Special Edition | 2022 in Review
 22 December 2022

As 2022 comes to an end, we can look back at another year of SIDS rising up together to accelerate their response to the SAMOA Pathway and the 2030 agenda. This year has been marked by an emergence of the global recognition of the ocean’s vitality and its inseparable linkage to overcoming the climate crisis. SIDS' innovations and ambitions are increasingly central to lead the global agenda and unite digital transformation with their green and blue recovery, collectively building forward better.  

Ocean sustainability was a 2022 cornerstone, as the UNDP launched the Ocean Promise as the oceans face a multi-dimensional crisis. Furthermore, the world accepted the need for a whole-of-ocean approach, safeguarding biodiversity and ecosystems within ongoing climate priorities. SIDS’ steadfast voices enabled substantive progress on fishery subsidies and curtailing plastic pollution. These emerging opportunities require the continued engagement with private sector and innovative finance mechanisms, like impact bonds, debt-swaps, and blended finance.

SIDS’ open embrace of digital transformation and data have proved vital in shaping new development opportunities, mitigating climate disasters, catalyzing the Blue Economy, and improving digital governance. SIDS have progressed towards equitable and inclusive data by integrating indigenous data sources into policymaking. SIDS’ greatest asset remains human capital and the continued empowerment of their dynamic and passionate youth, destined to inherit the oceans.

As the 2024 sunset of the SAMOA Pathway approaches, SIDS are well-positioned to prioritize action areas for their new development pathway to be adopted at the 4th International Conference on SIDS in 2024. This bulletin is an integrated source of information on SIDS to promote the work and innovations ongoing in SIDS, lessons learned in 2022, and important milestones of development. Happy Holidays to our entire Small Island Developing States family! 


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Climate Action: A year of SIDS leading the global discourse & solutions on climate adaptation and resilience
Image: Marco Verch (Seychelles)

SIDS are a microcosm of technical and innovative nature-based solutions to climate adaptation. Their leadership is evident across across financial instruments, energy transformation, food security, and ambitious policies - establishing precedent to be replicated and scaled up throughout SIDS and the world.

To stimulate decarbonized and resilient societies, SIDS have been working to reduce their dependence on imported energy and food products through digital transformation and innovation. Mauritius is improving its energy self-sufficiency while simultaneously supporting local communities and employment through a focus on innovative solar farms, ambitiously aiming for 35% of the island’s energy to be renewable by 2025. Meanwhile, Belize negotiated an MOU with a German technology firm to transform the challenge of sargassum into renewable electricity that also reduces deforestation. CloudSolar in Barbados provides a digital platform to de-risk investment in the solar energy sector by democratizing the approach, enabling scalability throughout SIDS, and reducing their vulnerability as price takers in the energy market. To overcome future supply chain disruptions, Singapore has sponsored non-traditional vertical farming from companies such as Archisen, as the country looks to meet 30% of nutritional requirements by 2030. Similarly, Caribbean SIDS are also enhancing their emergency response systems through a disaster preparedness hub to support rapid climate repsonse. This initiative showcases how SIDS-SIDS collaboration can address structural challenges from limited geographical areas and financial resources.   

Last year, UN Secretary-General António Guterres called the first part of the Sixth Assessment Report (AR6) of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) a “code red for humanity.” Throughout 2022, SIDS were not only active in the international political arena but have also been tirelessly developing and implementing innovative solutions locally to address AR6’s noted climate urgency, which identified SIDS as the subgroup most in need of foreign investment in capacity building and adaptation. Belize and Barbados have both negotiated a debt conversion to support conservation and adaptation.   

Through the leadership and decades-long perseverance of SIDS, COP27 has resulted in the adoption of the Loss and Damage funds, the critical climate win for 2022. The agreement established a fund for developing countries to avert, minimize, and address loss and damage associated with the adverse effects of climate change. SIDS and other developing states have been calling attention to this for years,  stressing the need for cooperative global financing and action as they already endure an average of 20 major natural disasters per year. But while this step is decisive, the success of adapting to climate change will now depend on how fast countries will work together to operationalize the fund by deciding what form it should take, how loss should be calculated, and exactly who will pay for it. Though inescapably, the most important action to mitigate climate change is continuing to address its underlying causes by reducing global emissions through a just transition to clean and sustainable sources of energy while simultaneously recognizing the requirement for adaptation strategies.  

Considering climate action and biodiversity conservation are interlinked, earlier this week the 15th COP of the Convention on Biological Diversity agreed on a historic package of measures deemed critical to addressing the dangerous loss of biodiversity and restoring natural ecosystems. This will help in mobilizing financial flows for SIDS and LDC’s to overcome the biodiversity funding gap, cutting food and chemical waste in half, enacting accountability of the private sector and ensuring the benefits from the utilization of genetic resource are shared equitably with indigenous peoples and local communities. The plan includes concrete measures to halt and reverse nature loss, including putting 30 percent of the planet and 30 percent of degraded ecosystems under protection by 2030. Another key outcome of COP15 was the formation of ‘Coalition for Nature’ formed by SIDS to advocate for SIDS' common priorities and needs including financing and support to meet biodiversity objectives. 

