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UNESCO Executive Board - Report and Decision (May '00)

Implementation of the outcome of the Global Conference on the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States

"By resolution 54/224 concerning Implementation of the outcome of the Global Conference on the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States, the General Assembly calls upon governments, the regional commissions and organizations and other intergovernmental organizations to support the efforts of the small island developing States, taking into account those areas identified in the review document for priority action, and urges them to take the action necessary for the further implementation and effective follow-up of the Barbados Programme of Action for the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States adopted in 1994.

The United Nations General Assembly special session for the Review and Appraisal of the Implementation of the Programme of Action for the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States convened in New York, from 27 to 28 September 1999, for an overall review and appraisal of the Barbados Programme of Action, adopted in 1994. The seventh session of the Commission on Sustainable Development had been designated as the preparatory body for the special session.

The special session adopted a “State of Progress and Initiatives for the Future Implementation of the Programme of Action for the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States” which identified the following six priority problem areas in need of urgent attention over the next five years: (a) Climate change (adapting to climate change and rising sea levels, which could submerge some low-lying island nations); (b) Natural and environmental disasters and climate variability (improving preparedness for and recovery from natural and environmental disasters); (c) Freshwater resources (preventing worsening shortages of freshwater as demand grows); (d) Coastal and marine resources (protecting coastal ecosystems and coral reefs from pollution and over-fishing); (e) Energy (developing solar and renewable energy to lessen dependence on expensive imported oil); (f) Tourism (managing tourism growth to protect the environment and cultural integrity).

In addition to the six priority areas needing urgent attention, the state of progress and initiatives also recommends the following means of implementation: sustainable development strategies; capacity-building; resource mobilization and finance; globalization and trade liberalization; transfer of environmentally sound technology; vulnerability index; information management: Small island developing States network; international cooperation and partnership.

UNESCO action

Of the 41 small island developing States (SIDS), 38 are UNESCO Member States, including two Associate Members. The other three are non-UNESCO Member States. “Small island” activities have been carried out by UNESCO for many decades, a sample of which was presented to the United Nations Conference on the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States (Barbados, 1994) in the form of the 131-page “Island Agenda - An overview of UNESCO’s work on island environments, territories and societies”. UNESCO’s policy regarding SIDS has, in addition to previous years, been further substantiated both through an increase in activities, generally, and the initiation of ongoing consultation processes, in particular. The first consultation processes “Focus on the Pacific” and “Focus on the Caribbean” were successfully launched at UNESCO Headquarters, on 1 November 1997 and 10 October 1998 respectively. The overall objective is to address the specific needs of SIDS and cooperate in elaborating their own agenda for peace and development, in UNESCO’s fields of competence.

To ensure efficient implementation of follow-up activities, action plans have been drawn up. Within the structure of “Focus on the Pacific” and as part of a subregional strategy, an intersectoral project entitled “Human Development for Sustainable Living Conditions in the Pacific” has been included in the Programme and Budget for 2000-2001. Similarly, the intersectoral project, “Caribbean People: Tapestry of the Past, Fabric for the Future - Special Project on Human Development for Sustainable Living in the Caribbean”, submitted by the Caribbean subregion at the launch of “Focus on the Caribbean”, has been incorporated.

In addition, UNESCO organized the “Indian Ocean Forum 2000” in Mauritius, from 29 to 31 March 1999. This Forum was aimed at enabling participating countries, i.e. Comoros, France, Madagascar, Mauritius, Maldives, Seychelles, as well as international and subregional organizations, to establish a more extensive cooperation, to jointly develop a subregional strategy and to identify some national and subregional projects for integration into UNESCO’s programme and budget. Among the proposals and recommendations made were, the creation of an “Institute for the Study and Promotion of Interculturalism” in Mauritius, and the establishment of a UNESCO Chair for the study of intercultural relationships and learning processes at the University of La Réunion. An agreement of cooperation between UNESCO and the Indian Ocean Commission was signed on 3 December 1999.

Recognizing the particular importance of intersectoral action for coastal regions in general, and for SIDS in particular, UNESCO’s General Conference at its 28th session established the intersectoral Coastal Regions and Small Islands (CSI) initiative. Sustainable island living, planning for changing coastlines, traditional knowledge and management practices, poverty alleviation and freshwater security are among the major foci of CSI actions involving the programme sectors, the intergovernmental/international scientific undertakings (MOST, MAB, IOC, IHP, IGCP) and WHC. The combination of field pilot projects, interlinked UNESCO Chairs and a web-based discussion forum is proving to be effective in elaborating, teaching, exchanging and field testing wise practices for sustainable island living.

