In times of drastic climate change, the challenges of islands are immense, even existential. Reducing dependency on fossil fuels, reversing the brain drain, diversifying the economy, cleaning the ocean, and making tourism sustainable are just a few. The common goal that cuts across all these challenges is increasing said islands’ resilience to the changing climate.
These challenges call for innovative approaches that connect the right people and catalyzes collaborations that refuse to reinvent wheels, while staying committed to lower costs and leveraging existing, sustainable practices. In other words, connecting islands of knowledge or, to quote UNDP’s Strategic Plan, to work in partnership with Governments, civil society and the private sector, and be a catalyst and facilitator of support from the United Nations System. By being open to new collaborations, the UNDP becomes more effective and efficient in utilizing resources to deliver results.
UNDP’s Aruba Center of Excellence for SIDS (COE) is a small center which needs to be more nimble, innovative, and enterprising, as outlined in an earlier blog. Almost all our activities as a convener and connector are delivered in partnership with other organizations. One of the many ways we bridge islands of knowledge is to organize events. Despite all the technologies, I still believe face-to-face meetings are the best start to any collaboration!
Meanwhile, back on the topic of resilience, COE recently partnered with a range of institutions to efficiently connect people around the many facets of this resilience.
Let me outline a few recent activities that will open new doors for 2019:
On Resilience & Security
To round out the year, in December of 2018, we collaborated with the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) to deliver the “Climate and Security in the Caribbean: A Roadmap to Resilience” conference in Aruba. The link between climate change and security issues, be it human, food, water, or energy – is not always addressed. Funded by the Kingdom of the Netherlands who will host the global Planetary Security Conference in February, these partnerships were a valuable initiative that connected policymakers, practitioners, academics, and the private sector. The collaboration led to an action plan that will contribute to a more resilient Caribbean, with a clearly outlined action plan.
On Resilience & Financing
Several months ago, COE partnered with the UN Missions of Belgium and Antigua & Barbuda to convene the UN Ambassadors of SIDS around the challenge of “Financing the Resilience of SIDS”. The gathering took place in Antigua and was especially insightful due to expert involvement from the likes of the World Bank, UNDP, GLISPA, Clinton Foundation, CARICOM, Pacific Island Secretariat and many more.
On Resilience & Energy
Sticking to the beloved topic of resilience, last November we worked with the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) to host a conference on “Resilience through Renewable Energy Strategies”. Representatives from islands participating in the SIDS Lighthouse Initiative, as well as energy practitioners, exchanged insights around renewables as well as the need for more efficiency. By taking a holistic approach, related challenges such as health care and transport were also addressed.
On Resilience & Natural Disasters
We have also collaborated with the private sector, most notably EY Caribbean, to organize a post-hurricane event “Build Back Better for a Resilient Island Future” in St. Maarten. The event included a hackathon competition with participation from across society that produced many ideas for a more resilient future. The winners went on to launch their recycling company GreenBox, which is especially satisfying to an organizer who desires nothing more than to have created a lasting impact.
As illustrated, addressing huge challenges, such as building more resilient islands, calls for connecting people and facilitating collaboration. By partnering with other relevant entities, the COE has been able to do a lot with a little leveraging our limited funds to deliver above and beyond our work program. I believe this strategy strengthens the COE’s - and by association the UNDP’s - relevance as a trusted partner in a complex and evolving development landscape of islands. Together, we are open and look forward to much more future collaboration.