Digital Transformation: A year of innovation in SIDS to diversify economies and accelerate climate action and blue economy
Image: UNICEF Vanuatu

Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, SIDS have taken the opportunity to jumpstart their digital infrastructure, as the world saw ‘two years of digital transformation in two months' and 73% of SIDS citizens increasing their use of digital technologies. Digital is not only a response to crisis but reshapes economies, governments, civil societies and enables our shot at saving our planet. Digital has proven to be a key driver of SIDS' development, foundational to tackling climate change and other challenges - but it is not just about surviving. Digital can shape new industries and opportunities in SIDS to mitigate climate disasters and enable the innovation and efficiency of the Blue Economy, public services, and digital products and services. SIDS accelerated digitization initiatives and launched inspired projects throughout 2022 to harness the full potential of digitally transformed economies. 

In the face of the climate crisis, SIDS are designing a digital future to innovate on resilience. Tuvalu has begun to establish a blueprint for a transformational and climate-resilient “Digital Nation State,” to ensure continuity in the digital space, while at the same time moving forward to advance sustainable use of their EEZs. Vanuatu has introduced its new national digital ID cards, with 77% public uptake, improving government services in health, education, planning, and disaster response. Barbados is harnessing the digital is not an optional mindset through offering digital by default public services throughout the government. Barbados Immigration Department is one of the seven government agencies gearing up for this digital transformation, with applications for citizenships, visas, work permits, etc., being done entirely online in 2023. 

Human capacity development was one of the critical strategies in digitization and an important ongoing initiative in SIDS. Belize continually capacitates its public officers through a digital transformation course, a critical foundation for fully digitizing the government. Augmenting capacities with technology, including traditionally vulnerable groups and youth, is one of the digital strategy pillars of the Government of Dominica. Talent and human capital are Cabo Verde’s core considerations, along with technology, in its digital public services by 2026 agenda. One of Bahrain’s digital transformation strategies is to attract leading tech talent to the country, creating a more skilled and diverse workforce. Additionally, a knowledge-based digital society is on its way in Guyana, as they launched a Digital Master Plan, which includes access to wi-fi, youth innovation participation, and ICT hubs, laying the foundation for a future smart-city initiative.  

With the forthcoming countrywide rollout of the national identification system, the Jamaican government is looking to finalize supporting regulations of the Data protection act. Cybersecurity also became a critical concern for Vanuatu’s broadband network, which tested the existing capacity and local expertise. The incident highlighted the importance of investing in cybersecurity among other pacific nations and how its realization is vital to protecting intelligence data and confidential information used for national security and diplomacy. Accordingly, at the 17th Annual Internet Governance Forum, Cybersecurity was cited as an ‘integral aspect to connectivity.’           

Finally, this year reinforced the need to build resilient energy and food systems throughout SIDS, as their dependence on maritime shipping led to 27% higher import prices driven by the 'Triple C' of crises (Climate, Covid-19, and Conflicts). The impact on SIDS economies is further exacerbated due to minimal exports and a disproportionate reliance on imported goods. SIDS are rapidly innovating to overcome these limitations. Saint Lucia is working with youth entrepreneurs to increase agricultural production, and Grenada launched the Digital Challenge project to establish new opportunities and innovation in the agriculture sector collaboratively. 

13 SIDS have finalized their Digital Readiness Assessments in order to build the infrastructure for a digital transformation policy. The process is an inclusive and participatory process for a whole-of-government and whole-of-society approach to ensure the benefits of digital transformation reach all members of society. The launch of Digital X, a Partnership for Scale Programme, is designed to connect governments with proven, ready-to-scale solutions to meet urgent digital needs expanding financial support on digital and improving its integration within the blue economy and climate action within SIDS. 

Blue Economy: a year that put ocean action at the forefront of the global climate agenda
Image: Shutterstock

2022 has been labeled the 'Super Year of the Ocean'. Below, we will review some of the major outcomes of the international meetings that seek to address a few of the most pressing drivers of ocean health degradation in SIDS and around the globe.

Through a sustainable Blue Economy approach, SIDS are protecting their environment and tackling the root causes of environmental degradation, creating innovative financing mechanisms, and using digital technologies to diversify their ocean economic sectors. The development of sustainable financing tools like impact bonds, debt-swaps, and blended finance mechanisms to accelerate this transformation is well underway.  Fiji has launched its sustainable blue bond framework that will help mobilize sustainable finance, building on the Seychelles’ blue-bond innovation. Empowering the Blue Economy is intertwined with climate action, and The Global Funds for Coral Reefs is at the forefront of this recognition. Introducing a 10-year, $500 million blended finance vehicle of public-private partnerships that supports business models that finance sustainable coral reef restoration through technical assistance, capacity development, and monitoring and evaluation.  

