UNDP’s scaled-up offer for SIDS
SIDS have clearly articulated their expectations for support from the international community through forums like the 2019 mid-term review of the S.A.M.O.A. Pathway. These requests include:
- Increased access to and advocacy within the international arena
- Integrated and tailored policy advice
- Mainstreamed localization of the SDGs and the closing of SDG gaps
- Identified development best practices, and high-quality, disaggregated data collected through technology
- Stepped-up efforts to further promote gender parity and women’s economic and political empowerment, as well as to address gender-based violence to enhance implementation of the S.A.M.O.A. Pathway, with continued support from the United Nations system and other relevant stakeholders
- Better statistical analysis and use of data for evidence-based decision making
- Greater access to innovation and innovative thinking
- Partnerships, including with subregional organizations, and access to sustainable finance
SIDS are on the frontlines of the climate crisis, but they are also at the forefront of climate solutions. At the United Nations Secretary-General’s Climate Summit in September 2019, the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) put forth the SIDS Package, which outlines their priorities in addressing climate change. It highlights their collective determination to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050, and includes cross-cutting initiatives and partnerships that are SIDS-focused and SIDS-defined. The Package introduced bold commitments by SIDS to update their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), and develop comprehensive plans and strategies for low greenhouse gas emissions in island contexts, energy transformation and improved adaptive capacity. As SIDS take action to respond to and recover from the COVID-19 crisis, ambitious and prompt climate action remains at the top of their agendas. With disruptions in global value chains having uncovered the precarity of energy supplies in SIDS, transforming energy systems by building resilience and self-sufficiency is core to the first pillar of UNDP’s offer.
UNDP’s vision is to help SIDS towards these goals by promoting decarbonized and resilient societies, and scaled-up climate action. Our support is based on national development and climate policy priorities, under the overarching objective of meeting the SDGs.
SIDS are small islands but increasingly refer to themselves as large ocean States. They hold 19.1 percent of the world’s exclusive economic zones, which are sea zones over which States have special rights for use. Their combined ocean area is 20.7 times that of their land territory. This huge difference between the size of sovereign territory in the ocean and on land underscores the potential for SIDS to realize greater socioeconomic benefits from their sustainable blue economies. The blue economy is defined as the sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth, jobs, and social and financial inclusion, with a focus on the preservation as well as the restoration of the health of ocean ecosystems.
Sustainable blue economy opportunities in SIDS cover a broad spectrum, including existing dominant sectors in fishing and coastal tourism as well as actual or potential new contributors such as aquaculture, ocean-based energy (waves, tides and wind), offshore oil and gas, sustainable maritime transport, desalination, research and education, and marine genetic resources. The blue economy can also include non-market economic benefits such as carbon storage, coastal protection, cultural values and biodiversity. Unlocking the full potential of their blue economies can assist SIDS in achieving not only SDG 14, on oceans, but could have ripple effects on other goals, including SDGs 1 (poverty), 5 (gender equality) and 8 (growth and decent work).
UNDP’s vision is to support SIDS to pursue transformative blue economies and achieve prosperity through an integrated approach rooted in sustainable finance and development. Towards this end, UNDP is committed to providing SIDS with significant technical, financial and capacity-building assistance.
SIDS states are at a moment of great, almost revolutionary, promise, where digital technology is concerned. Small in size, they can offer ideal conditions as innovation incubators, pioneering new technologies that can be tested, replicated and scaled up elsewhere. SIDS can become frontrunners in the use of digital technologies to accelerate sustainable development and mitigate many of the challenges that they face. These can be tested and then scaled up elsewhere.
SIDS are working to address challenges in core infrastructure and connectivity needed to make this leap. Significant progress on increasing connectivity has put SIDS on track to achieve targets for the universality and affordability of Internet access. According to current trends, mobile broadband coverage will reach almost 90 per cent of the population As of September 2019, mobile broadband coverage covered 85 percent of the population, and over half the SIDS had an Internet penetration rate of over 60 percent.1
Many SIDS continue to struggle when it comes to improving two key issues: digital capacities and inclusive access to digital technologies. This widening digital gap is seen, for instance, in the limited availability of online content in local languages, and inadequate broadband infrastructure and capacity, particularly in rural areas. Without proactive measures, new technologies are going to exacerbate already existing inequalities within communities. As the 2019 Human Development Report highlighted, those with less access to new technologies are at high risk of being left behind. The exclusion of women and some social groups in digitalization is not only a matter of human rights but may infer significant costs for SIDS as it results in losing resources for innovation and economic development. These challenges need to be systematically addressed. UNDP recognizes the need to explore the potential for digital transformation in SIDS alongside the urgency of bridging the persistent digital divide.
UNDP’s vision is to support SIDS in taking advantage of the opportunities of a digital age, while managing the associated challenges and overcoming existing constraints in access and capacity.
For UNDP, delivering its scaled-up SIDS offer means enhancing the organization’s human capital and footprint in SIDS, building on a range of existing initiatives such as the network of Accelerator Labs and the organization’s first-ever Digital Strategy (20182021). Delivery will also require drawing on all UNDP assets, including the United Nations Volunteers (UNV), the United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF), the Multi-Partner Trust Fund Office and the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation. Stronger interagency linkages will be essential to provide comprehensive and responsive support.
Access to finance through innovative and traditional sources is a key enabler for many SIDS. UNDP supports SIDS in accessing finance in four areas:
- Innovative finance, including blended finance approaches and risk-mitigating solutions like insurance for protection from disasters ex ante, and enhanced protection for coral reefs and other types of natural capital
- Financing for conservation and debt restructuring (in hand with fiscal policy advice) using blue bonds and resilience bonds3
- Catalysing private sector investment for infrastructure (natural and humanmade) through green bonds
- Leveraging domestic resource mobilization and scarce public investment to find other sources of finance for sustainable development in SIDS