Advocating for Small Island Developing States on the frontlines of climate change

The most powerful tropical cyclone on record to strike the Bahamas, Hurricane Dorian, remained over the North Western Bahamas for 68 hours. Homes, schools, places of worship, and entire communities were demolished by winds, rain and flooding. It left behind only rubble and bare land, and the memories of what was there before. This is not the first disaster to strike the Small Island Developing States (SIDS) of the Caribbean Region; in 2017 hurricanes Irma and Maria had already proven that SIDS are on the frontline of climate change and that the severity and frequency of the extreme storms is increasing.

Advocating for SIDS has been a priority for UNESCO for over 30 years, and with the speed of climate change and the extreme hydrological events that we witness day by day, the mission of UNESCO in the SIDS is essential today.

During the 2019 Caribbean Partners Forum, organized by UNESCO Kingston Cluster Office for the Caribbean, UNESCO’s Small Island and Indigenous Knowledge Section and the Ministry of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport of Jamaica on 11-12 September 2019, the United Nations Resident Coordinator, Mariko Kagoshima, highlighted that “SIDS are uniquely challenged by climate change because of their small geographical area, isolation and exposure”.

In this context, UNESCO has called its member states’ ministers, government officials, as well as its wide networks of experts, scientists, civil society, local and indigenous communities, the private sector and international cooperation partners to work together to share knowledge, analyses and solutions from different knowledge systems. Peggy Oti-Boateng, Director of UNESCO's Division for Science Policy and Capacity Building, was clear: “we need to work together, mobilizing all of our knowledge systems and capacity to ensure resilience of our societies, economies and peoples. Diversity is what makes us strong. Understanding the local needs and knowledge makes us relevant”.  UNESCO offers an integrative approach to support SIDS in building resilience to these growing challenges.

The outcomes of this high-level partner’s forum will feed into the UNESCO side-event “Island Freshwater Resilience – SIDS cooperation with UNESCO” during the 74th United Nations General Assembly on 27 September 2019, during the day-long session on the Mid-Term Review of the SAMOA Pathway.

2019 Caribbean Partners Forum © UNESCO/ K. Ikhlef