Environment and development
in coastal regions and in small islands
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ISLAND AGENDA: Preparation

Inputs to this document and reviews of the text were made by UNESCO staff members from a range of disciplinary backgrounds, sectors, divisions and offices, including the following individuals: C. Arnaldo, D. Atchoarena, P. d’Ayala, M. Bonell, M. Bouamrane, H. Charles, F. Childe, S. Clarke, M. Clüsener-Godt, P. Dogsé, M. Hadley, M. Hadlow, P. Harger, P. Higginson, J. Hillig, N. Ishwaran, J. Josiah, J. Koch, B. Rouhban, T. Sankey, M. Steyaert, T. Takashima, A. Tolkychev, D. Troost, J. Visser, P. Vitta and W. Wiltshire.

The idea of preparing a cross-cutting overview of UNESCO’s work on small islands arose during informal discussions of an open ad hoc group within the UNESCO Secretariat which met on a dozen or so occasions between July and December 1992, in the immediate follow-up to the UN Conference on Environment and Development (Rio de Janeiro, June 1992). The motivation of this informal group, which was animated and chaired by Dirk Troost, was to contribute to the challenge addressed by UNCED - that of enjoining people from different disciplines, backgrounds and sectoral affiliations to seek to address together the challenges of sustainable development

Among the topics considered by the ad hoc group was that of a certain discrepancy between the long-standing involvement of UNESCO in certain fields and the lack of overviews of that work. Since its inception, UNESCO has had activities and programmes related to resource use and socio-economic development in particular types of biomes or physiographic units (coastal zones, forests, islands, urban systems, arid zones, mountains, etc.). In some cases, this involvement dates back to the early days of the organization (e.g. the Arid Zones programme of the 1950s). In several fields (e.g. coastal zones, islands), activities have been sponsored under the aegis of several sectors, programmes and administrative units. Generally, compilations and reviews of UNESCO’s activities and their impact in these domains have been undertaken on a project-by-project or programme-by-programme basis, if at all. House-wide assessments are generally not available.

It was within such a perspective that suggestions took shape that an overview be prepared on UNESCO’s work on small islands. Among other aims, this review would provide background on UNESCO’s past, ongoing and potential contribution to the issue of sustainable development in small island situations, raised during UNCED process and subsequently in the lead-up to the Global Conference on Sustainable Development in Small Island Developing States (Barbados, April 1994). Such a review would also provide a better basis for others to take account of UNESCO’s work in more substantive assessments of approaches to small island development.

In this light, an informal ad hoc task force met on a number of occasions during 1993, with a view to putting together a cross-sectoral overview of UNESCO’s work on small islands. The task force manager was Malcolm Hadley, biologist in UNESCO’s Division of Ecological Sciences.

The idea of preparing the cross-sectoral overview was subsequently discussed and endorsed by the UNESCO Committee for the Follow-up to UNCED, at its meeting in Paris in April 1993. The review then became part of UNESCO’s own internal preparations for the Barbados Conference, under the aegis of the organization’s Co-ordinator for Environment Programmes, Gisbert Glaser.

During the course of 1993, drafts were reviewed and complemented by interested staff members in UNESCO Regional Offices and Sub-Offices. Successive drafts were also made available in mid-1993 to UNESCO representatives attending the planning meeting for the Vaka Moana project and the regional technical meetings held in Port Vila (Vanuatu) and Port-of-Spain (Trinidad and Tobago) for the Global Conference on Sustainable Development in Small Island Developing States, as well as the preparatory session for the Barbados Conference held in New York in August-September.

The responsibility for finalizing the report, and preparing it in camera-ready form using desk top publishing facilities, was entrusted to the Division of Ecological Sciences. The report was compiled and edited by Malcolm Hadley. Text preparation was by Lydie Guillaud. Design and computer assisted layout was by Ivette Fabbri

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