Environment and development
in coastal regions and in small islands

CSI info 15


The voice of concern emanating from small islands – limited as they are by size and isolation, and vulnerable to environmental disasters and economic globalization – has a special authenticity, because their agenda will ultimately be the world’s agenda. Especially during the last decade of the 20th century, the voice of small islands was increasingly heard, as they focused their efforts on informing the world of their vulnerability to the adverse effects of global climate change.

In 1992, at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, the world community adopted Agenda 21. This represents a global consensus and political commitment at the highest level on development and environment cooperation. Following on in 1994, the Global Conference on the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States, held in Barbados, attempted to translate Agenda 21 into specific policies, actions and measures to be taken at the national, regional and international level. The resulting Declaration of Barbados and the Programme of Action for the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States listed 15 priority areas for specific action. This list was further refined at the Special Session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York in 1999 (Barbados + 5), when six problem areas were identified as being in need of priority attention for the next five years, specifically: climate change; natural and environmental disasters and climate variation; freshwater; coastal and marine resources; energy; tourism. 

In 1996, the platform for Environment and Development in Coastal Regions and in Small Islands (CSI) was established by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. Through field-based projects, university chairs and an Internet-based discussion forum (user name csi, password wise), CSI seeks to develop an integrated approach to the prevention and resolution of conflicts over resources and values in coastal regions and small islands.

The Caribbean Development Bank was established by an agreement signed in 1969. The Bank’s role is to contribute to the harmonious economic growth and development of the member countries of the Caribbean, and promote economic cooperation and integration among them, having special and urgent regard to the needs of the less developed countries.

Capacity building is one of the key activities recommended for the implementation of the Barbados Programme of Action. It is also integral to all CSI activities, particularly its field projects. One such project, executed together with the University of Puerto Rico Sea Grant College Program, focuses on building the capacity within small islands in the Caribbean region to effectively manage their beach resources within a framework of integrated coastal management. In 1996, CSI and the Caribbean Development Bank joined forces to sponsor a regional workshop whereby representatives from the small islands involved in this project met in Puerto Rico to discuss their respective beach-related problems and to devise solutions. One of the recommendations of this workshop was to provide further capacity building and institutional strengthening so that existing beach-monitoring programmes are maintained and expanded and can become fully self-sufficient without requiring outside support.

Following this groundwork, the project described in this report was executed between 1999 and 2001, as a cooperative effort between the Caribbean Development Bank and UNESCO-CSI. The timing proved especially opportune since in 1999 the eastern Caribbean islands were impacted by Hurricane Lenny, one of the most devastating hurricanes of the 20th century.

Through this project, local capacity has been enhanced in four of the problem areas identified in the Programme of Action as being in need of priority attention, namely adapting to climate change and rising sea levels; improving preparedness for and recovery from natural disasters; protecting coastal ecosystems; and managing tourism growth to protect the environment and cultural integrity.

Spreading the results of this initiative to the wider Caribbean, as well as other small island regions in the world, is a goal yet to be attained. Working together, small islands can achieve sustainable lifestyles, retain their uniqueness and individuality, and effect meaningful change in the world.

Caribbean Development Bank
UNESCO, Environment and Development in Coastal Regions and in Small Islands


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