You are viewing an archived web page, collected at the request of United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) using Archive-It. This page was captured on 00:23:55 Dec 15, 2015, and is part of the UNESCO collection. The information on this web page may be out of date. See All versions of this archived page.
Loading media information hide
Environment and development
in coastal regions and in small islands

Island Agenda 2004 +

2 New and emerging themes

Alleviating poverty

There is widespread recognition that poverty is both a denial of human rights and the very antithesis of development. Reducing extreme poverty has become an overriding priority in international development objectives, reflected in the UN Millennium Development Goals. Yet despite all efforts in past years, poverty and exclusion have deepened and become more pervasive. Almost half of the world’s population is trying to survive on less than US$2 a day, and a quarter lives on the margins of life on less than US$1. Seven out of ten poor people are women, and two-thirds are under 15 years of age. The income ratio of the richest one fifth to the poorest one fifth in the world increased from 30:1 in 1960 to 75:1 forty years later. 

The most toxic element in the world is poverty.
Klaus Töpfer, Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). Cited by environment correspondent Geoffrey Lean in an article (It’s the poor that do the suffering...while the rich do all the protesting’) in the New Statesman, 16 October 1998. 

Basic education forms a
key part of poverty 
alleviation in many 
countries, as in this 
literacy class for women 
in the rural area of Fogo, 
Cape Verde. 
© Dominique Roger

In both absolute and relative terms, the situation in most small island developing countries is perhaps less acute than in many other parts of the developing world. For example, no small-island nations figure in the list of 21 countries that saw a drop in UNDP’s Human Development Index (HDI) in the 1990s. Inversely, many small-island nations rank prominently in national HDI listings. In UNDP’s Human Development Report 2004, for instance, Seychelles is 35th and Mauritius 64th in the HDI rankings, the two highest in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Notwithstanding these indications, poverty and its consequences are of considerable concern in many small-island nations, particularly in terms of marginalized and unemployed youth. In turn, against this backdrop, UNESCO works to reduce poverty at national and regional levels by building capacities for research and policy analysis, and advancing specific initiatives across education, natural and social sciences, communication and culture.

This work includes long-term UNESCO concerns such as basic education and literacy and such initiatives as Education for All described elsewhere in this booklet. The work entails contributing effectively and with imagination to the UN Millennium Development Goals of September 2000, and more especially those relating to the reduction of extreme poverty, universal primary education and gender equality. And it also builds on the cultures and environmental possibilities of different regions.

Thus, in small-island regions, the cultural strengths and interests of young people provide multiple opportunities for relieving people from periods of economic hardship. These interests include various forms of arts and crafts, music, songs and dances, as well as skills in using natural resources through traditional knowledge. In light of this, an increasing number of Pacific countries, for example, have been seeking to advance arts and craft education, as a means of addressing such issues as poverty reduction, youth employment and human resources development.

In responding to this need, a series of training workshops has been launched by the UNESCO Office for the Pacific States in Apia, in conjunction with national partners. One subregional workshop at Port Vila (Vanuatu) focused on skills development in such fields as woodblock making and printing press operation, as well as supporting skills such as accounting and marketing. Another workshop in Port Moresby (Papua New Guinea, PNG) culminated in an exhibition by young design artists at the National Museum and Arts Gallery, and the setting up by a group of young people of an association (‘Out-Of-School-Arts’), aimed at helping young people learn skills for making a living. The PNG National Commission for UNESCO has been facilitating this initiative.

The idea of using heritage tourism to empower young persons to achieve economic advancement and self esteem is the underlying approach of YouthPATH - Youth Poverty Alleviation through Tourism and Heritage. Launched as a regional initiative in 2003 by the UNESCO Office in Kingston, Jamaica, YouthPATH’s goal is to train young people in poor rural communities in the development and documentation of cultural and natural heritage sites. The initial focus is on sites in five countries (Bahamas, Barbados, Jamaica, St Lucia and St Vincent & the Grenadines), with the intention that these sites become centres of national and international tourism and in doing so, generate income, reduce poverty and contribute to community development. Among the YouthPATH sites are villages settled by freed Africans rescued from ships engaged in ‘illegal slave trading’, an area demonstrating the history of estate life, and the nesting grounds of endangered leatherback turtles.

