During the last decade, the special problems associated with the sustainable development of small islands were given a spectacular push forward at the UN Conference on Environment and Development at Rio in June 1992 and in the process associated with the preparation, convening and follow-up of the Global Conference on the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States held in Barbados in April-May 1994.
On its side, and perhaps not too pretentiously, UNESCO might claim to have had projects specifically focused on small islands for more than thirty years, as reflected in a chronology of selected UNESCO activities related to small islands. These projects have touched on many areas of education, environment and resource use, natural and social sciences, culture and communication. Examples from the 1970s included a UNDP-UNESCO project for curriculum development at the University of the South Pacific, work on the ecology and rational use of island ecosystems within the Man and the Biosphere (MAB) Programme, a World Bank-UNESCO study on the social and cultural effects of tourism in developing countries, and the training of broadcasters in the Asia-Pacific region.
An account of some of these projects was compiled as part of UNESCO’s own preparations for the Barbados Conference of April-May 1994, and published in the 131-page Island Agenda: An overview of UNESCO’s work on island environments, territories and societies.
Subsequent to the Barbados Conference, the different sectors and units of UNESCO reviewed their programmes of work relating to SIDS, in the light of contributing to the implementation of the Barbados Programme of Action. Relevant activities and projects have spanned a wide range of technical fields and areas of concern, including distance education, basic and life-long education, environmental education and education for sustainable development, freshwater resources, global sea-level monitoring, renewable energy, natural hazards and disasters, coastal area management, local and indigenous knowledge, biodiversity conservation, tangible and intangible cultural heritage, tourism and its environmental and socio-cultural effects, use of modern communications technologies to mitigate problems of geographic isolation, and so on
At the regional level, several strategic planning efforts have been mounted in the second half of the 1990s, through such initiatives as Focus on the Pacific, Focus on the Caribbean, and the Indian Ocean Forum. These various regional consultations have built on experience gained in earlier cross-cutting regional projects, such as that in the Pacific on ‘Vaka Moana – The Ocean Roads’. In promoting the Organization’s programmes in these different regions, a major role has been that of the relevant field offices of UNESCO.
As another response to the Barbados Conference – and in recognition of the special importance of intersectoral action for coastal regions in general, and for SIDS in particular -- the General Conference of UNESCO at its 28th session in 1996 established the intersectoral Coastal Regions and Small Islands (CSI) platform. Sustainable island living, planning for changing coastlines, traditional knowledge and management practices, poverty alleviation and freshwater security are among the major foci of CSI actions involving the different programme sectors and intergovernmental undertakings of UNESCO, as well the various field offices serving the main oceanic regions. Among the principal new initiatives generated within CSI are a web-based discussion forum on wise coastal practices(currently with 19,000 correspondents) and the use of new and existing communication technologies to promote the effective participation of civil society, including young people, in sustainable island development, through the Small Islands Voice initiative (currently with 16,000 correspondents).
More recently, in October 2003, the UNESCO General Conference at its thirty-second session adopted a resolution (32 C/R 48) specifically addressed to the “Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States: further implementation and review of the Barbados Programme of Action (Barbados+10)” (32 C/R 48).
The draft of this resolution was submitted by 15 of UNESCO’s Pacific Member States, supported by Member States in other regions, and was considered by each of the five substantive programme commissions of the UNESCO General Conference. As subsequently adopted by the plenary of the General Conference, the resolution includes operative paragraphs addressed to Member States and Associate Members, non-governmental organizations in official relations with UNESCO, and the Director-General, and addresses the continued implementation of the BPoA, participation in the preparations for the international meeting with high-level segment to be held in Mauritius (10-14 January 2005), and reporting to UNESCO’s governing bodies on the planning, outcomes and follow-up of the Mauritius meeting.
As called-for in 32 C/R 48, UNESCO has continued to participate in the Barbados+10 (B+10) review and Mauritius 2004 (M’04) forward-planning process. As part of that process, UNESCO has
UNESCO General Conference Resolution (32 C/R 48) on “Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States: further implementation and review of the Barbados Programme of Action (Barbados + 10)” (October 2003).
IOC Executive Council Resolution EC-XXXVII.1: Preparation for the International Meeting to Review the Implementation of the Programme of Action for the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States (Barbados+10), including an annexed Declaration for the International Meeting in Mauritius in January 2005.