Issue 55 | March 2022

This week the 4th round of the Intergovernmental Conference on Marine Biodiversity of Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction is taking place from 7 to 18 March at the UN headquarters in New York. This conference follows the 2017 decision of the UN general assembly to develop an international legally binding instrument under the United Nations Convention on the Law of Sea, which would be a step forward for accelerating Blue Economy in SIDS. As many SIDS rely on the ocean to achieve SDGs in a disproportionate manner when compared to other countries, the blue economy plays a pivotal role in the fight against climate change and other environmental challenges SIDS are facing today.

The discussions are tackling the four main areas addressed in the revised draft text of the agreement, namely the  sharing of benefits of marine genetic resources, measures such as area-based management tools including marine protected areas, environmental impact assessments, and capacity-building and transfer of marine technology. This agreement is of particular importance to SIDS as the current draft invites States Parties that would benefit from marine genetic resources of areas beyond national jurisdiction to share the benefits with SIDS as well as build SIDS’ capacity to sustainably use these resources. This would ensure a fair access to the sustainable blue economy opportunities in the high seas, but also provide SIDS with the capacity and technology to sustainably use the resources within their Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs). SIDS hold 19.1 percent of the world’s EEZs, and their combined ocean area is 20.7 times that of their land territory.

In this issue, we also celebrate International Women’s Day by reaffirming SIDS’ commitment to gender equality and women's empowerment, both of which have a multiplier effect on sustainable development and thus are essential for a full realization of human rights. Two stories of leadership in Mauritius and the Solomon Islands highlight the central role of women in development, as well as the capacity for SIDS to act as incubators for innovation.

Image: UNDP / Yuichi Ishida


Keywords:  Rising Up For SIDS, oceans, biodiversity, marine protected areas, SDGs, green recovery, blue bond, coral reefs, digital currency, innovative finance, plastic pollution, sustainable development, machine learning, gender equality, inclusive, blue economy, climate action, digital transformation, water solutions, livelihood empowerment, renewable energy
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Country Corner
Image: Yuichi Ishida/UNDP Timor-Leste

Developing a sustainable blue economy and delivering on SDG 14 helps to address nearly all the SDGs. This requires a favorable investment framework creating financing mechanisms for 1) conserving and restoring ecosystems, 2) improving the sustainability and profitability of existing blue economy sectors (e.g., fishing, shipping and tourism), and 3) supporting the development of emerging sectors. For developing countries, there is an evident lack of investment on SDG 14 as this goal has only received 0.01% of all SDG funding from development finance up to 2019. This situation is particularly challenging for countries like SIDS whose economies mostly rely on a healthy ocean but where a narrow fiscal space impedes further investment in the sustainable blue economy.

To address this challenge, the UN Joint SDG Fund and UNDP have provided support to Timor-Leste to develop a “Blue Economy Financing Roadmap”. This strategic document explores opportunities to leverage finance at-scale to support a sustainable blue economy transformation in Timor-Leste. This roadmap will ultimately support the development of an Integrated Financing Framework (INFF), a tool intended to help countries strengthen planning processes to financing sustainable development and the SDGs, including through the identification and unlocking of new sources of public and private finance.

This example is one of many others of SIDS that are experimenting innovative ways to leverage the financing needed to achieve their blue economy ambitions. Examples include debt conversion in Belize, blue bonds in Seychelles and Fiji, and the creation of a blue economy sustainable financing platform in Cabo Verde.

Image: UNDP in the Pacific/ Ildiko Hamos

SIDS are taking the lead in promoting decarbonized and resilient societies through scaled up climate action. National development and climate policy priorities, under the overarching objective of meeting the Sustainable Development Goals, are being translated into concrete actions in order to achieve a sustainable use of ocean resources, with a focus on preservation as well as restoration of the health of ocean ecosystems. While the COVID-19 situation has impacted various ocean-based industries throughout the world, the recent acceleration in ocean-based economic activities will continue to expand, driven by a growing need for energy, food and jobs from the ocean.  SIDS can benefit greatly from the global ocean economy's expansion, if developed sustainably.