Also in the Caribbean, a joint initiative with the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) seeks to break the cycle of poverty among marginalized youth in the Eastern Caribbean States. The project combines analysis of national mechanisms for poverty eradication from a human rights perspective with a practical needs approach to empowering youth through capacity building and skills training and though enhancing their participation in the development process.

Taking advantage of new technologies and opportunities


New information and communication technologies have been warmly embraced by civil society and professional groups in many island regions, as they provide a means for helping to overcome diffi culties associated with dispersed populations, lack of resources and isolation. Already, ICTs actively contribute to: 

  • Opening up government, making it more transparent and accountable, and thereby increasing public trust in government, reducing overall corruption and promoting core democratic values; 

  • Facilitating the creation of community networks and reinforcing participatory approaches and good governance; Strengthening cooperation between stakeholders to ensure good governance, to develop the private sector and to improve service delivery;

  • Developing new forms of citizen participation, with online forums, user net-groups and web-based chat sites facilitating open political discussion that would be diffi cult to sustain in print media. 


Today’s processes of globalization are, in part, driven by information and communications technologies (ICTs). Readily available new knowledge and information increasingly determine patterns of growth and wealth creation and open up possibilities for more effective poverty reduction and sustainable development. As reflected in the debates associated with the World Summit on the Information Society, ICTs have a crucial role to play in changing perceptions across all sectors of society, and in sharing experience and insights from one geographic setting to another. ICTs also provide opportunities for taking advantage of the cultural strengths of island sub-regions, which were created through the forging of some of the world’s most sophisticated pre-modern communications networks. 

In the last few years, considerable progress has been made in using ICTs within a small-island context. Among other activities for encouraging community empowerment and addressing the digital divide, Community Multimedia Centres (CMCs) combine community broadcasting with Internet and related technologies. Pilot projects include a regional initiative in the Caribbean, where the aim is to transform existing community radio stations into CMCs, complete with added facilities such as PCs and a combination of fax, telephone, e-mail and Internet services. Initial participants include radio stations in Barbados, Cuba, Jamaica, and Trinidad & Tobago.

ICTs have also provided the means for organizing Internet discussion forums of various kinds, such as that launched in May 1999 on Wise Coastal Practices for Sustainable Human Development (WiCoP; www.csiwisepractices.org). A small team of moderators edit contributions before they are posted (in English, French and Spanish) on the forum site and in addition sent as e-mail (thanks to the collaboration of Scotland On-Line) to over 19,000 individuals connected with the forum. Issues addressed range from confl ict prevention and resolution to approaches on coastal stewardship, from private sector investment in marine conservation to combining traditional and modern practices in coastal fi sheries. Vulnerability and resilience in small islands was the focus of one early-2004 discussion thread, which elicited substantial comment, reaction and controversy. Other lively debates have included those on ‘land purchase as an option for conservation’ and ‘Aid has failed the Pacific’. And more generally, the case studies and insights presented on the forum have proved valuable for learning, teaching and research purposes. 

ICTs are contributing to many other projects relating to education, science, culture and the development of knowledge societies. Examples are featured throughout this booklet.

The People First Network Project (Pfnet) is an ICT development project in the Solomon Islands that supports peace building and poverty reduction through an improved access to information and increased communication capacity in rural areas. Its rural communications system consists of a growing network of solar-powered, community-owned and managed e-mail stations in remote and rural areas connected to the Internet gateway in the capital Honiara, disseminating local content dedicated to basic rural needs. Since January 2001, Pfnet has addressed the poor and vulnerable rural communities through distance education, fostering of indigenous business development and encouragement of the participation of women in the ‘information society’. And in April 2004, Pfnet was one of the four runners-up of the IPDC (International Programme for the Development of Communication)-UNESCO Rural Communication Prize. Pictured here, open day at Pfnet. 


Community Multimedia Centres. How to Get Started and Keep Going Graphic introducing a chapter on ‘Choosing Appropriate Equipment and Technology’, from a 2004 CMC Handbook Guide prepared by UNESCO’s Communication Development Division.

Civil society – Voicing islander’s concerns

Empowerment, governance and social participation are issues relating to community life and civil society that have received a fair amount of attention in events associated with the Barbados+10 review process. For example, a civil society consultation was held in Trinidad and Tobago in October 2003, with a statement then presented to the regional preparatory meeting for the Caribbean. In the same month, a civil society consultation for the AIMS region (see page 44) was held in Mauritius, organized by the Centre for Documentation, Training and Research in the Southwest Indian Ocean, with conclusions and recommendations encapsulated in the Declaration of Calodyne Sur Mer.

