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Environment and development
in coastal regions and in small islands

Island Agenda 2004 +

7 UNESCO in the island regions

Island Kaleidoscope

Scanning electron micrograph of Umbilicosphaera
sibogae, one of a group of unicellular marine algae
with calcite scales on the cell surface that forms
part of the phytoplankton -- the floating pastures of
the world’s oceans. From a monograph on
Phytoplankton Pigments in Oceanography
(page 26). Scale bar = 10 µm (1µ =10-6m).
© Shirley W. Jeffrey

Feasibility study for a marine 
and coastal environmental 
data-base for Bahrain (page 26).
Vanuatu Sand Drawings, a veritable means of 
communication as well as time-honoured artistic 
expression, in 2003 proclaimed a Masterpiece of 
the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity 
(page 19).
Pointe aux Sables Centre in Mauritius, 
venue of the inter-regional ‘Youth Visioning 
for Island Living’ event (page 9) associated 
with the Mauritius International Meeting in 
January 2005. © Claire Green/UNESCO

Students in Bequia (St Vincent & the Grenadines)
using a local Internet cafe to take part in the 
Small Islands Voice youth forum (pages 8-9).
© Herman Belmar

Monitoring water flow of the Layou River
on the volcanic Caribbean island of 
Dominica (page 22). © Gillian Cambers
Aldabra Atoll (Seychelles) – inscribed in 
1982 as a natural property on the World 
Heritage List (page 28) – supports the 
world’s largest population (ca. 100,000
in 1997) of giant tortoise Geochelone 
gigantea.© 2004 karenika.com

Through inter-regional initiatives such as
Sandwatch (page 40), beach measurement 
activities have spread from the Caribbean 
islands to Seychelles in the Indian Ocean 
and Palau (shown here) in the Pacific.
© Gillian Cambers

One of the prize 
winners in an 
HIV/AIDS Graffiti
Competition at the
University of Technology, 
Jamaica (page 10).
© University of Technology, Jamaica 

Lakalaka Dances and Sung
Speeches of Tonga, one of the 
Masterpieces of the Oral and 
Intangible Heritage (page 19).

Adult literacy class, Cape Verde 
(page 6).
© UNESCO/Dominique Roger


Dredging sand, one of 19 cartoon drawings in 
an environmental education booklet La fábula 
del Manglar (‘The mangrove fable’), produced 
at Sea. ower Biosphere Reserve (page 28) in 
the San Andrés archipelago in the 
southwestern Caribbean.

Example of a regional teaching guide 
(page 33).


Buildings close to the beach are vulnerable to erosion

Buildings at a safedistance from the beach are less 
vulnerable to erosion

Ensuring new development is a ‘safe’ 
distance from the dynamic beach zone,
helps conserve the beach and the 
buildings. One of the generic graphics 
from a series of ten booklets on ‘Wise 
practices for coping with beach erosion’
in Caribbean islands (page 27).
© UNESCO/Barbara Navi

‘Early Childhood Care and Education’ 
is one of the . agship initia-tives in
support of Education For All (page 35), 
with progress on early childhood 
development in Africa among 
dimensions discussed at the Ministers 
of Education meeting in Tanzania in 
2002. Pictured here, three 
youngsters from the Indian Ocean 
island of Zanzibar. ©Claire Green/UNESCO

Brimstone Hill Fortress, St Kitts, inscribed 
as a cultural property on the World Heritage 
List in 1999 (page 20).
© Claire Green/UNESCO


Background photo (not shown in this digital version of the publication). ‘A Sea of Islands’ – Glimpses of the Maldives: 1,190 low-lying coral islands, total land area 300 km2, with over 99% of the country’s total area consisting of water. As seen by photographer Yann Arthus-Bertrand, who undertook an aerial survey of the state of our planet at the end of the twentieth century, in a project (‘The Earth As Seen From Above’) under the patronage of UNESCO. See also Epile Hau’ofa’s reflections on viewing the Pacific as a ‘sea of islands’ (page 42).


Participation Programme in the Caribbean

UNESCO’s Participation Programme is designed to provide direct assistance to initiatives undertaken by Member States in the Organization’s fields of competence, in line with priorities determined by the countries themselves, with proposals submitted via UNESCO National Commissions. 

The funds are modest (up to a maximum of US$26,000 granted for national project requests, with about six projects per country in each biennium, and up to US$46,000 for regional submissions). But UNESCO is not a funding agency. And support at these sorts of level may often be easier to assimilate than higher orders of financial contribution.