Vanuatu demonstrates its strong climate ambition by its target to be completely powered by renewables by 2030, while simultaneously improving access to electricity from the current value of only 33% of the population. The circular economy initiatives implemented by Vanuatu are important steps towards a real energy transition, as the country is pivoting away from natural gas and petroleum while moving towards solar. These include recycling metals, employing low-carbon materials, and designing circular systems in their economy. Solar micro-grids are showcasing the promise of modern modular technologies to offer reliable, clean electricity to rural and distant areas and to encourage local, sustainable development on the country's remote island of Lelepa. The Government of Vanuatu is scaling up Lelepa's swarm grid solution to bring electricity to 90,000 people—including 44,000 women, totaling roughly 17,800 families in up to 60 islands around Vanuatu—representing 80 percent of the country's inhabitants who are now without electricity. The numerous development benefits connected with energy access, such as support for livelihoods and food security, improved access to water, education, and healthcare, and women empowerment while furthering climate action.

Image: UNDP/Climate

From Mauritius to the world: Award-winning mobile application LESPWAR to tackle gender-based violence:

As we have highlighted in several previous bulletins, SIDS are incubators of innovation. By testing, iterating, and developing new technologies and mechanisms, SIDS are accelerating progress on the SDGs. Mauritius is successfully using a mobile app to fight Gender-Based Violence (GBV). It is estimated that 1 in 4 women in the country are affected by GBV, and cases have been increasing during the COVID-19 pandemic when victims of domestic violence were stuck with perpetrators in quarantine.

The government, with the support of UNDP launched LESPWAR, a mobile app for Android and iOS that enables a victim of GBV to press a panic button to alert authorities and emergency services on a 24/7 basis if they feel unsafe. With the GPS location of the victim automatically recorded, the Main Police Command Center then notifies the nearest police station for prompt intervention. The use of the app can even link the call  when the phone does not have any mobile credit. Based on the success of this programme, Mauritius and UNDP are making the app available to other countries as a digital public good, to expand the impact to end all forms of violence against women and girls. Learn more about the app from the Lespwar video released in partnership with UNDP. 

Image: Stéphane Bellerose/UNDP Mauritius 

Mauritius is leading on equipping artisanal fishers with innovative and affordable technologies

Small-scale fisheries (SSF) provide about 85 percent of direct employment in the fisheries sector and supply about 40 percent of the global seafood. In SIDS, SSF provides livelihoods and an important source of nutrition. In many SIDS, fish contributes to  50 percent or more of total animal protein intake. However, like all fisheries sectors, SSF suffers from a decline in fish stocks due to overfishing, habitat destruction, pollution and climate change impacts.

Unlike industrial fisheries, SSF have technological constraints and only operate within a limited geographical range. This affects their ability to access resources fundamental to the sustainability of small-scale fisheries and is recommended in the FAO’s Voluntary Guidelines for Securing Sustainable Small-Scale Fisheries in the Context of Food Security and Poverty Eradication.

In Mauritius, SSF fishers still rely on traditional navigation techniques and struggle in overfished and pressured inshore waters where it is more and more difficult to earn a living. In order to reduce fishing pressure on coastal resources while giving an opportunity to SSF fishers to make a living, the recently initiated ECOFISH Mauritius project, seeks to develop solutions based on innovation and upskilling to facilitate the sustainable exploitation of new fishing grounds off the lagoons. More specifically, the project will facilitate the procurement and deployment of a new generation of fish aggregating devices (FADs) equipped with a solar powered satellite buoy with integrated GPS, sensors, and an echo-sounder for biomass estimation. The satellite buoy is also integrated with microprocessors to collect, analyze and process data, so that fishers directly receive it through a mobile phone application. While the use of FAD comes with both benefits and impacts, this new generation of FADs would allow better data collection and monitoring which would ultimately inform better management policies for artisanal fishers.