Among UNESCO’s cross-sectoral activities, the Small Islands Voice (SIV) initiative seeks to provide the general public in islands with a ‘space to speak and act’. From early 2002, when the initiative was launched, considerable effort was made to identify the key issues of concern to the general public in the Caribbean, Indian Ocean and Pacific regions, through opinion surveys, Internet discussions, meetings and workshops, all facilitated by newspaper, radio and television coverage.

Small Islands Voice. Survey of public concerns (2002-2003)

Issues common to all sampled islands in the Caribbean, Indian Ocean and Pacific regions

  1. Economy: high cost of living, high taxes, less spending power, increased poverty, sluggish economy, economic stress, national debt, economic stability, economic downturns, shortage of foreign exchange, foreign investment, need for banking services 

  2. Employment: lack of jobs, job security, low wages/salaries, unfair hiring practices, increased number of foreign workers

  3. Health care: public health facilities, mental health, health care services, HIV/AIDS

  4. Education: schools and facilities, educational opportunities, tertiary education, vocational training, education for special groups such as teenage mothers, loss of qualified people (brain drain)

  5. New infrastructure: houses, roads, hospitals, airport/seaport, telecommunications, solid and liquid waste disposal systems

  6. Environment: waste management, pollution, deforestation, drainage, beach erosion, global warming

Issues common to some of the sampled islands in the Caribbean, Indian Ocean and Pacific regions

  1. Tourism: new tourism development, improvement of tourism facilities, control of tourism, over-dependence on tourism 

  2. Decline in moral and/or traditional values: breakdown in moral fibre of society, decline in moral values, bad behaviour among young people, lack of respect for elders, eroding traditional values and customs, decline in traditional leadership, lack of community spirit and collaboration – in part due to people being resettled from adjacent islands

  3. Increased crime and violence: increased crime rates especially violent crime, public safety, revised penalties for criminals, more crime as a result of increased drug abuse

  4. Good governance: political corruption, political greed, political victimization, international peace


How Small Islands 
Voice Works

Obtaining islanders’ views on islanders’ views on environment and development environment and development issues at the issues at the local level through meetings, opinion surveys, talk talk shows and other activities. These are supported by radio, television and print media.

Encouraging young islanders to discuss environment and development issues among themselves using new technologies www.sivyouth.org username view, password , only 




Identifying key issues emerging from these debates and channelling them back to the local level for action on-the-ground, and towards the global level especially international programmes dealing with sustainable development of small islands.

Debating these issues regionally and globally through Internet-based discussions www.sivglobal.org


Nevis public library: free 
access for research and 
education. At 
neighbouring St Kitts, 
Small Islands Voice and 
the National Commission 
for UNESCO are setting 
up a computer laboratory 
for the general public and 
students, again with free 
access for research and 
education purposes

Islanders across the regions have common concerns, and this was particularly reflected in the opinion surveys where the issues were prioritized based on the quantitative responses. In order of priority, these issues were as follows:

  1. Economy

  2. Employment

  3. Health care

  4. Education

  5. New infrastructure

  6. Environment

Other important issues identified, which were not common to all sampled islands in the three regions, but may have been at the top of the priority list for specific islands were:

  1. Tourism

  2. Decline in moral and/or traditional values

  3. Increased crime and violence

  4. Need for good governance

In a related fashion, the SIV global forum is serving as a ‘small islands heartbeat’ by promoting and profiling the opinions of ordinary people living in islands. Every two weeks or so, over 17,000 islanders and people concerned with islands are exposed to a range of topical issues spanning environment, development, society, economy and culture via SIV global e-mail postings. Topics profiled range from rethinking an archipelago’s tourism strategy (initial posting from Seychelles) and exporting an island’s spring water (St Vincent & the Grenadines) to road construction and its effects on people’s lives (Palau), piracy of fishery resources in the South Atlantic (Ascension Island) and problems of solid-waste disposal (San Andrés archipelago).

Creating space for young islanders

Representing a high proportion of the population in many SIDS, young people have a crucial role to play in determining the future of their islands, and UNESCO supports a range of activities designed to empower young people and encourage their full participation in society. Examples include projects on beach monitoring and stewardship in the Caribbean, waste management in the Maldives and Seychelles, and natural-disaster preparedness in Tonga and Vanuatu.