UNESCO participated in the Meeting of Prospective Donors and Representatives of Small Island Developing States which was held in New York, from 24 to 26 February 1999, to review the mobilization of financial resources for the follow-up of the 1994 Barbados Conference on SIDS. A wide range of project portfolios that had been submitted for consideration by donors was discussed. It also participated in the United Nations General Assembly special session for the Review and Appraisal of the Implementation of the Programme of Action for the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States referred to above.

UNESCO continues to address the majority of the Barbados Programme of Action priority areas and implementation means, including the six problem areas prioritized last year by the special session (climate change, natural and environmental disasters and climate variability, freshwater resources, coastal and marine resources, energy, tourism). It is doing so through several (joint) programmes and activities, including: the Global Ocean Observation System; Planning for Changing Coastlines; International Tsunami Warning System; International Strategy for Natural Disaster Reduction; Groundwater Recharge and Contamination Studies; Community Knowledge of Water Resources; Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network; Integrated Biodiversity Strategies for Islands and Coastal Areas; Coastal Marine Productivity Network; People and Plants; World Solar Programme; Communication and Education for Sustainable Coastal Development; World Heritage Natural and Cultural Sites; Youth and Leadership for a Culture of Peace.

In the light of the foregoing information concerning the implementation of the outcome of the Global Conference on the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States, the Executive Board adopted at its 159th session the following decision:

The Executive Board,

  1. Having examined document 159 EX/28, sub-item 7.1.1, dealing with UNESCO’s contribution to the follow-up to the United Nations Global Conference on the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States (Barbados, 1994) in general, and the General Assembly special session for the review and appraisal of the implementation of the Programme of Action for the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States, in particular,

  2. Taking note of resolution 54/224, as well as of the Declaration and review document that resulted from the special session and were adopted by the General Assembly,

  3. Recalling 156 EX/Decision 9.1.2,

  4. Reaffirming its commitments to the goals of the Barbados Programme of Action and the importance of intersectoral and inter-agency follow-up to the six problem areas (climate change, natural and environmental disasters and climate variability, freshwater resources, coastal and marine resources, energy, tourism) prioritized by the United Nations General Assembly special session as in need of urgent attention over the next five years,

  5. Taking into account the consultation processes Focus on the Pacific, Focus on the Caribbean and Indian Ocean Forum 2000 that the Organization started during the previous biennium and which also require an intersectoral approach,

  6. Mindful of UNESCO’s unique intersectoral potential for bringing together, among others, decision-makers, local communities, cultural heritage experts, educators, and social and natural scientists,

  7. Recognizing the particular significance of traditional systems of knowledge for small island States, and taking into account the pertinent recommendations of the World Conference on Science (Budapest, 1999) and commitments made at the 30th session of the General Conference of UNESCO to establish an intersectoral project in this domain,

  8. Invites the Director-General:

    1. to enhance actions to address the six priority problem areas of the Barbados Programme of Action for Small Island Developing States, through the relevant activities of all programme sectors and through intersectoral pilot projects and UNESCO Chairs concerning “wise practices” for sustainable island living;

    2. to continue to ensure that the consultation processes Focus on the Pacific, Focus on the Caribbean and Indian Ocean Forum 2000, as well as follow-up to the World Conference on Science recommendations concerning traditional knowledge, are carried out in an intersectoral manner;

    3. to ensure that, in the preparation of the next Medium-Term Strategy, those programme elements of the Organization that are geared towards the needs of the small developing Member States and Associate Members, including the intersectoral Coastal Regions and Small Islands (CSI) platform, are further strengthened;

    4. to pursue efforts to seek funds from appropriate funding agencies and mechanisms for the implementation of the Barbados Programme of Action, and to assist small island developing States in their national efforts to obtain extrabudgetary funds;

    5. to report periodically to it on progress made by UNESCO, especially in an intersectoral manner, and at the United Nations system level in the implementation of the Barbados Programme of Action for Small Island Developing States;

    6. to monitor the work and research on small island States in other organizations and bodies, particularly the Commonwealth, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development and the Joint Task Force of the Commonwealth Secretariat and the World Bank on Small States."
159 EX/Decision 7.1.1
(159 EX/SR.10)


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