to solve imminent challenges such as low vaccination rates even in an unstable political context. UNDP currently has 10 Accelerator Labs in SIDS – now covering 75 % of all SIDS – this accounts for an additional 30 staff on-the-ground.
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Image: UNDP Barbados

Barbadians and visitors may soon have another option to be able to buy local, traceable and sustainable fish online thanks to BlueFISH, a digital tool that connects buyers to fishers and vendors while providing critical data to fisherfolk, tourism partners, customers and the government. The UNDP Accelerator Lab in Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean, supported by The German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), the Qatar Fund for Development and UNDP core partners, developed BlueFISH, one of four components of BlueDIGITAL. BlueDIGITAL is a digital-first pilot experiment which uses online tools to better connect key sectors such as fisheries and tourism and their stakeholders in the Blue Economy ecosystem in Barbados

The co-creative session was attended by a small group of champion pilot fisherfolk who supported the testing of the pilot and provided insights on how the tool can be used, including recommendations for improvement before scaling and expanding throughout the industry. By co-creating digital solutions in the Blue Economy in Barbados, the BlueFISH pilot of the BlueDIGITAL project is testing a virtual marketplace which could help the fisheries sectors of Small Island Developing States in the Eastern Caribbean region expand their reach and improve individual earning potential as well as financial and business literacy of fisherfolk while boosting the resilience of the industry as a whole. 

At this time when exogenous threats like COVID-19 and the climate crisis continue to impact the region, it is vital that development efforts continue to reinforce the need for regional resilience and building forward better, including through digital transformation. This programme is part of the work of UNDP Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean in its commitment to promoting economic diversification, job creation and resilience within the "Blue Economy for Green Islands" vision. For further information on this project kindly contact Nikola Simpson

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In the News
Image: Tuvalu Foreign Ministry/Reuters

Tuvalu resorts to international law, coastal infrastructure and data gathering to tackle risk of complete submersion of its territory

According to the IPCC, current sea level rise is 0.36 cm per year and this rise is projected to continue increasing under all GHG emissions reduction scenarios, “including those compatible with achieving the long-term temperature goal set out in the Paris Agreement”. Tuvalu’s highest point is just 4.5 meters above sea level and its average elevation is only 1.83m. With global mean sea levels expected to rise between 0.43 m and 0.48 m by 2100, the 11,000 Tuvaluans are at risk of being the first people to lose their land as a consequence of climate change.

Among the adaptation measures taken by Tuvalu, the GCF-funded Tuvalu Coastal Adaptation Project, aims at “Protecting the small island nation of Tuvalu from the impact of rising sea level and increasing cyclone events that threaten the country’s viability”, using a range of measures for coastal protection including ecosystem initiatives, beach nourishment, concrete and rock revetments, and seawalls. However, and while sea level rise is inevitable, the archipelago’s government is looking for legal means allowing it to retain ownership of its vast maritime zones and its recognition as a state under international law. The legal technicalities of such avenues are explored in a World Bank study, featured in the issue n°49 of the SIDS Bulletin. This example shows how SIDS are exploring a full range of possibilities, including legal tools together with on-the-ground adaptation solutions to cope with the impacts of Climate Change.

Image: UNDP India

  Estimated to reach $3 trillion by 2030, Blue Economy needs blended finance rooted in sustainable ocean planning

Small Island Developing States are effectively Large Ocean States and as they work towards achieving sustainable development, the blue economy presents a largely untapped opportunity to diversify their economic activities and benefit from the large ocean areas they steward. The Blue Economy is estimated to reach $3 trillion by 2030 worldwide, however, unsustainable practices coupled with climate change impacts threaten the health of the oceans across the globe. It is estimated that these harmful impacts could cost up to $322 billion by 2050 if left unmitigated.

The financing gap needs to be narrowed and analysis of the funding landscape has shown that “Over the past ten years, only $13 billion has been invested in ocean sustainability through philanthropy and official development assistance, with very little from the private sector.” One of the barriers to private sector investment in the blue economy is the high-risk factor, particularly for investments above $100 million. Therefore blended finance capital, defined by the OECD as “the strategic use of development finance for the mobilization of additional finance towards sustainable development in developing countries”, could be used as a guarantee to de-risk investment, making it more attractive to the private sector. While the concept of blended finance for de-risking is not new, SDG 14 (Life in Water) received the lowest amount of impact investment. It is therefore important to design appropriate blended-finance solutions and develop new business models that draw private capital into the blue economy. For example, Marine-protected areas can develop revenue-generating opportunities through eco-tourism, blue-carbon credits and community small-business models such as responsible aquaculture.