The United Nations General Assembly declared 2022 the International Year of Artisanal Fisheries and Aquaculture (IYAFA 2022) to bring the world's attention to the role that small-scale fisheries, fish farmers and fish workers play in food security and nutrition, poverty eradication and sustainable natural resource use. In SIDS, SSF represents a way of life for most coastal communities. In these countries, the use of innovative and affordable technologies can protect resources, diversify livelihoods, and ensure access of artisanal fishermen to a sustainable resource. This blue justice, enabled by innovation, has the potential to accelerate the blue economy transition in SIDS.

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In the News
Image: Global Fund for Coral Reefs (GFCR)

Belize is Accessing New Innovative Financing for Protecting its Coral Reef

As highlighted in our last issue of the SIDS Bulletin, the worldwide ocean conservation financing gap is estimated to be over US$ 150 billion per year. Creative financing approaches established in line with local aspirations might help SIDS reach a more inclusive Blue Economy faster, such as in the case of Fiji through a Global Fund for Coral Reefs (GFCR) funding. For many SIDS, access to funding through such innovative tools is a vital facilitator. 

This month, the GFCR Executive Board has approved a programme in the Mesoamerican Reef (MAR) region. The MAR programme focuses on activities across Mexico, Belize, Honduras, and Guatemala including scaling of reef-positive business models, blue livelihoods for communities, and sustainable finance solutions for marine protected areas.

These decisions grew the Fund’s portfolio to more than $30 million USD of resources approved to support catalytic reef-positive interventions in climate-resilient coral reef strongholds. Stay tuned for more coral conservation funding opportunities on GFCR’s website

Jamaica ushers in Digital Transformation in Fintech with launch of Jam-Dex, Central Bank Digital Currency

Jamaica is joining other Caribbean SIDS, among the earliest adopters in the world to launch a central bank digital currency (CBDC). After the Sand Dollar in the Bahamas and the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank’s DCash, Jam-Dex will be the latest new central bank digital currency, launching nationally in Jamaica at the start of April 2022. The first digital currency transaction was completed last week when the Finance Minister used his digital wallet to pay his barber at home, just prior to presenting the 2022-23 budget debate. As an incentive for the public to register and create a digital wallet, the government of Jamaica has offered a $2,500 credit to the first 10,000 accounts. 

In this way, the government, through the central bank, is acting as a launchpad for accelerating the nation’s digital transformation by developing the payment system infrastructure and fintech sector. A central bank digital currency cuts out the middlemen in financial transactions - primarily banks - and allows transactions to travel directly from person to person or customer to vendor. This helps to eliminate risks to the consumer, such as the collapse of a commercial bank, and creates a direct connection between consumers and a central bank. Unlike cryptocurrencies, central bank digital currencies are pegged to the country’s currency and designed to be more stable than other digital forms of payment.

Two major steps were required to support the enabling framework for Jamaica’s CBDC. The first was legislation to allow for different know-your-customer (KYC) information for different types of bank account, a factor which aims to reduce the barrier to entry to the formal sector for smaller account holders. The second step is the roll out of the national identity card which can be accepted as the authenticating ID for the CBDC and paves the way for streamlining other government services. 

The 2022 World Ocean Summit took place from March 1 to March 5 and focused on achieving the 2030 targets. During 5 days, 174 speakers proposed tangible solutions, and action-oriented strategies to address the most pressing challenges facing the oceans. Topics included fighting overfishing and eliminating harmful fishing subsidies, greening the shipping industry, tackling pollution, sustainable aquaculture, marine renewable energies, MPAs, financing, and sustainable coastal tourism. the 2030 these goals. These discussions contributed to gathering the momentum on building sustainable blue economies ahead of upcoming important milestones.