In fact, the inclusion of the needs and interests of young people is prevalent throughout all UNESCO’s programmes. In September 2003, this was refl ected in discussions within the Third UNESCO Youth Forum, associated with the most recent session of the UNESCO General Conference. A dozen young persons from small-island countries – dubbed the ‘SIDS Kids’ – played a vibrant and engaging role in the forum discussions, contributing small-island perspectives to the debate on such topics as education for sustainable development and prevention education for HIV/AIDS.

Youth visioning for island living

Throughout 2004, as part of its contribution to the Barbados+10 review process, UNESCO is facilitating a means for young people to articulate how they want their islands to develop in the future and how they plan to help make this happen. Discussion is taking place around three main themes:

Three stages are envisaged. First, during the twelve-month period starting January 2004, preparatory activities among island youth include local meetings and discussions, fund-raising activities, media promotion of the visioning activity, and web-based discussions through a special site operated by the international youth NGO TakingITGlobal

The young suffer less from their own errors than from the cautiousness of the old.
Davidson L. Hepburn, Chair, Bahamas National Commission for UNESCO, in a message to the Youth Focus Bahamas (Nassau, January 2004), recalling "a very old maxim", unattributed or unattributable to source.


Youth representatives Genea Noel (left) 
and Akiero Lloyd present the perspectives 
of young people to delegates at the 
Barbados+10 inter-regional preparatory 
in the Bahamas in January 2004, 
following a national forum of Bahamas 
youth supported by UNESCO.

Second, youth participants from island countries will meet in Mauritius in January 2005, to discuss concerns, share information about activities, and shape their vision. They will then present their vision and proposals to the main United Nations meeting. 

Third, and most importantly, after the UN meeting young delegates will report back to their local groups about the results of the Mauritius youth forum. Youth groups will give priorities to actions at a national and local level, and begin implementation. Mini-grants will be made available to youth groups, based on a competitive selection process, in support of implementing their projects. A major challenge is that of involving poor, marginalized, disaffected youth in the overall process and in individual projects.

Time present and time past
Are both perhaps present in time future
And time future contained in time past.
T.S. Eliot. Four quartets, ‘Burnt Norton’ (1936) pt 1.

Responding to HIV/AIDS

There is increasing evidence of the special vulnerability of SIDS to HIV/AIDS, as reflected in a recent IIEP–UWI (International Institute of Educational Planning–University of the West Indies) study in the Caribbean and in a regional strategy on Education and HIV/AIDS for the Caribbean spearheaded by the UNESCO Office in Kingston and UWI. Also in the UNAIDS 2004 Report of the Global AIDS Epidemic.

In the Caribbean, around 430,000 people are living with HIV. In 2003, around 35,000 people died of AIDS, and 52,000 were newly infected. Among young people 15–24 years of age, 2.9% of women and 1.2% of men were living with HIV by the end of 2003. Three Caribbean counties have national HIV prevalence rates of at least 3%. The worst affected country is Haiti, where national prevalence is around 5.6%, the highest outside Africa. The Caribbean epidemic is predominantly heterosexual. It is concentrated among sex workers in many places, though the virus is also spreading in the general population. 

Banner from an HIV/AIDS 
campaign in the Maldives, 
downloaded from 
‘Confessions of a 
discriminated HIV positive 
person’ – a contribution by 
Television Maldives and 
producer Ms Shafeenaz 
Moosa to a DVD-series of 
ten mini-documentaries on 
HIV/AIDS in South Asia. The 
DVD was produced in 2003 
within the frame-work of the 
Young Television Producers 
Net-work on HIV/AIDS, a 
joint initiative of UNESCO 
and the Asian–Pacific 
Institute for Broadcasting 
(AIBD). The 
aim of the project was to 
develop a network of young 
television broadcasters in 
South Asia specializing on 
HIV/AIDS issues, and provide
them with the required skills 
and expertise to produce high
quality television items to be 
included in various television 
magazines presented by 
broad-casting organizations.

But HIV/AIDS is a concern not just in the Caribbean. It is very much an emerging issue in other island regions, even though HIV prevalence levels remain low. In the Pacific, for example, the stage is set for an expanding and widespread HIV epidemic due to a dramatic increase in sexually transmitted infections and risky sexual behaviour among young people aged 15–25.