As an ensemble, Participation Programme projects touch on many of the technical fields and areas of concern addressed earlier in this booklet, as reflected in some recent activities in the Caribbean.

Antigua & Barbuda. Development of secondary school libraries.
Bahamas. Seminars for careers in science for women.
Barbados. ‘Music 2000’ data bank. Development of Slavery Museum.
Cuba. Environmental and ecological education in the school community of Santo Domingo.
Dominica. Advanced training programme in educational planning and management.
Dominican Republic. Young people’s participation in World Heritage preservation and promotion.
Grenada. Craft training project for persons with disabilities.
Haiti. Trilingual publication on ‘Water in Haiti: needs, resources, management’.
Jamaica. Influence of science and technology on Jamaica’s development.
Netherlands Antilles. Transatlantic slave trade education.
St Kitts & Nevis. Changing the culture of the classroom.
St Lucia. Media training to improve professional standards and practice.
St Vincent & the Grenadines. Enhancing access to slave trade archives and libraries.
Trinidad & Tobago. ‘Our Mountains, Our Fresh Water, Our Heritage’ project.
Regional and subregional. Assembly of Indigenous People of the Caribbean.

The UNESCO Office for the Caribbean in Kingston, Jamaica, was firrst opened in 1979. With responsibilities for 19 countries in the English and Dutch speaking Caribbean, the Kingston Office is multidisciplinary, in keeping with the different areas of UNESCO’s competence. Special attention is given to activities to help improve the condition of women and young people, as well as to major regional initiatives in such fields as prevention education to combat HIV/AIDS, using cultural tourism for alleviating poverty among rural youth, distance education and community multi-media centres. 

The most recent discussions on future activities took place within a regional consultation on Caribbean strategic priorities held in Montego Bay in Jamaica in September 2003, with the conclusions and recommendations accessible through the Kingston Office website (http://www.unesco.org/kingston). Within a larger regional context, proposals for UNESCO activities in 2006–2007 were examined at a regional planning meeting for Latin America and the Caribbean held in Aruba in May 2004.

Additional UNESCO Offices in the Caribbean are in Port au Prince, Haiti, and Havana, Cuba (the latter also serves as the UNESCO Regional Bureau for Culture for Latin America and the Caribbean).

The Caribbean Sea Project (CSP) is one of the flagship projects of the Associated Schools Project Network (ASPnet, page 36). Its aim is to heighten young people’s effective response to the marine environment as a pre-requisite for their positive action and to enable them to learn about the rich cultural diversity of the Caribbean region.Among the components of CSP is ‘Sandwatch’, a joint initiative of two UNESCO sectors (Education and Natural Sciences), the UNESCO Office in Kingston and the University of Puerto Rico Sea Grant Program. Objectives include: (a) reducing the level of pollution in the Caribbean Sea; (b) training school children in the scientific observation of beaches through field measurements and data analysis; and (c) assisting schoolchildren, with the help of local communities, to use the information collected to better manage the region’s beaches. Participating countries include Aruba, Bahamas, Barbados, Cuba, Curaçao, Dominica, Grenada, Haiti, Jamaica, St Lucia, St Vincent & the Grenadines, Trinidad & Tobago.

Caribbean juxtapositions. Part of the central panel of the surrealist triptych In the Beautiful Caribbean, by Colin Garland (1974). The painting adorns the cover of Volume VI ("Methodology and Historiagraphy of the Caribbean") in the General History of the Caribbean, courtesy of the artist, the National Commercial Bank of Jamaica and photographer Denis Valentine.




Cultural productions of various kinds form an integral part of many UNESCO activities in the Caribbean, from prevention education for HIV/AIDS to YouthPATH initiatives aimed at enabling young men and women to use innovative skills for sustainable employment in heritage tourism and the preservation of heritage sites (page 6). At several YouthPATH project sites, cultural productions recount the oral history and cultural heritage of local rural communities. Above, Gambia Village (Bahamas), the first village settled by freed Africans rescued from ships engaged in illegal slave trading. Activities in Barbados seek to promote the involvement of young people in integrated tourism in the ‘de heart uh’ (central uplands) of the island. 
© UNESCO/Kingston 