The Assistant Secretary of State for oceans and international environmental and scientific affairs at the US Department of State, Monica Medina, specifically highlighted progress on regional collaboration to accelerate marine conservation and declared : “The most exciting thing I've seen recently is nations coming together to connect their marine protected areas. Watch the different sessions on demand, and read more.

Image: UNDP/Solomon Islands

Gender equality and women's empowerment is a key feature for the full implementation of human rights in SIDS and in all countries. Women and girls have in fact a transformative and multiplier effect on sustainable development: they are a true driver of economic growth in SIDS. To bring this message to broader audiences across different channels and in celebration of the International Women’s Day, UNDP has launched a song campaign capturing key messages about Solomon Islands’ women and how they can be powerful agents of change.  As stated in Women Rise Up, “Umi strong, Umi smart, Umi confident." In Solomon Islands Pidgin means “We are strong, we are smart, we are confident." 

Through its Strengthening the Electoral Cycle in the Solomon Islands Project, UNDP commissioned a study to assess leadership values and perceptions across the country. Its findings highlight the importance of experience in community service, the ability to bring development opportunities, and build a good rapport with a large spectrum of community members, among key skills for obtaining support from influential groups.

The Outstanding Women of Solomon Islands initiative grew out of this process. Members of communities across the Solomon Islands were invited to vote for women they considered had made notable achievements, identifying 120 women with different backgrounds and experiences. Through the Strengthening the Electoral Cycle in the Solomon Islands, UNDP, with the support of the Government of Australia, is now developing new collaborations to promote women's leadership throughout the country. The stories of eleven Outstanding Women are featured in a booklet celebrating their contributions.

Image: Wikimedia Commons

A new study in Nature has analyzed the use of data for development in nine urban areas, including a study of how Aruba is integrating data in decision making. Data in governance was shown to be central to localizing the SDGs through an integrated approach with data transparencies at multiple levels of governance, with increased accountability and innovation in data gathering schemes. Several challenges continue to limit the value of data in governance including data ownership, privacy, and local capacity. However, a focus on data management is welcomed by nearly all local governments, as demonstrated by how Aruba has emerged as a model for sustainable development and aims to share its expertise and experience through the creation of a knowledge management ecosystem.
To deal with challenges of centralizing data to a single official source to be utilized across scales and institutions, the Aruban government passed a Ministerial Decree institutionalizing the National SDG Commission and the SDG Aruba Indicator Working Group (AIWG). This group released a baseline of 230+ Global Monitoring Indicators in 2021 and defined context-specific targets through its SDG Framework and Roadmap. These targets help to localize the SDGs and anchor them in a national framework that can support local Aruba policymakers to deliver on local priorities.

The study unearthed a key challenge in the use of data for diverse and complex urban realities, which are common in SIDS. The goal for SDG localization is to fully account for local-level variation and needs, with local government helping define sub-national context as the primary point of entry to sustainable development policy. The scaling of data requires standardization of reporting to identify patterns at the local, national, and international levels. However, to standardize data is to remove some of the key variation that captures these diverse urban realities, thereby limiting its value for localized development planning. One solution, as pushed forward by the UNDP Multidimensional Poverty Index, is to disaggregate data to account for vulnerable population groups, which can help to identify correlation and key trends which needs to be accounted for in policy in SIDS.

Image: UNDP

Digitalization is an essential catalyzer for SIDS, capable of transforming entire societies and changing lives. With the race for digital solutions during the pandemic, governments have turned to UNDP to assist with capacity building and advisory support. As part of the UNDP global SIDS Offer: Rising Up for SIDS, this new 4-5 hour, self-paced online course: Inclusive Digital Transformation for the Achievement of the SDGs and the SAMOA Pathway in SIDS was created to support SIDS governments and other stakeholders to understand the opportunities, challenges, core principles and tools and resources for driving the digital transformation journey in their country. A collaboration of UNDP, UNCDF and ITU, the course is framed around the UNDP Digital Transformation Framework and its five pillars: government, infrastructure, regulation, business, and people, offering data and case studies on digital transformation in SIDS, analytical tools, and extensive links to resources from partner agencies and others.  The is now offered on ITU Academy in English and Portuguese and on UNDP SparkBlue. It will be upgraded in the coming weeks with Spanish and French versions.


