Environment and development
in coastal regions and in small islands
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Coastal region and small island papers 9

1. Introduction


The world’s small island developing states are front-line zones where, in concentrated form, many of the main problems of environment and development are unfolding’.
(United Nations Secretary-General, Mr Kofi Annan, New York, September 1999)

Small-island nations, like all countries, are seeking equitable balances between economic development and environmental protection. However, because of the islands’ size and isolation, which seriously limit their options, and their vulnerability to natural disasters and global economic events, the problems they confront are particularly challenging and often call for special solutions.

The global conference on the ‘Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States’, held in Barbados in 1994, adopted a broad programme of action. In 1999, a Special Session of the United Nations General Assembly was held to assess progress and boost support for the islands (Barbados + 5). During this meeting, six problem areas we re identified as being in need of priority attention for the next five years:

  1. Climate change – adapting to climate change and rising sea levels, which could submerge some low-lying island nations;

  2. Natural and environmental disasters and climate variability – improving preparedness for and recovery from natural and environmental disasters;

  3. Freshwater resources – preventing worsening shortages of freshwater as demand grows;

  4. Coastal and marine resources – protecting coastal ecosystems and coral reefs from pollution and over-fishing;

  5. Energy – developing solar and renewable energy to lessen dependence on expensive imported oil; and

  6. Tourism – managing tourism growth to protect the environment and cultural integrity.

Among the global initiatives seeking to assist small islands towards achieving sustainable development is the intersectoral and interdisciplinary platform for ‘Environment and Development in Coastal Regions and in Small Islands’ (CSI), established by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in 1996. The CSI initiative works to achieve environmentally sound, socially equitable, culturally respectful and economically viable development in coastal regions and in small islands. Through three main modalities: pilot projects, university chairs/twinning networks and a global internet-based discussion forum (user name = csi, password = wise; WiCoP forum), the CSI platform seeks to develop ‘wise practices for sustain able human development’ which will provide for the prevention and resolution of conflicts over resources and values in small islands and coastal regions. In the long term, it is envisaged that ethical codes of practice, tailored for specific wise practices, will be prepared which will provide a policy framework for equitable resource sharing.

The three modalities interact so that wise practices can be: formulated, tested and implemented on the ground at a local level through the pilot projects; reviewed, analysed and incorporated into teaching programmes by the university chairs/twinning networks at a local and regional level; critiqued, amplified and transferred by the WiCoP forum at a global level. (UNESCO Sources, February 2001, includes a series of viewpoints on ways in which the WiCoP forum provides for the sharing of experiences and the linking of knowledge with programmes of action). Through this process, ‘oceans of data, seas of information, and rivers of knowledge’ can be channelled into ‘drops of wisdom’ or ‘wise practices for sustainable coastal and small-island living’.

The pilot projects are especially important in the process of developing wise practices, since they are the very foundation, the building blocks, on which the CSI initiative is based. While it is recognized that each pilot project is an individual series of activities with unique characteristics, much more can be achieved from interaction and interlinkage among the projects so as to provide a more comprehensive picture and approach to wise practices. Furthermore, there is much to be learnt from other non-CSI initiatives, and to this end a special effort is being made through the WiCoP forum, the CSI website, and other means to link up with complementary initiatives.

Workshop Objectives

Against this background, a workshop was held in Samoa, 4–8 December 2000, entitled ‘Wise Coastal Practices for Sustainable Human Development in Small Island Developing States’. The goal of the workshop was to bring together leaders of small-island pilot projects and representatives of small-island university chairs/twinning networks from around the world, to advance specific objectives and to interact with representatives of other small-island initiatives in the Pacific and Indian Oceans. The specific objectives of the workshop were to:

  1. Focus on small-island issues and specifically ways to further advance the problem areas in need of priority attention identified in the Barbados Programme of Action;

  2. Bring together persons working ‘on-the-ground’ on small-island issues in the Caribbean, Pacific and Indian Ocean regions;

  3. Advance and interlink the small-island pilot project and university chair/twinning network activities;

  4. Discuss and test project evaluation procedures;

  5. Explore opportunities for new CSI initiatives in the Indian Ocean and Pacific Ocean.

  6. Interact with representatives of other small-island initiatives based in the Pacific region, and present the CSI platform to that audience; and

  7. Provide for formal and informal professional interaction among persons with different backgrounds from different regions.

Samoa was selected as a venue for the meeting for the following reasons:

  1. The essential administrative and technical support provided by the UNESCO Samoa Regional Office was available;

  2. The presence of an active, although very new, pilot project in Samoa; and

  3. The representation in Samoa of many other agencies and projects, thus offering an excellent opportunity to interact with these other initiatives and to present the CSI platform activities to them.

Workshop Programme

The workshop programme is shown in Annex 1. Presentations and discussions during the first two days focused on the CSI approach, small-island pilot projects, university chairs/twinning network, and ongoing activities in the Indian Ocean. A field trip to the Saanapu-Sataoa Conservation Area, the site of the Samoan CSI pilot project, on the south coast of Upolu Island was conducted on the third workshop day. This was followed by a one-day open session with representatives of Samoa-based national and regional projects and programmes in the field of integrated coastal management. The final day of the workshop focused on project/university chair evaluation procedures and the CSI contribution to the UNESCO Medium-Term Strategy (2002–2007).

Workshop Participants

Annex 2 contains a list of workshop participants, divided into two sections: those present for the entire workshop and those who attended only the open day session. All the CSI pilot projects and university chair/twinning networks based in small islands were represented with one exception – the Surin Islands project in the Andaman Sea, Thailand. However, several persons at the workshop we re knowledgeable about, or familiar with that project, so it was considered in the discussions. In addition, representatives from Mauritius and the Seychelles attended, providing an Indian Ocean perspective. (A representative from the Maldives was also invited, but was unable to attend). See map for the location of the islands represented at the workshop.

Annex 3 contains a list of all the CSI pilot projects and university chair activities, with those based in small islands highlighted.

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