Taking Stock, Looking Forward

Facing a future whose only certainty is change, small island developing states are confronted with many problems and difficulties – some intrinsic and timeless, others extrinsic and new – in making progress towards sustainable living and sustainable development. However, small island societies have a record of thriving in challenging times. Their long histories are rooted in new and innovative approaches, societal mobilization and technological adaptation.

In contributing towards a new vision and commitment for small islands, UNESCO’s own action in support of countries and communities is rooted in the fields of culture, basic and natural sciences, social and human sciences, communication and education.   

SIDS cover photo
Small Island Developing States (SIDS) remain a special case for sustainable development. We recognize the ownership and leadership of SIDS in overcoming some of these challenges, but stress that, in the absence of international cooperation, success will remain difficult.
Preamble of the Samoa Pathway

Underlying challenges

The underlying challenge is that of building capacities, bridges and networks, in promoting problem-solving actions that mobilize key actors and constituencies, that generate effective momentum and impact, that are culturally sensitive and scientifically sound. Addressing this challenge calls for meaningful collaboration between societal and organizational sectors (intersectoral cooperation), between regions and between islands of different affiliations (interregional cooperation) and between generations (intergenerational cooperation). Together with governments, civil society, regional bodies and other international organizations, UNESCO takes timely actions to ensure effective implementation of the Programme of Action for the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States (SIDS), referred to as the Barbados Programme of Action (BPoA) since 1994, the Mauritius Strategy since 2005, and the SAMOA Pathway since 2014.


Towards climate change resilience: minimising loss and damage in Pacific SIDS communities
UNESCO Office Apia
Small islands developing States: UNESCO's action plan
Sept. 2016
Underwater Cultural Heritage and Small Island Developing States
UNESCO Office Apia
Islands of the future: building resilience in a changing world