As 2022 was recognized as the International Year of Artisanal Fisheries, Mauritius launched a Space-Based Maritime Surveillance System for Fisheries Monitoring and Anomaly Detection‚ that will monitor the entirety of their EEZ from remote sensing imagery, preventing illegal fishing activities and securing sustainable ocean biodiversity and food sources. In recognition of the importance of transparency and sustainability in fishery management, SIDS are resorting to digital technology to monitor both the fishing effort and the catch to govern input and output control measures. Micronesia electronically monitors vessels’ fishing activity via sensors and found improvements in cost-efficiency, the potential to provide more representative fleet coverage, and enhanced fishing activity and location registration.

The first major ocean event of the year was the fifth edition of the One Planet Summit, an international conference entirely dedicated to the Ocean and SDG 14, held in France in February. The Summit's objective, attended by high-level delegates from 6 SIDS and 31 other countries, was to mobilize the international community to take tangible actions toward supporting a healthy ocean. During the Summit, 13 commitments were made to advance the following key priorities: protecting the ocean’s biodiversity and resources, joining forces together with the oceans to face climate change, the end of plastic pollution in the oceans, and placing the oceans at the top of the global political agenda. This Summit further served as an opportunity to build momentum ahead of the subsequent ocean-related events of 2022.   

Held In Nairobi from 28 February to 2 March 2022, the resumed fifth session of the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA-5.2) adopted a historic resolution to establish an international legally binding agreement to end plastic pollution by 2024. While divisions remain on whether the treaty should focus on tackling plastic production or waste, UN Secretary-General António Guterres recently said: “Plastics are fossil fuels in another form and pose a serious threat to human rights, the climate, and biodiversity. As negotiations towards an agreement to beat plastic pollution continue, I call on countries to look beyond waste and turn off the tap on plastic.” SIDS are advancing innovations in address plastic such as the Plastic Waste Free Islands (PWFI) initiative which supports Fiji, Vanuatu, Samoa, Antigua and Barbuda, Saint Lucia, Grenada, and Rodrigues (Mauritius) to facilitate evidence-based solutions for plastic waste and establish island working groups to locally implement pilots. 

In April, the Republic of Palau and the United States hosted the seventh Our Ocean Conference in Palau, the first ever in a SIDS. The conference saw more than USD 16 billion committed toward marine protection, restoration, and governance. Meanwhile, on the fisheries front, a long-awaited WTO agreement to curb harmful fisheries subsidies was reached in June, limiting harmful subsidies used for overfished stocks, unreported fishing, and on unregulated seas. Subsequently, a WTO High-Level Pacific Regional Event on Fisheries Subsidies in Fiji saw Pacific Islands Forum ministers urging cooperation to implement the Agreement and step up action on the second wave of negotiations.

The UN Ocean Conference took place from 27 June to 1 July in Portugal under the overarching theme of “Scaling up ocean action based on science and innovation for the implementation of Goal 14: stocktaking, partnerships, and solutions.” The conference was an opportunity for SIDS to confirm their leadership in enhancing marine scientific knowledge, research capacity, and the transfer of marine technology by signing on to the AOSIS marine science declaration. The political declaration adopted during the conference recognized the position of SIDS at the frontline of the impacts of the ocean emergency and reaffirmed the importance of implementing the Glasgow Climate Pact through financing, technology transfer, and capacity-building to developing countries. Commitments made during the conference include USD 1.2 billion to support ocean projects and USD 1 billion to support creation, expansion, and management of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) and ensure locally governed marine and coastal areas.

In August, SIDS gave their support to an ambitious treaty to protect marine biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction (BBNJ) at the 5th Session of the Intergovernmental Conference (IGC-5). Unfortunately, and despite progress, no consensus had been reached at the end of two weeks of negotiations. The resumed IGC-5 will be convened at UN Headquarters from 20 February to 3 March 2023. An agreement would be of paramount importance to establish the network of MPAs needed to reach the 30 by 30 target.  Finally, during COP27 in November, the cover decision recognized the role of the oceans and encouraged ocean-based action.   

What has been realized through 2022 represent essential steps in addressing governance and market failures causing ocean health degradation. This realization is of particular importance to SIDS, who control 19.1 percent of the world's EEZs. Such global instruments could empower SIDS to address their challenges and utilize their strengths to fully harness the potential of their sustainable Blue Economy. 