However, it is imperative that ocean sustainability does not become governed by financial mechanisms and tools created and managed by financial institutions. The next generation of conservationists should be trained in finance to ensure that new tools, mechanisms, and business models continue to have sustainable ocean conservation and protection as the core value. UNDP is actively engaged on this front through its thematic bond service offer developed by the Sustainable Finance Hub and the innovative Global Fund for Coral Reefs, a blended finance instrument to mobilise action and resources to protect and restore coral reef ecosystems; both initiatives successfully working with SIDS.  To conclude, in the words of Peter Thompson, UN Special Envoy for the Ocean: “All of these developments will require adequate finance and the people making those funding decisions will want to see sound evidence of sustainable ocean planning before allocating funds. Such plans will have to be based upon reliable science, so the UN Decade of Ocean Science could not be more timely.

Image: Kanchanara/Unsplash CC

In another SIDS first in the digital realm, the Republic of Palau has announced the launch of the world’s first digital residency program using blockchain. The program is open to anyone in the world, offering a physical and digital resident ID card, the latter in the form of a non-fungible token, allowing them to receive residency benefits in Palau, such as physical address and shipping. The initiative aims to diversify Palau’s economy beyond the tourism and blue economy sector, which were heavily hit during the pandemic. The program has a waiting list of over 60,000 people. This is the second time in recent months the Republic of Palau has pioneered new services through blockchain, having launched a USD-backed digital currency to facilitate cross-border remittances in an environmentally friendly manner.

Image: ©Telegeography

Access to digital information provided via the internet has revolutionized the way that SIDS populations learn, communicate, do business, and treat illnesses. However, some of these islands face challenges in internet connectivity due to their remoteness and the high cost of technological infrastructure. Internet is a pivotal feature for the development of island communities, with over half the SIDS having an Internet penetration rate of over 60 per cent. In fact, although many SIDS economies were negatively affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, internet connectivity provided a means to recovery.

This is achieved through the emergence of special work visas, bringing a wave of digital nomads that contribute to local economies. Globally, new tools are emerging through UNDP’s ambitious corporate Digital Strategy. One example is the Digital Readiness Assessment tool, which for example, Dominica is using to draft a national strategy linking digital transformation to jobs and sustainable growth. Developed entirely for the post-COVID-19 norm and completely virtual, the tool supports self-assessment and data aggregation, and establishes a national readiness dashboard facilitating data-driven policymaking.

However, more extreme weather events brought about by climate change can hinder connectivity in SIDS. This is the case in Tonga, geographically located in the seismologically active Pacific Ring of Fire. Since 2015, Tonga has overcome three tremendously destructive category 5 cyclones (with other less potent ones in between), a drought and an massive volcanic eruption and a tsunami. On January 15 the Hunga Tonga–Hunga Ha‘apai volcano erupted, producing ashfall and a tsunami that affected 84 percent of the country’s inhabitants. The tsunami caused huge amounts of damage to livelihoods and infrastructure, while in some islands and villages, every house was destroyed.

Moreover, the tsunami severed the undersea fibre-optic cable connecting Tonga to the rest of the world, leaving its 110,000 inhabitants with limited internet connectivity. This demonstrates the need for more resilient internet infrastructure and networks in SIDS. According to the ITU, as of 2019, "all but eight SIDS were connected to at least one submarine cable network. Since then Palau obtained an undersea submarine connection in 2017, the Solomon Islands are scheduled to do so before the end of 2019, and three more SIDS will have submarine connectivity by 2021, leaving just three unconnected from global undersea fibre-optic networks (Nauru, Timor-Leste and Tuvalu)". Nevertheless, the necessary infrastructure to create thorough levels of connectivity is complex and expensive, while the financial resources required to secure these are often scarce. It is due to these development challenges that UNDP aims to support SIDS through a focus on Digital Transformation as a pillar of Rising Up for SIDS and an enabler of the 2022-2025 Strategic Plan.