Participation Programme in the Pacific – Some Examples 

Cook Islands. Recording oral heritage on film or video. ‘Parents as first teachers’ project. Home education.
Fiji. Cultural mapping project. Fifth International Conference of Asia–Pacific Migration Research Network.
Kiribati. Recording of indigenous knowledge, skills and stories.
Marshall Islands. Women’s craft production project, Arno Atoll.
Micronesia. Second Conference of Traditional Leaders of Micronesia. Travelling environmental education exhibition (‘Green Road Show’).
Nauru. Establishment of science laboratory, Nauru College. Upgrading of Nauru Media Bureau.
Niue. Emergency assistance to recover and restore fi les and records destroyed by Cyclone Heta in January 2004. Ground-water resources assessment.
Palau. Production of CD versions of local newspapers. Support for canoeing and voyaging activities at the Festival of Pacific Arts (July 2004).
PNG. Liberation from the bondage of slavery and polygamy. Koroba youth development project.
Samoa. Computer literacy centre, Upolu.
Tokelau. Feasibility studies on Internet connectivity and distance education.
Tonga. Community development programme: improving the status of women. Houma youth training-counselling office.
Tuvalu. Youth leadership workshop. Health education through drama.
Vanuatu. Documentation of indigenous languages. Gender mainstreaming.

The UNESCO Office for the Pacific States was established in Apia in 1984. From an initial focus on education, the office has expanded its fields of competence with the addition of responsibilities for culture (1985), communication (1990) and science (1991). Consultations among Pacific Member States have included the ‘Focus on the Pacific’ event held as part of the UNESCO General Conference in Paris in November 1997. In the region itself, consultations among Pacific Member States are held on a biennial basis, with the ninth consultation in Fiji in July 2003. Pacific countries also take part in UNESCO planning activities in the larger Asia–Pacific context, with the most recent regional meeting taking place in New Zealand in May 2004.

Among the long-term concerns infusing UNESCO’s work in the Pacific is the place of tradition in modern society and developing a Pacific norm for communally based intellectual property rights. Among the large-scale interdisciplinary projects of the 1990s was ‘Vaka-Moana – the Ocean Roads’, which aimed at gaining a better appreciation of the cultural heritage and diversity of Pacific peoples. Recent and planned regional initiatives include those on media education, migration studies, education statistics and World Heritage promotion. 

In terms of project planning and management, as in other regions, many activities are carried out as cooperative undertakings with a range of national, regional and international bodies. Examples include work on freshwater resources under the joint aegis of UNESCO’s International Hydrological Programme (IHP) and the South Pacific Applied Geoscience Commission (SOPAC) and collaboration with UNDP on renewable energy. University links include those with Massey University (New Zealand) on natural hazards, with the Australian National University on science communication, and with the University of the South Pacific on distance education.

In December 2003, the official launch took place at the National University of Samoa of the International Council for the Study of the Pacific Islands (ICSPI), the main objective of which is to facilitate mutual cooperation between institutions and organizations dedicated to Pacific Islands Studies. The Council serves as UNESCO’s main partner for implementing social and human sciences in the region, with the UNESCO Apia Office hosting the secretariat for the Council.


There is a gulf of difference between viewing the Pacific as ‘islands in a far sea’ and as ‘a sea of islands’. The first emphasizes dry surfaces in a vast ocean far from the centres of power. When you focus this way you stress the smallness and remoteness of the islands. The second is a more holistic perspective in which things are seen in the totality of their relationships.

University of the South Pacific anthropologist Epile Hau’ofa, Our Sea of Islands, 1993.

The Pacific version of an educational resource kit for 
– designed to introduce World Heritage 
education into classroom teaching – was launched at a 
regional round-table meeting held at Tongariro National 
Park in New Zealand in October 2004. 

Vaka Moana – The Ocean Roads

While the World Decade for Cultural Development formally ceased operational activities as a large-scale programme in 1997, the guiding principles of Vaka Moana remain valid, embedded as they are in the culture and traditions of the Pacific and its peoples.

The name ‘Vaka Moana’ comes from the widespread use in the Pacific of the words ‘Moana’ for ocean and ‘Vaka’ for canoe. Vaka enshrines many associated meanings, including various dimensions of traditional and contemporary culture, as well as those associated with sea voyages for exploration, migration and trade. The intention of the planners of the Vaka Moana programme, however, was that it should address a broader range of activities, including the study of traditional and contemporary cultures, the reinforcement of traditional links, the conservation of resources and traditions, and economic development based on careful use of the region’s resources. Fundamental to the philosophy of the World Decade for Cultural Development and to the Vaka Moana programme was a commitment to the recognition of cultural, spiritual and social values in the development process.

Thus, the development objectives of Vaka Moana were set with a view to gaining a better understanding and appreciation of the cultural heritage and diversity of the Pacific peoples, as well as the development of cultures and attitudes which build on that heritage while taking advantage of contemporary technologies and opportunities. Also with the aim of promoting a greater understanding of, and tolerance for, the values, practices and attitudes of others. 