Data: A year of advancing foundational infrastructure to unify climate action, blue economy, and digital solutions
Image: Dreamstime

Throughout the last year, SIDS have made great strides in accelerating the foundational data infrastructure that will allow them to make use of this key resource throughout 2023 and beyond. SIDS have embraced their data challenges throughout 2022 and avoided becoming siloed "data islands" by creating data communities through digital tools, open data platforms, capacity-building workshops, training curriculums, and finance mechanisms. Many artificial intelligence (AI) innovations are also advancing in SIDS, including in fishery management, coral reef management, ocean pollution cleanup, and use of satellite and street-level images for socioeconomic and environmental assessments. The innovations and collaboration across SIDS this year have proven they are leading the world in action and advocacy.  

SIDS are ideal facilitators of data innovations because of a robust political willingness and commitment to sustainable recovery, enabling a whole-of-government approach. The Aruban government passed a Ministerial Decree institutionalizing the National SDG Commission, creating a knowledge management ecosystem localizing SDGs and anchoring them in a national framework to deliver on local and global priorities. This approach has been embraced throughout several SIDS, including the digital nation concept of Tuvalu and the uptake of digital governance in the Marshall Islands and Mauritius. Additionally, to face the challenges in public health caused by Covid-19 and climate change, Kiribati has developed a comprehensive database of the national essential medical supplies to increase response time and enable live monitoring to improve its health supply chain management. These indicators are also used to track medical challenges and more effectively target and respond to the unique health challenges of SIDS.  

However, one key constraint in the statistical development of SIDS is the limited capacity of national statistical offices, which restricts them from integrating data into their development agendas. Since SIDS can face challenges in achieving economies of scale, data science, and automation tools are powerful assets, and data sharing further empowers the accumulation of data points to be reused and maximize the shared economic and development values that improve climate resilience and diversification. The integration of data streams through digital infrastructure is being accelerated as SIDS share knowledge and innovations, rising together to build sustainable and resilient futures. 

In the spirit of open data and transparent governance, multiple SIDS have also launched available data portals, including Papua New Guinea, Jamaica, and the Dominican Republic. Papua New Guinea has launched a new Natural Resource Management Hub to offer online applications for collecting, sharing, and managing environmental datasets from local, national, and global sources. These unified portals present and visualize data to drive decision-making to enable the data revolution and highlight significant data gaps for focusing future data collection priorities. 

Many new innovations in geospatial intelligence, machine learning, and IoT for marine spatial data have evolved in SIDS in the last few years to monitor and measure economic and climate risks. One of the defining features of SIDS is their small land area, but SIDS are often better considered as large ocean states due to their vast exclusive economic zones (EEZs). This dispersion makes traditional monitoring and surveillance methods ineffective. The Pacific Islands Passive Acoustic Network uses an index and machine learning to automate surveying marine habitats for changes in biodiversity.  

Data has also shown that SIDS are also key holders of dense irrecoverable carbon ecosystems, essential for the protection of ecological systems and global potential for marine aquaculture, far exceeding global foreseeable seafood demand. By harnessing spatial data and creating policies that support innovative and accessible digitalization, mapping technologies allow SIDS to visualize and comprehend their complex and interconnected set of challenges and opportunities through data. Additionally, ecosystem and climate AI algorithms have progressed rapidly, and the technologies are well in place to create reliable global models essential to preventative decision-making and disaster response. Pacific SIDS have utilized AI in Digital Earth Pacific to assess recovery effects, crop damage, and water contamination after extreme weather events. Meanwhile, Vanuatu has implemented a National Geospatial Data Policy (NGDP) and uses drones and GIS to rapidly assess post-disaster damage .

Although these examples reflect individual SIDS, they represent only a fraction of the innovation taking place across islands and idealize how shared data and priorities enable SIDS to be innovators, entrepreneurs, and first movers in the world of sustainable development. 

To overcome their data challenge and support SIDS economies of scale, UNDP has developed the UNDP Data Platform for SIDS, a digital tool for accelerating development in SIDS by providing access to updated, standardized, and comprehensive data. By focusing on the needs of SIDS, this tool has been designed specifically to feature datasets about Digital Transformation, Blue Economy, and Climate Action. The Data Platform also leverages machine learning innovations to support predictive capabilities for filling gaps in missing indicator data and contribute to socioeconomic and environmental analytics. The database of country-level indicators is compiled from 22 databases and research studies and presented alongside analytic tools, country profiles, and through a customizable  Multidimensional Vulnerability Index. The GIS portal features over 80 research studies and databases, with visualization and analytic tools to allow development agents to been able to discover, access, and export this data. 

Calling all SIDS youth -
Take action for your future

The SIDS Youth Survey on Digital Futures is a new UNDP survey of young people (aged 18-35 years old) in SIDS around the world. The survey aims to explore the hopes, aspirations, and concerns of young people relating to digital and digital technologies. The survey is running on WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger in the form of an interactive chatbot, and will take approximately 10 minutes to complete

The survey can be completed at either of the following links by initializing the chat here:
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