The podcast series Catching the last wave explores the interactions between climate change and security risks in Pacific SIDS. By interviewing global, regional and national experts and specialists, the podcast aims at increasing the understanding and knowledge on climate security and risk management solutions.

In this episode, the Head of Programme Climate Diplomacy and Security at Adelphi, Janani Vivekananda, tells us about how climate security differs in different contexts around the world and why it is essential to develop locally focused Risk Assessments for atoll nations in the Pacific.

The podcast series is part of the joint UNDP-IOM Climate Security Project.

Image: UNDP

Deep learning for the identification and quantification of fish onboard fishing vessels

Good quality data is essential for the development of science-based fisheries policies necessary for a sustainable blue economy. For Large Ocean States, classic monitoring methods mainly based on inspections are hard to implement due to the large number of fishing vessels to be monitored and the extent of Exclusive Economic Zones, which are often hundreds of times larger than the land surface areas.

In a recent publication researchers from the Spanish National Research Council tested a methodology based on the collection of data from electronic devices algorithms coupled with the use of algorithms based on Deep Learning (DL) for the identification of fish species and the estimation of their length. The authors conclude that such methods could satisfactorily quantify the catch to allow the assessment of the state of the different fishing stocks and to optimize the fishing activity.

In a previous bulletin we have shown how SIDS are resorting to digital technology to monitor both the fishing effort (for input control) and the catch to implement output control measures. For SIDS, where the size and extent of EEZ make traditional observer methods impractical, the method described in this article could represent a promising additional tool to monitor the catch at the species level to inform better fisheries management measures.

Digital Infrastructure & Development in the Caribbean

This IDB webinar held March 10, 2022, and blog present the results of the recent report outlining country summaries across the region and trends on digital infrastructure development, economic benefits and gaps in the Caribbean, featured in the Caribbean Quarterly Economic Bulletin Volume-10, Issue-3, of the same title. This report reviews the long-term performance of economic growth and productivity in the region. It then draws on research from the Inter-American Development Banks Connectivity, Markets, and Finance Division that estimates how much investment in digital infrastructure is needed for countries across Latin America and the Caribbean to reach the levels of advanced economies. This research also estimates both the potential economic benefits associated with that investment and its costs, highlighting the potentially large multipliers associated with closing digital infrastructure gaps.

Upcoming Opportunities and Events

Image: University of Malta

Scholarships offered to Small Island Developing States

The Islands and Small States Institute (ISSI) at the University of Malta offers scholarships to pursue full-time and part-time Masters of Arts, as well as a PhD to enhance knowledge on islands and small states matters.  An MSc Programme in Water and Sustainable Development at the IHE Delft Institute for Water Education is a unique fellowship programme catering to participants from states eligible for concessional financing. Commencing in November 2022, the programme aims to strengthen the relationships between the participating water professionals, to improve SIDS’ water management and climate resilience in the face of climate change. Application deadline is 1st May 2022.

Register HERE
Deadline: 1 May 2022

We invite women from SIDS to respond to the call for proposals as an opportunity for women energy entrepreneurs in SIDS. The disproportionate impact of lack of energy affects health, productivity, caregiving, education, employment, and overall quality of life of women and girls. Despite these conditions, women entrepreneurs cultivate and grow small enterprises as they strive towards economic independence and income generation.