The programme also set five operational goals:

There were four central themes:

In terms of outcomes, Vaka Moana contributed to a cultural renaissance in the Pacific. It served to highlight the need to revitalize indigenous languages and the importance of cultural practices such as traditional currency of exchange, arts and crafts, music and dance, and the important link between traditional and scientific knowledge. Vaka Moana also consolidated the recognition of framing any development from cultural dimensions.

Since the termination of the World Decade for Cultural Development, many activities launched within Vaka Mona have continued at institutions such as the Canoe Institute in Majuro (Marshall Islands), Sculpture and Fine Arts School in Apia (Samoa), Department of Arts and Culture, Fiji Institute of Technology (Fiji) and others. Support from UNESCO’s Participation Programme has enabled the completion of such projects as the Monolingual Dictionary in Samoa and the Draft Model Law for the Protection of Traditional Knowledge and Expressions of Culture for the Pacific

The Canoe Is the People

Transmission of indigenous knowledge has been weakened and even disrupted in many parts of the Pacific. New information and communication technologies, such as multimedia CD-ROMs and DVDs, offer new opportunities to convey traditional knowledge to youth. By stimulating interest in their own cultures, youth are encouraged to renew their ties with elders, keepers of these stores of wisdom.

To this end, the CD-ROM Canoe Is the People: Exploring and sharing traditional navigational knowledge in the Pacifi c has been developed by UNESCO’s project on Local and Indigenous Knowledge Systems (LINKS, see page 12). Aimed at Pacific youth, the CD-ROM serves as an educational tool illustrating the vitality of indigenous knowledge, know-how and identity, as well as giving local communities access to a selection of archival materials lodged in distant locations. In this way, ‘Canoe Is the People’ also contributes to a process of restitution of information. While largely in English, the CD-ROM also includes videos in vernacular languages emphasizing that language is also a foundation of indigenous knowledge.

‘Canoe Is the People’ was publicly demonstrated for the fi rst time at the Festival of the Pacific Arts in Palau in July 2004, before its official launch in late 2004-early 2005.


Coconut leaves and fibres feature prominently in Pacific canoeing and navigation. Here, the ‘one-way’ coconut leaf sail is used to return to Lamen Island from the mainland gardens on Epi (Vanuatu) using the power of the afternoon trade winds.© Francis R. Hickey


From eastern Atlantic to South China Sea

Participation Programme 

Some recent Participation Programme activities in the AIMS region include:

Bahrain. Information technology applications in education.
Cape Verde. ‘Management of Social Transformations’ network creation for local development.
Comoros. Symposium on concord and conflicts among small-island states.
Cyprus. Revision and evaluation of mathematics textbooks.
Maldives. Developing a literacy teaching package. Interactive Science Centre.
Malta. Building a visitors centre at Is-Si-mar Nature Reserve.
Mauritius. Use of mother tongue (Mauritian Kreol) as a medium for primary school instruction.
Sao Tome & Principe. Recording oral tradition. Literacy campaign.
Seychelles. Setting-up of ethnobotanical gardens and associated activities. 
Regional and subregional. Research on slave trade and slavery in the Indian Ocean.

The acronym AIMS is a term grouping the small island developing states of regions other than the Caribbean and Pacific, specifically the Atlantic, Indian Ocean, Mediterranean and South China Sea. The term was developed during one of the three regional preparatory meetings organized by the United Nations in 2003 as part of the Barbados +10 review process. This meeting was held in Cape Verde in September 2003, and served to highlight problems and perceptions that were shared by small-island countries and small-island communities in different regions. 

Within UNESCO’s own regional and subregional groupings, small-island countries in the eastern Atlantic and southwestern Indian Ocean are linked primarily with their continental neighbours, with the different subregional groupings of countries serviced by the UNESCO Offices in Dakar (for Cape Verde), Libreville (for Sao Tome & Principe) and Dar es Salaam (for Comoros, Mauritius and the Seychelles). Bahrain’s participation in UNESCO’s programmes is serviced by the Organization’s Office in Doha, the Maldives by the New Delhi Office, Timor-Leste by the Jakarta Office, and so on.

At the same time that small-island countries take part in activities with their larger, more populous neighbours at these subregional and regional levels, it must be recognized that representatives of small-island countries may sometimes feel somewhat overwhelmed or even marginalized in discussions and decisions when grouped with larger continental neighbours. The perception is in some ways analogous to the relations of outlying islands to the centres of power and influence on the main capital islands in some archipelagic countries.

