Public group: Building resilience of small island economies

Group created on August 30 2012
Although small island nations across the African, Caribbean and Pacific regions have significant differences in terms of size, population, social and economic conditions, infrastructure, and standard of living, there are many disadvantages that derive from small size such as a narrow range of resources, excessive dependence on international trade, high transport and communication costs, high population density. Due to their small size, isolation and fragility of island ecosystems, their renowned biological diversity is among the most threatened in the world. Natural disasters are of special concern to small islands because of their dependence on agriculture and tourism which are particularly vulnerable to natural and environmental disasters.

As demonstrated by much research work, all small island economies are more vulnerable to economic shocks and natural hazards than other countries or regions. Most of them specialize in a narrow range of products and have a limited domestic market. Several are single commodity exporters and rely heavily on export earnings. This external dependence increases their vulnerability to external economic threats and shocks.

SIDS are particularly vulnerable to global climate change, climate variability and sea level rise. As their population, agricultural land and infrastructure tend to be concentrated in the coastal zone, any rise in sea level has significant effects on their economies and living conditions. To be sustainable and efficient in the context of the small islands, climate change adaptation and mitigation require enormous financial resources, technology transfer and effective national, regional and global policy and governance frameworks.

The dependence of small island economies on coastal and marine resources emphasizes the need for an ecologically and economically sustainable use. Fisheries are the most significant resource that Island countries have for food security, livelihoods and economic growth.

Dependency on Tourism: The tourism sector is the key economic sector for small island economies in terms of earnings and employment. Tourism has strong links with other sectors such as agriculture, environmental services financial services, ICTs…. However, if not properly planned and managed, tourism can significantly degrade the environment on which it is so dependent, especially the coastal zones. Climate-related changes and environmental degradation may have a significant impact on tourists’ destination choices.

Food security is also of concern due to the vulnerability and limited scale of agriculture, already facing uncertain impacts from temperature and precipitation changes.

Good governance is a key element of policy-making and building capacity for economic resilience. In order to move from a position of vulnerability and dependence to one of resilience, new areas of economic development need to be explored such as green economy. The development, dissemination and transfer of efficient energy technologies that can assist small islands in mitigating the effects of climate change should be a priority. Many of them have identified the development of sustainable energy systems as a priority but greater investments in research and development are needed to support technical advances and enable rapid progression in renewable energy. The services sector, and in particular tourism, represent a genuine opportunity for small island to expand their economic activity while earning foreign currency. Investing in green tourism can reduce costs and enhance the value of ecosystems and cultural heritage. The private sector must be mobilized to support sustainable tourism and financing for investing in greening practices. The international community and development partners should give a particular attention to supporting small island economies to build resilience and develop their economies.

To improve information sharing and promote networking, CTA, the DG DEVCO from the European Commission, the ACP Secretariat, Concord organized a Brussels Briefing on this topic on 4th April 2012 (http://brusselsbriefings.net) and a regional Briefing in Mauritius on 23-24th April 2012 in collaboration with the Mauritius Government and the EU Delegation in Mauritius.

As a follow CTA and its partners propose to put in place an online knowledge platform aimed at exchanging experience and best practices on key priority themes for small island economies along the concepts of common and differentiated vulnerabilities and resilience. It is propose to build a community of practice and a platform for exchange along Building resilience the following broad areas:

1. Emerging opportunities for agriculture and trade

  • Strategies for value addition and innovation
  • Opportunities offered by regional integration processes
  • Linkages with other productive sectors (tourism, energy, ICTs, environmental services financial services)
  • Financing (Aid for Trade…)

2. Addressing vulnerability to climate change

  • Climate change adaptation and mitigation
  • Climate financing
  • Climate-smart agriculture
  • National, regional and global policy and governance frameworks

3. Greening the economy and ensuring sustainability

  • Green economy: ensuring sustainability for economic development
  • Technology transfer
  • Blue economy: sustainability in fisheries and coastal resources management
  • Public Private partnerships

These exchanges would also assist to build capacities of key regional institutions, identify research gaps, develop concepts for study tours and further face-to-face exchanges and design publications where needed.