The Climate Investment Platform (CIP) has issued a request for proposals to help women entrepreneurs in the energy sector and groups that promote women's economic empowerment. The Empower Her Call for Proposals seeks sustainable energy initiatives in the early phases of development that enable productive uses of electricity and assist communities to break free from multidimensional poverty. Technical assistance will be provided to the selected projects to help them build a proposal concept, a business strategy, and investor outreach. 
Read more about the CIP.
Wanted - Women in Technology: This March 17, 24 and 31 CódigoM, offers a series of events (in Spanish) for any woman who wants to know more about the technology sector and take their first steps in it. The objective is to encourage thousands of women to start and grow careers in a space that represents the future and is full of great opportunities.

Launched at ITU’s Global Standards Symposium, the new global prize invites young people to create virtual experiences to raise awareness about the SDGs. Teams will have from 1 March to 1 August 2022 to bring one SDG “to life”, specifically by creating an immersive and experiential learning environment in VR. The competition is open to students from two categories – aged 14 to 18, or post-secondary students aged 19 and older, who may enter as part of a team of 2–6 individuals, from anywhere in the world. Student teams can use one of several free Metaverse Virtual Reality platforms to build and create immersive experiences around their chosen SDG. More information and entry instructions can be found on the competition website.

BlueInvest Day 2022, on 28th of March is an occasion to discuss new opportunities and European funds for biodiversity, decarbonization for our oceans together with the European Commission Maritime Affairs & Fisheries DG MARE and European Investment Fund (EIF). BlueInvest Day will bring together innovators, entrepreneurs, investors, corporates and enablers in the Blue Economy. This year's edition will be a hybrid format, taking place at the Royal Museum of Fine Arts of Belgium and online. Live Streaming, live chat and B2B matchmaking will be available on the platform.

Register HERE
When: 28 March 2022

Measuring Digital Development: 
Latest insights from ITU

This webinar represents a unique opportunity to learn about ITU’s latest statistical products and initiatives, and exchange with the ICT Data and Analytics team.  The key findings from Facts and Figures 2021, ITU’s annual assessment of the state of digital connectivity around the world will be presented at this webinar. The latest edition reveals that a ‘Grand Canyon’ separates the digitally empowered from the digitally excluded, with 96 per cent of the 2.9 billion people still offline living in the developing world.  The ICT Data and Analytics team will also present the state of ICT affordability – a key enabler of connectivity – with the Policy brief on the affordability of ICT services 2021 that will be published in collaboration with the Alliance for Affordable Internet (A4AI). They will also introduce ITU’s ongoing work on big data and its potential for transforming the way digital development is measured.

Register HERE
When: 5 April 2022, 13:00-14:00 CEST

SMALL SUSTAINABLE ISLANDS: Continue, consolidate, extend the initiative

On next March 23, during the Monaco Ocean Week 2022, SMILO, Conservatoire du Littoral and the French Facility for Global Environment (FFEM) will present the "Small sustainable islands" initiative SMILO carried out for the last 5 years. It will be an occasion to present the lessons learnt and discuss with international partners opportunities to consolidate and scale up the initiative for the sustainable management and protection of the biodiversity of small islands around the world.

This event will be organized back to back with the Galapagos Conservation Trust’s event “Rebalancing the Scales for Ocean Protection in Galapagos and the Eastern Tropical Pacific”.

Find here the Agenda
When: 23 March 2022, 9:00-10:00 AM, Yacht Club, Monaco

From pledges to action: Advancing gender equality in national climate plans (NDCs)

Join the 66th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW 66) UNDP side event From pledges to action: Advancing gender equality in national climate plans (NDCs). The virtual, high-level event will take place on Thursday 24 March from 8:30 am to 9:30 am EDT (New York). 
Co-hosted by UNDP and the Permanent Mission of Iceland to the United Nations, this CSW66 side event will reveal the latest data on country progress on adding gender considerations to their national climate action plans, also known as Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). It will also explore how countries and partners can scale up ambitions on gender integration in updated NDCs and the challenges and opportunities that could arise as countries move from pledges to implementing these gender commitments in the coming years.

Register HERE
When: 24 March 2022, 8:30-9:30 EDT

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