UNESCO’s response to the HIV/AIDS pandemic seeks to combat complacency, challenge stigmatization, overcome the tyranny of silence, and promote more caring attitudes. The focus is on integrating prevention education into the global development agenda and national policies, adapting prevention education to the diversity of needs and contexts, and encouraging responsible behaviour and reducing vulnerability. 

Prevention is not only the most economical response – it is the most patent and potent response, which seeks to change behaviour by providing knowledge, fostering attitudes and conferring skills through culturally sensitive and effective communication. An approach based on human rights is fundamental for both providing prevention education and treatment as well as in combating stigma and improving living conditions of the infected and the affected.

The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS is an innovative joint venture of the United Nations family. The Programme brings together the efforts and resources of nine UN system organizations to help the world prevent new HIV infections, care for those already infected, and mitigate the impact of the epidemic.

In the Caribbean, the UNESCO Office in Kingston has, since mid-2002, played a leadership role in promoting a stronger response by the region’s educational sector to the epidemic, in close partnership with the University of the West Indies and other regional bodies. As part of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), work has focused on achieving consensus among governments and other stakeholders, developing a blueprint for the region on how the educational sector should respond, establishing partnerships for action in this field, and building capacity in ministries of education and other educational institutions in respect to responses to the pandemic (e.g. pilot project in Jamaica).

Recent and ongoing projects include a preliminary assessment of the implications of HIV/AIDS for early childhood schooling, developing a methodology for estimating and projecting the prevalence of HIV/AIDS within the national educational sector, reinforcing cultural and communication dimensions in programmes and projects to combat the pandemic, preparing and testing a handbook for use by health workers (a group at the forefront of advocating changes needed for effectively tackling issues related to drug abuse as well as HIV/AIDS). 

Twenty teams of students, from various 
departments and institutions of higher 
education in Jamaica, took part in an 
HIV/AIDS Graffiti Competition organized 
by the University of Technology, with the 
support of UNESCO.

Towards gender equality

Sustainable development requires the full involvement of men and women in ensuring economic, cultural and ecological vitality. For UNESCO, the inclusion of ‘gender’ in sustainable development means committing to gender equality and human security – a concept that encompasses ecological, economic, social, cultural and personal security for women and men, girls and boys, alike. 

UNESCO’s priority activities in the gender domain include: Working for gender equality in education at all levels, in all its forms and in all fields, throughout life; Women and men having equal access to science and technology; Upholding cultural diversity and pluralism with emphasis on women’s human rights; Equal access to and representation in the media and information and communication technologies; Engendering participatory democracies by providing for real equality between women and men. 

In small-island states, the primary gender issues are the same as when looking at gender and sustainable development generally: unequal access to educational and economic opportunities, unequal sharing of domestic responsibilities and burdens, inequalities between men and women as regards decision making, differential impact on men and women of environmental degradation. 

In addition, there may be particular gender issues that take on special importance in small-island states, including differences in educational performance, the differential effects of tourism, the implications of limited land area and terrestrial resources, and resource management in near-shore marine ecosystems. 

The Ashe Caribbean Performing Arts Ensemble is a highly acclaimed professional company specialized in ‘edutainment’ (education while entertaining) musicals and a diverse repertoire of Afro-Caribbean songs and dances. Ashe was set up in Jamaica in 1993, with a view to developing two of the Caribbean’s richest resources – its young people and its vibrant performing arts culture. And in July 2004, with the support of UNESCO, Ashe featured prominently in the cultural programme associated with the XV International AIDS Conference held in Bangkok. The troupe performed two productions that have substantial HIV/AIDS prevention messages for young people and their families: ‘Vibes in a World of Sexuality’ and ‘Parenting Vibes in a World of Sexuality’. These productions have been performed in over 300 training sessions for schools and other educational institutions over the past five years. Following the Bangkok Conference, UNESCO is supporting the production of a CD-ROM on Ashe’s HIV/AIDS edutainment methodology that includes material videotaped in Bangkok. 



Gender differences in educational performance

In Jamaica, as in many other Caribbean island countries, for a number of years, girls’ academic achievement has surpassed that of boys in nearly every subject and curricular area. In addition, more girls than boys continue with tertiary education. Against this background, the Jamaican Ministry of Education and Culture commissioned a study of gender differences in academic achievement, participation, and opportunity to learn, in order to determine why boys are achieving less than girls and to discover what part, if any, the school plays in this disparity. Results were reported as part of the 2000 Assessment of Education for All (see page 35).