Image: UNDP Jamaica

The UNDP Crisis Bureau has conducted Socio-Economic Impact Assessments (SEIA) in 117 countries including more than 20 SIDS. The SEIA is an evaluation of cross-sectoral impacts of Covid-19 on health, social, economic, and environmental systems, as well as areas of resilience during the crisis. Recently completed is an assessment of The Bahamas following the 2019 category 5 Hurricane Dorian, which has exacerbated the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. Following $3.4 billion of damages in Bahamas, the 3500 registered MSMEs and many unregistered informal businesses have been working to rebuild in the pandemic environment which has increased combined losses to $7.5 billion.
The primary purpose of data gathered through the SEIA - which includes detailed questions for MSMEs on business operations, financial performance, external aid, record-keeping, relocation, and the multidimensional responses from businesses to the dual disasters – is to generate key recommendations to drive government policies and programs to help MSMEs fortify local island economies. This data is also valuable for governments to evaluate support programs and equitable distribution of resources, although stronger monitoring and reporting systems are needed to support these finance mechanisms, including through the newly formed Bahamas National Statistics Institute. Additional key support to unregistered companies, which contribute an estimated 30% of GDP, is necessary especially because these are often more vulnerable and lack government support. 

This is in line with the UN Connecting Business initiative (CBi) which engages the private sector in disaster preparedness, response and recovery, actively engaged in Vanuatu, Fiji and Haiti among others to enable businesses of all sizes to recover quickly and build forward better from crises.

Image: © WWF

A recent report from the WWF indicates that a geospatial approach to Environment, Society and Governance (ESG) can provide scalable results but is hampered by a lack of data availability and established metrics. It notes increasing pressures on financial institutions to recognize the societal and environmental impacts of corporate operations, and a significant increase in data-driven applications providing environmental insights. Novel ground sampling methods such as eDNA and the use of sophisticated machine learning models to integrate land cover and climate data could improve our understanding of ecosystem threats and health.
Generating robust insights on natural systems across vastly different habitats and the economic activities that operate within them has proven difficult, a common challenge in SIDS which often have high geographical variability in near proximity. Additionally, a lack of granularity to sub-national level and data gaps inhibits analysts who require comprehensive and consistent data at the business-level. Some corporate entities in petrochemical, mining and fishing industries are beginning to provide asset data on site locations and supply chain statistics.
The environmental observational data fueling these analyses has similar data gaps, as illustrated by the UN Biodiversity Lab’s data portfolio: the majority (46 of 70) of the datasets have either poor temporal or spatial resolutions, and only six meet the resolution desired for reliable insights. This continues to drive the point: there is a need for open standardized and reproducible products to inform monitoring, research, and policy. While commercial providers continue to fill data gaps, the question remains of who will be responsible for the provision and gatekeeping of the critical environmental data necessary for generating these insights in future.

After the launch at the #OneOceanSummit, the UNDP 3rd Ocean Innovation Challenge Call for Proposals is now open

The third OIC Call for Proposals launches on 10 February 2022 and closes on 09 April 2022. From plastics and nutrient pollution to overfishing to climate change, two-thirds of the global ocean is considered to have been negatively impacted by human activities. To recover and benefit from the broad range of ecosystem services the ocean provides to humanity, from food security to nutrient cycling to climate moderation, we need to move to ecosystem-based management of marine ecosystems that are integrated, cross-sectoral, and highly participatory. (Mention funding/donars)

How to Apply:

  • Interested parties should read in full the 3rd Call for Proposals: Area-Based Management & the Blue Economy (above) and the FAQ. If your innovation addresses the theme 'Area-Based Management & the Blue Economy,' specifically one or more SDG targets SDGs 14.2, 14.5, 14.7, then you may submit your preliminary proposal online before close of the third call on 09 April 2022, 23:59 Central European Time / 17:59 Eastern Time.
  • Proceed to registration to begin the application process.
  • Successful applicants short-listed from the first round will be invited to submit a more detailed project proposal.
  • UNDP's final 2022 Ocean Innovators will be announced in early 2023.

We strongly recommend preparing the responses in advance before starting to fill the form. You may download and use this Word version. For any questions and concerns, please check the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

For this episode of "Catching the last wave" the featured guest is Mr. Broderick Menke, National Adaptation Plan (NAP) Coordinator for the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI). Broderick graduated at the Chaminade University of Honolulu in Environmental Science and he currently works in the Climate Change Directorate for the Ministry of Environment in RMI. His experience includes conservation and natural resource management and was part of the RMI Delegation at the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change – 26th Conference of Parties (COP26) in Glasgow.His first-hand experience will give us insight in to the outcomes of this decisive event, especially on what still needs to be done to address the climate crisis, particularly in the Pacific region.

