United Nations / Ocean Science & Technology / Ocean Policy & Sustainable Development / Business & Industry / Donors & Foundations
A virtual session on fostering innovative ocean science partnerships for Small Island Developing States (SIDS) was jointly organised by the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC), the Natural Sciences Department of the UNESCO and the Office of the High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States (UN-OHRLLS).
In her opening remarks, the High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and SIDS, Ms. Fekitamoeloa Katoa Utoikamanu, stressed that ocean science and SIDS sustainable development are inseparable and that ocean science provides the bedrock for SIDS to demonstrate their need for climate and development funding particularly in international negotiations.
SIDS unique dependence on the ocean cuts across the three pillars of sustainable development, namely economy, society and environment. The combined surface area of SIDS amounts to 140 million square kilometres which represents around one quarter of the world’s economic exclusive zone thus, making them important stakeholders in ocean management. Furthermore, they are also more prone to natural disasters like hurricanes and cyclones which result in heavy human casualty and economic losses.
The Ocean Decade will harness and stimulate innovative ocean research and strengthen the multi-stakeholder cooperation needed to develop the science we need for the ocean we want. Recognizing how central SIDS’ relationship with the ocean is at all levels and being custodians of large marine spaces, it gives them an important role both as active contributors and beneficiaries in the Ocean Decade. The virtual dialogue focused on the importance of genuine, innovative and impactful partnerships on ocean science for SIDS, both at the regional and global level, for sustainable development as well as opportunities to advance and accelerate ocean science including as it relates to mapping their continental shelves and coastlines, predict sea-level rise or to undertake surveys of coral reefs, which are essential to secure Loss and Damage compensation through the Paris Climate Framework.
Participants initially recognized some critical challenge that the Ocean Decade will have to face to achieve its ambitions before sharing insights and examples about the opportunities. In particular as it relates to the challenges, they highlighted the SIDS persistent lack of essential ocean data and research as they are often constrained by the lack of funding, the lack of technical capacity, inability to retain trained individuals in ocean science as well as the high costs of research equipment and infrastructure.
The panelists discussed a number of existing partnerships that could be leveraged and built upon including as the SIDS Partnership Framework and the SIDS Global Business Network. Some others notable examples of ongoing partnerships among SIDS for sustainable development were also mentioned like the Micronesia Challenge, the Caribbean Challenge Initiative and the Local2030 Islands Network launched by the Global Islands Partnerships.
There was a common agreement that SIDS should become active participants and solution providers in the Ocean Decade and that formation of triangular partnerships for data and knowledge generation and sharing, among themselves and beyond should be encouraged. In addition, the participants stressed how crucial the involvement of indigenous people and the local communities is for the success of the partnerships in the Ocean Decade.
The strategic role of UNESCO in coordinating and promoting the Ocean Decade, as well as other related SIDS issues in the field of science, was also emphasized, including as it relates to the coordination role the IOC is playing for the Ocean Decade as presented by Dr. Vladimir Ryabinin, UNESCO Assistant Director-General and Executive Secretary of IOC. In addition, Ms. Shamila Nair-Bedouelle, UNESCO Assistant Director-General for Natural Sciences, mentioned as a good example the launch of a new initiative called the freshwater Island Resilience, put in place by the intergovernmental hydrological program, to tackle the issue of water shortage in islands. The possibility of the extension of the Man and the Biosphere Programme across all island states was also announced. It was stressed that necessary support should be provided in the areas of science, technology and innovation (STI) and Ocean literacy for the understanding of the livelihoods that oceans provide, thematic areas that are of importance to SIDS and to be considered in the Decade’s framework.
In his closing remarks, the Permanent Representative of Fiji to the United Nations, Dr Satyendra Prasad encouraged the inclusion of ocean science in the reporting of the Sustainable Development Goals through the Voluntary National Review Reports (VNRs) of SIDS and also during the review of the SAMOA Pathway. He also highlighted the importance of forming transformative partnerships to promote ocean science.
SIDS are priority areas in the context of the Ocean Decade officially starting in January 2021. This was a first of many dialogues for the SIDS to foster active engagement in the Ocean Decade, both contributors and beneficiaries, and they are empowered in their role as custodians of large marine spaces.