Over a nine-month period, a survey of secondary students and qualitative studies sought answers to 12 broad research questions which were formulated as a result of the theoretical perspectives and the research evidence on absenteeism and school-related factors. The results showed that boys and girls exist in a gender-coded school environment and differ on almost every measure examined in the study. Many factors contribute to gender differences in academic performance and offer explanations for what is now frequently referred to as boys’ under-achievement. Among the observations is that boys actively and continuously construct a defi nition of themselves as irresponsible, unreliable, and uninterested in academic work. Among issues addressed in the project’s recommendations are the effects of school practices such as corporal punishment and teaching methods and the role of teachers in constructing and in changing gender stereotypes. 


Science and technology

As recognized in the SIDS Programme of Action, science and technology is a cross-cutting issue for all sectors for sustainable development. UNESCO has a long-stand-ing commitment to supporting SIDS in strengthening the science and technology base of their economies and in building resilience in island societies. Many technical fields are involved, as reflected in examples and entries elsewhere in this booklet, ranging from renewable energy and natural disaster mitigation to coastal area management and biodiversity conservation. 

Activites too are wide ranging – from individual study grants and group training to the strengthening of institutions and the testing and diffusion of educational and learning materials. An example of recent learning materials is a technical training toolkit on solar photovoltaic systems, based on experience gained over several decades in introducing rural electrifi cation in small, scattered communities in the Pacific. The toolkit is designed for persons with modest technical background, whose mother-tongue is not English.

Among the graphics is that on solar panels, which are made-up of many individual cells connected in series. A panel of 34 cells (insert) is for 12-volt systems. The larger the panel, the greater the electrical energy produced. For best results, there should be no shade on a solar panel between 09.00 and 15.00 hours. Even if only one cell is shaded, the output can be cut by half or more.


Local and indigenous knowledge and small islands

In many small-island countries, there are local communities who have long histories of interaction with the natural environment. Associated with many of these communities is a cumulative body of knowledge, know-how, practices and representations. These sophisticated sets of understandings, interpretations and meanings are part and parcel of a cultural complex that encompasses language, naming and classification systems, resource use practices, ritual, spirituality and worldview. This local and indigenous knowledge is a key resource for empowering communities to combat marginalization, poverty and impoverishment. And for the emerging knowledge societies, the judicious management of knowledge generated within local communities and knowledge entering from outside is one of the major challenges posed by globalization, and an essential step towards translating commitments to respect cultural diversity into meaningful action on the ground.

Cultural diversity and biological diversity

Diversity is one key foundation for social and economic development – an insurance against uncertainty and surprise and a promoter of resilience. Diversity ranges from genes to species to landscapes and seascapes, but also includes diversity within and between cultures and diversity in knowledge and learning environments. 

Links between cultural and biological diversity formed the focus of a high-level round table during the Johannesburg Summit, with several informal UNESCO–UNEP planning meetings being held on the issue since the World Summit. In terms of future work, several small-island field activities are envisaged within a project for ‘Enhancing the linkages between biological and cultural diversity as a key basis for sustainable development" – a newly launched joint action of UNESCO’s Natural Sciences and Culture sectors. 

And among recent publications is a booklet on Sharing a World of Difference – The Earth’s Linguistic, Cultural and Biological Diversity, prepared jointly by UNESCO, WWF (World Wildlife Fund for Nature) and the NGO Terralingua.

Within such a context, what may be known as traditional or local or indigenous knowledge in island situations is being addressed in a range of UNESCO activities in the fields of education, science, culture and communication. These activities include research on traditional resource use strategies and practices in land and water (including marine) ecosystems, initiatives to nurture new kinds of partnerships between indigenous peoples and multi-use protected areas, cultural dimensions of traditional knowledge, relationships between cultural diversity and biological diversity, ethnobotany and the equitable and sustainable use of plant resources, and the role of traditional knowledge in the contemporary world.

Some of this work, for example on traditional management in coastal marine areas, dates back two decades and more. More recently, discussions on different knowledge systems at the UNESCO–ICSU (International Council for Science) World Conference on Science (Budapest, June 1999) contributed to the launching in 2002 of an intersectoral project on Local and Indigenous Knowledge Systems in a Global Society (LINKS). The LINKS project focuses on the interface between local and indigenous knowledge and the Millennium Development Goals of poverty eradication and environmental sustainability, stressing the importance of long-tested traditional knowledge systems that can enable communities to survive and sustain themselves in a changing world while maintaining environmental integrity. 

