Environment and development
in coastal regions and in small islands

Coastal region and small island papers 16

7 Concluding remarks

People living in small islands are already taking important decisions 
about their future, as seen here at Playa Rosario on the south coast of 
Havana Province, Cuba, where residents have decided to abandon their 
village and move inland as a result of coastal erosion, February 2004

This publication has attempted to present an overview of the issues that concern people living in small islands as they are perceived at the beginning of the 21st century and conveyed through the words of islanders themselves. The overview may not be totally comprehensive; nevertheless it represents the outcome of two years of dedicated work in representative island territories in the Caribbean, Indian Ocean and Pacific regions to determine which issues concern the general public.

As seen from the preceding chapters, the most critical issues concern jobs and economic prosperity, basic services such as health and education, new infrastructure and environmental issues, as well as a host of social issues ranging from a decline in traditional values to an increase in crime and violence.

Another issue identified in the opinion surveys was the need for good governance. The statement by the Caribbean Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) to the Caribbean Regional Governmental Meeting to review the Programme of Action for small island developing States, held in Trinidad in October 2003, addressed this issue:

‘We recognize that there are constraints to the implementation of the Programme of Action but we believe that the fundamental issue is that of governance – inclusion. We know that we can resolve this issue of governance now. We can strengthen our institutional and administrative capacity, make the management of our human and financial resources more efficient by putting people at the centre of development.’
Statement by Caribbean NGOs (6 October 2003)

A similar statement was made by NGO representatives from the islands of the Indian Ocean following a consultation facilitated by Small Islands Voice. The Calodyne Sur Mer declaration, 5 October 2003, stated:

‘We request governments to acknowledge the civil society consultation process initiated at this workshop and to maintain the dialogue and consultation beyond January 2005 on issues pertaining to sustainable development for the benefit and welfare of the populations in small island developing States.’

All of the issues identified have been integrated into the review of the Small Island Developing States Programme of Action, through national submissions and during the regional and inter-regional meetings that took place in 2003 and 2004.

The Small Islands Voice initiative recognizes that people are at the centre of development. For instance, one of the ongoing activities relates to community visioning in Palau. This concept calls for each community to participate in preparing plans for the type of development they want to see in their area (or state) in the future. The visioning exercise will lead to master land-use plans in each state that are meaningful to, agreed upon, and supported by the entire state community. These plans need to be formally endorsed by each state, and then implemented. Community visioning shifts decision-making to members of the community, while still including policy makers and expert planners. Starting in 2003, and with the support of Small Islands Voice, there has been a renewed interest in community visioning in Palau. A community awareness campaign is being conducted and two states are participating in more in-depth activities involving community meetings and the preparation of photographic murals depicting how they want their futures to evolve. These murals will be displayed in the communities. Much interest has been expressed by other islands in the community visioning process.

Furthermore, as islands prepare for the meeting in Mauritius from 10–14 January 2005 to discuss their future strategy regarding the Programme of Action, youth are being mobilized to participate in a ‘Youth Visioning for Island Living’ initiative. This has three main phases: firstly, there will be preparatory activities among island youth to discuss the three themes that have been identified:

Secondly, youth participants from island countries will meet in Mauritius for a period of five days from 7–12 January 2005, to discuss concerns, share information about activities, and shape their vision. They will then present their vision backed up by proposals to the main United Nations meeting. Thirdly, after the meeting in Mauritius, island youth will prioritize actions at a local and national level, and begin implementation. The third stage – the implementation of activities – is seen as the most testing and the most important stage.

During a preliminary youth visioning exercise in The Bahamas as the inter-regional preparatory meeting on the Programme of Action took place, Bahamian youth prepared their own vision and in their manifesto they called on their leaders to assist in implementation:

‘We, the youth of The Bahamas, are convinced that we are catalysts of change and we invite your participation to assist with the execution of these resolutions.’ 
(
Ministry of Education and UNESCO, 2004)

Island visioning is emerging as a key focus for Small Islands Voice, as the initiative seeks to assist islanders in determining how they want to see their islands develop, and helping them make their vision become reality. Future island visioning activities will focus on communities as well as youth; in addition, the residents of outer islands, who in many cases represent a special group of islanders, merit special attention.

 

 

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