Image: Quang Nguyen vinh / Pixabay

New UNFCCC Digital Resource on the Ocean

The UNFCCC secretariat has launched new webpages on the ocean in response to a decision by governments at the UN Climate Change Conference COP26 in Glasgow last November.

UNESCO World Heritage n°100 - October 2021 Climate Change

In the midst of a historic COP26, with more than 100 countries pledging to end deforestation by 2030, UNESCO’s recent report, World Heritage forests: Carbon sinks under pressure, which we analyze at length in this issue, could not be more timely. The report finds that a staggering 60% of World Heritage forests are threatened by climate change-related events. Marine sites are equally under pressure. Two-thirds of these vital carbon stores - home to 15% of global blue carbon assets - are currently experiencing high risks of degradation, according to the UNESCO Marine World Heritage: Custodians of the globe’s blue carbon assets study, and if no action is taken, coral may disappear at natural heritage sites by the end of the century.

The net-zero transition: What it would cost, what it could bring

In a new report by consulting firm McKinsey, discover a look at the economic transformation that a transition to net-zero emissions would entail—a transformation that would affect all countries and all sectors of the economy, either directly or indirectly. They estimate the changes in demand, capital spending, costs, and jobs, to 2050, for sectors that produce about 85 percent of overall emissions and assess economic shifts for 69 countries. Each of the six articles highlighted on this page provides a detailed look at aspects of the net-zero transition.

Stories from Nui Island on Climate Change and Food Security

Climate change is posing existential security threats to low-lying atoll nations. Tuvalu is planning for the worst-case scenario: the very disappearance of its land, that are at risk of being completely submerged underwater. Stories from Nui Island enlighten our understanding of the impacts of climate change faced by the local communities in Tuvalu. After having identified critical climate risk management actions through inclusive consultations, the UNDP-IOM Climate Security in the Pacific project is implementing initiatives that will help to improve food security and prevent conflicts over natural resources. 

Upcoming Opportunities and Events

Accelerating Action Towards a Sustainable Planet in the Digital Age

The Coalition for Digital Environmental Sustainability (CODES) presents its Action Plan “A Sustainable Planet in the Digital Age” with recommendations to: 1) align the digital revolution with the sustainability transformation; 2) realize sustainable digitalization; and 3) push for a decade of innovation for digital sustainability. For more information on CODES and on the Action Plan for a Sustainable Planet in the Digital Age, click here

Organized by: German Environmental Agency (UBA) for the Coalition of Digital Environmental Sustainability (CODES); CODES co-champions: UBA, UNEP, UNDP, International Science Council, Future Earth, Kenyan Environmental Ministry. 

When: 2 March, 2022, 18:15 - 19:45 EAT

Our Ocean Conference

The Republic of Palau will host the seventh Our Ocean Conference on 13 and 14 April 2022. This marks the first time that the Our Ocean Conference will be hosted by a small island developing state.

The theme of next year's conference is "Our Ocean, Our People, Our Prosperity," which will draw on Palau's rich tradition as an ocean society and focus on islander perspectives and approaches to ensuring the health of our ocean. The 7th Our Ocean Conference will be a key moment for countries, civil society, industry, and youth to commit to concrete and significant actions to protect the ocean.

Recognising that the connection to our ocean must be nurtured with each generation, Our Ocean 2022 will highlight the contributions of young leaders who are innovating and advocating to protect our oceans. If you are aged 18 – 30 and making an impact for our ocean, the Republic of Palau welcomes you to apply to participate in Our Ocean 2022.

When: 13-14 April 2022

UN Ocean Conference (Lisbon, Portugal)

The Ocean Conference, co-hosted by the Governments of Kenya and Portugal, comes at a critical time as the world is seeking to address many of the deep-rooted problems of our societies laid bare by the COVID-19 pandemic and which will require major structural transformations and common shared solutions that are anchored in the SDGs. To mobilize action, the Conference will seek to propel much needed science-based innovative solutions aimed at starting a new chapter of global ocean action.

When: 27 June - 1 July 2022

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