13.08.2014 - UNESCOPRESS

Small Islands, Facing the Challenge of Climate Change 3rd International Conference on Small Island Developing States, Apia (1-4 September)

© Patrick L. ColinSeventy Islands aerial view (Rock Islands Southern Lagoon) Palau

UNESCO will take part in the Third International Conference on Small Island Developing States (SIDS), which will take place from 1 to 4 September in Apia (Samoa). The conference will examine the challenges facing the islands that are in the front line of climate change and possible ways to overcome them.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova will be among the leading personalities taking part at the opening of the Conference on 1 September. Over four days, representatives of governments, the United Nations, civil society, the private sector and academia will set out to define priorities for the decade ahead.

Subjects to be addressed include SIDS’ resilience to climate change, safeguarding the ocean and developing renewable energies. UNESCO will also organize or support a number of side events concerning education for sustainable development, adapting to ocean threats, promoting careers in the sciences, intangible cultural heritage in SIDS, culture and development in small islands, and underwater cultural heritage.

SIDS were recognized as a distinct group at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 1992). There are 39 of them, situated in the Caribbean, the Pacific and Indian oceans, Africa, the Mediterranean and the South China Sea.

Although these countries produce very little of the emissions responsible for global warming, they are particularly vulnerable to the rise in sea levels. Thus, a one-metre rise in sea levels would be enough to submerge the Maldives totally. Coral bleaching is another threat that is already causing significant damage to environments and economies. Fifty percent of the coral reefs of Dominica, in the Caribbean, have already been affected by bleaching.

The problems facing Small Island Developing States have long been a priority field of action for UNESCO, notably through its Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission, which is working on issues such as acidification, early tsunami warning systems and ocean governance. The Organization has also developed scientific programmes relating to small islands, notably in hydrology and traditional local knowledge systems.

UNESCO’s World Heritage List has 32 sites in SIDS, including Aldabra Atoll (Seychelles), the Colonial City of Santo Domingo (Dominican Republic), and Rock Islands Southern Lagoon (Palau). Vanuatu Sand Drawings and the Maroon Heritage of Moore Town in Jamaica are among the elements of these countries’ living heritage that have been inscribed on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage.

The Organization is also committed to promoting education for sustainable development and Education for All (EFA) in small islands. In fact, most small island States have achieved EFA goals, with the exception of the South Pacific where some countries have islands that are hundreds of kilometres apart.

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Media contacts: UNESCO Press Service, Sue Williams, +33 (0) 1 45 68 17 06, s.williams(at)unesco.org & Agnès Bardon, +33 (0) 1 45 68 17 64, a.bardon@unesco.org

 




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