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


Towards the end of the 1980s, as the world’s nations began preparations for the ‘Earth Summit’ held in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 (United Nations Conference on Environment and Development), the concerns of small islands began to emerge as a collective voice, demanding to be heard and not engulfed by the problems of larger, more populous countries. The Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) was established and in 1994 an historic conference, the UN Global Conference on Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States, was held in Barbados with participation from small island states across the world. During this United Nations conference, a programme of action was prepared. Fully aware of their rich but increasingly fragile heritage, the islands demonstrated to the world that their concerns are of global significance, and that their agenda will ultimately be the world’s agenda.

As a result of these concerns, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) established an inter-sectoral and interdisciplinary platform for ‘Environment and Development in Coastal Regions and in Small Islands’ (CSI). The CSI platform is seeking to achieve concrete action on the ground through its three interacting modalities: field projects, university chairs/twinning arrangement and an internet-based discussion forum (user name = csi, password = wise). Ultimately, the goal is to develop and implement wise practices for sustainable human development, in order to effect changes in attitudes and reduce conflicts over coastal resources and values.

It is against this background that representatives of CSI’s small-island activities, as well as persons from other initiatives in the Caribbean, Indian Ocean and Pacific regions, met in Samoa in December 2000. The meeting was unique in that participants from diverse geographical and cultural backgrounds, working in government service, non-governmental organizations, academia or aid agencies, came together to advance a small-island agenda built on wise coastal practices. The similarities were more evident than the differences, pointing to the continual and ever-pressing need for small islands to work together.

This publication details the presentations, discussions and outcomes of the meeting, high-lighting the need for (i) interlinking activities within and across small-island regions; and (ii) procedures for project assessment, in order to distil and implement ‘wise coastal practices for sustainable human development’.

Ideas and results from the meeting will continue to be discussed and implemented over the years to come. Already a proposal (Small Islands’ Voice 2004) has been prepared to ensure that the voice of civil society in small islands is heard and taken into account such that it becomes an effective catalyst for on-the-ground activities; and furthermore, that islanders, often in remote and small communities, are able to play a greater and more meaningful role in the environment-development debate at the local and national levels, as well as within the international and intergovernmental arena.

The well-being and very survival of some small islands and their inhabitants lies in the recognition of global interdependence and that, as human beings, we all have ethical responsibilities to the global community. Indeed, ours is a shared destiny.

Dirk G. Troost     Chief CSI
Hans D. Thulstrup     UNESCO Apia
Gillian Cambers     Meeting Co-organizer

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