Although small island nations across the African, Caribbean and Pacific regions have significant differences in terms of size, population, social and economic conditions, infrastructure, and standard of living, there are many disadvantages that derive from small size such as a narrow range of resources, excessive dependence on international trade, high transport and communication costs, high population density. Due to their small size, isolation and fragility of island ecosystems, their renowned biological diversity is among the most threatened in the world. Natural disasters are of special concern to small islands because of their dependence on agriculture and tourism which are particularly vulnerable to natural and environmental disasters.

As demonstrated by much research work, all small island economies are more vulnerable to economic shocks and natural hazards than other countries or regions. Most of them specialize in a narrow range of products and have a limited domestic market. Several are single commodity exporters and rely heavily on export earnings. This external dependence increases their vulnerability to external economic threats and shocks.

SIDS are particularly vulnerable to global climate change, climate variability and sea level rise. As their population, agricultural land and infrastructure tend to be concentrated in the coastal zone, any rise in sea level has significant effects on their economies and living conditions. To be sustainable and efficient in the context of the small islands, climate change adaptation and mitigation require enormous financial resources, technology transfer and effective national, regional and global policy and governance frameworks.

The dependence of small island economies on coastal and marine resources emphasizes the need for an ecologically and economically sustainable use. Fisheries are the most significant resource that Island countries have for food security, livelihoods and economic growth.

Dependency on Tourism: The tourism sector is the key economic sector for small island economies in terms of earnings and employment. Tourism has strong links with other sectors such as agriculture, environmental services financial services, ICTs…. However, if not properly planned and managed, tourism can significantly degrade the environment on which it is so dependent, especially the coastal zones. Climate-related changes and environmental degradation may have a significant impact on tourists’ destination choices.

Food security is also of concern due to the vulnerability and limited scale of agriculture, already facing uncertain impacts from temperature and precipitation changes.

Good governance is a key element of policy-making and building capacity for economic resilience. In order to move from a position of vulnerability and dependence to one of resilience, new areas of economic development need to be explored such as green economy. The development, dissemination and transfer of efficient energy technologies that can assist small islands in mitigating the effects of climate change should be a priority. Many of them have identified the development of sustainable energy systems as a priority but greater investments in research and development are needed to support technical advances and enable rapid progression in renewable energy. The services sector, and in particular tourism, represent a genuine opportunity for small island to expand their economic activity while earning foreign currency. Investing in green tourism can reduce costs and enhance the value of ecosystems and cultural heritage. The private sector must be mobilized to support sustainable tourism and financing for investing in greening practices. The international community and development partners should give a particular attention to supporting small island economies to build resilience and develop their economies.

To improve information sharing and promote networking, CTA, the DG DEVCO from the European Commission, the ACP Secretariat, Concord organized a Brussels Briefing on this topic on 4th April 2012 (http://brusselsbriefings.net) and a regional Briefing in Mauritius on 23-24th April 2012 in collaboration with the Mauritius Government and the EU Delegation in Mauritius.

As a follow CTA and its partners propose to put in place an online knowledge platform aimed at exchanging experience and best practices on key priority themes for small island economies along the concepts of common and differentiated vulnerabilities and resilience. It is propose to build a community of practice and a platform for exchange along Building resilience the following broad areas:

1. Emerging opportunities for agriculture and trade

  • Strategies for value addition and innovation
  • Opportunities offered by regional integration processes
  • Linkages with other productive sectors (tourism, energy, ICTs, environmental services financial services)
  • Financing (Aid for Trade…)

2. Addressing vulnerability to climate change

  • Climate change adaptation and mitigation
  • Climate financing
  • Climate-smart agriculture
  • National, regional and global policy and governance frameworks

3. Greening the economy and ensuring sustainability

  • Green economy: ensuring sustainability for economic development
  • Technology transfer
  • Blue economy: sustainability in fisheries and coastal resources management
  • Public Private partnerships

These exchanges would also assist to build capacities of key regional institutions, identify research gaps, develop concepts for study tours and further face-to-face exchanges and design publications where needed.

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