Among contributing field studies, an assessment in Vanuatu has demonstrated how continuing community-based management of marine resources, rooted in traditional knowledge and practice, can inform both national and regional policy. Also in Vanuatu, a pilot scheme is underway to incorporate traditional knowledge in primary and secondary school curricula. A project in the Trobriand Islands in Milne Bay Province in Papua New Guinea seeks to reintroduce some traditional practices of community self-reliance that have been eroded in recent generations, such as the cultivation of fruit trees as a means to enhancing community resilience to natural disasters such as drought. And at the regional level, a CD-ROM has been prepared on traditional ocean voyaging and navigation in the Pacific (see page 43).

Towards more responsible tourism

Nearly three decades ago, in 1976, UNESCO and the World Bank were joint organizers of a seminar on the social and cultural effects of tourism in developing countries. Tendentiously entitled Tourism – Passport to Development?, the resulting book incorporates case study experience from island situations such as Bali, Bermuda, Cyprus, Malta and the Seychelles. 

Since the 1970s, tourism has continued to develop apace worldwide, to the extent that it is now the world’s largest industry. For a number of small-island economies, tourism represents an important part of annual revenue. Being a people-oriented industry, it provides many jobs which have helped revitalize local economies. Yet by its very nature tourism is ambivalent, generating well-known problems as well as well-known benefits. As an economic sector, tourism is considered by some commentators as essentially passive, particularly vulnerable to threats and events that may be uncontrollable by the host country.

Within UNESCO, several initiatives seek to promote a new tourism culture, based on common sense and the responsible use of the environmental resources and cultural assets of each destination, as well as the creativity of island people. As described in presentations to the World Ecotourism Summit (Quebec City, Canada, May 2002), activities include intellectual contributions, the promotion of ethical principles and the concrete testing of approaches to sustainable tourism at the field level. The role includes both normative and standard-setting functions. The work also entails cooperation and partnerships with a wide range of other bodies. 

With tourism representing both an opportunity and a threat to culture, UNESCO’s work on cultural tourism seeks to help its Member States in devising strategies for the long-term preservation of the cultural heritage. Promoting improved tourism practices is a concern at many World Heritage sites. Recent work includes a project on the impact of tourism on the wildlife of the Galápagos Islands, and the preparation of a practical manual on managing tourism at World Heritage sites. A number of World Heritage sites as well as biosphere reserves are using the Draft International Guidelines on Sustainable Tourism – prepared under the aegis of UNEP and the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) – to promote sustainable tourism projects at the field level. 

Tourism in coastal regions features in the web-based forum on wise coastal practices (www.csiwisepractices.org), with contributors addressing such issues as the ‘self-destruct theory of tourism’, the social effects of tourism, viewing tourism as a cultural experience, conservation and tourism, and mass market versus up-scale tourism. Exchanges of experience and opinion within the Small Islands Voice initiative have addressed diverse aspects of tourism development in small-island settings, including qualitative differences between local and foreign investments in tourism infrastructures. ‘Tourism’ is also addressed in over 7,000 documents accessible through the ocean portal (http://oceanportal.org) directory of ocean data and information related websites, which contains more than 4,000 URLs.

In terms of links with the tourism industry, the Tour Operators’ Initiative for Sustainable Tourism Development is a joint initiative of UNEP, UNESCO, the World Tourism Organization (WTO) and tour operators. The aim is to create synergy between tour operators who share a common goal to develop and implement tools and practices that improve the environmental, social and cultural sustainability of tourism. 

Tourism-related activities of the International Scientific Council for Island Development (INSULA) include the servicing of a ‘Sustainable Tourism Web Ring’ and international conferences on such topics as renewable energy, desalination and the tourism sector, and sustainable hotels for sustainable tourism

Eco-tourism is an important component of the tourism trade in many small islands. In the Seychelles, protected natural areas comprise more than half of the total land area as well as some additional 23,000 hectares of surrounding reefs and marine areas. The ‘Subsea Viewers’ enable tourists to appreciate the beauty of the marine parks, while the Vallée de Mai World Heritage site on the island of Praslin is the home of the Coco-de-Mer, the largest seed in the plant kingdom. 

© Mason Travel





Start  Next chapter

Introduction Activities Publications search
Wise practices Regions Themes