It is within such a context that bilateral and multilateral links are being encouraged between small islands in different regions and subregions within UNESCO’s programmes. Examples are the various types of interregional linkages within the Small Islands Voice (SIV) initiative (pages 8 and 9). Among the bilateral activities in the Indian Ocean is that involving schools in the Maldives (part of UNESCO’s Asia–Pacific group of countries) and Seychelles (Africa). Student exchanges between Ahmaddiyah School (Maldives) and Praslin Secondary School (Seychelles) have enabled a mutual sharing of views on island environment and development issues and discussion on possible solutions and ways to implement them. ‘Zero tolerance to littering’ is a first joint activity being undertaken by the two schools. 

Fostering media development and building-up capacities for communicating and broadcasting has been a feature of UNESCO’s work in small-island regions for more than two decades. One example is long-term work to promote educational radio for the training of teachers in the nine inhabited islands of Cape Verde and the setting-up in that archipelago of an information database for serving the needs of public and private media. Other recent projects include the purchase of equipment for strengthening the production capacity of Radio Comoros, support for developing an educational audio-visual archives at the Mauritius College of the Air, and replacement of radio recording and editing equipment in the Seychelles. Shown here, presenter of educational-cultural radio programmes in Cape Verde.© UNESCO/Dominique Roger

Promoting inter-island understanding and cooperation is the aim of a schools exchange programme between the Seychelles and the Maldives, within the framework of the Small Islands Voice initiative. During a first exchange visit in January 2004, Seychellois students met the President of the Maldives, Mr Abdul Gayoom (top). During the visit, students from the two small-island countries elaborated plans for a joint programme of work on ‘Zero  tolerance to littering’. © Small Islands Voices 


Lusophone linkages

Cape Verde, Sao Tome & Principe and Timor-Leste are among the countries taking part in a project to improve access to Portuguese-language book titles. Details of the project were announced by Brazil’s Science and Technology Minister, Eduardo Campos, at a ceremony at UNESCO House in May 2004, in the presence of UNESCO Deputy Director-General Marcio Barbosa and the permanent delegates of the Lusophone countries. 

Thousands of computers in libraries, schools and universities in Portuguese-speaking Africa and Timor-Leste will have access to some 20,000 titles of Portuguese-language books and periodicals from all over the world, as well as periodicals in English and Spanish, published by more than 150 publishers, including UNESCO, according to an agreement concluded by the Brazilian government and the Ebrary/E-libro web portal

The agreement -- supported by UNESCO’s Office in Brasilia -- was born of contacts taken during the third session of UNESCO’s World Commission on the Ethics of Scientific Knowledge and Technology (COMEST), in Rio de Janeiro in December 2003, in parallel to the meeting of Ministers of Science and Technology of the Portuguese-Speaking Community. 


Forgotten Slaves

On 17 November 1760, a ship of the French East India Company (L’Utile) left Bayonne in southwestern France for the Mascarene Islands. The ship was wrecked on 31 July 1761 near the shore of Tromelin (formerly known as the Ile de Sable), as it was carrying slaves from Madagascar to the Ile de France (present day Mauritius).

The crew took to the sea onboard a makeshift vessel, leaving 60 slaves on the island. They never kept their promise to come back for the abandoned slaves.

Fifteen years later, on 29 November 1776, the Chevalier de Tromelin, Captain of the corvette La Dauphine, found eight survivors on the island: seven women and one eight-month-old child.

How did they survive all those years on a desert island, little more than one square kilometre in area, cut off from the rest of the world? Historical and geneological investigations – associated with excavations, both under water and on land – are underway, with a view to shedding light on this enigma.

The Forgotten Slaves project is organized and piloted by the French naval archaeology research group, GRAN, with the support of UNESCO and other bodies. As presented and discussed in a press conference at UNESCO House in April 2004, and at a subsequent subregional seminar on oral memory and slavery held in La Reunion in May, the project includes a strong educational dimension, with a system associating schools via the Internet. It also includes a major information and communication component, designed to heighten public awareness of slavery in the past as well as in its present forms.



Timor-Leste: Towards cultural empowerment

Among ongoing UNESCO projects in Timor-Leste is that to transcribe, translate and replicate digitally the award-winning archive by Max Stahl of a young nation’s steps to independence. The archive brings together photographic and video images which previously were dispersed throughout the world, in television and journalistic archives, private video and photographic collections and stores. The aim is to ensure that the people of this small nation, deprived for so long of a voice, can now have access to their own past — through the establishment of an audio-visual archive with the images and recordings documenting their history, struggles and achievements, and the messages of relatives and inspirational leaders.

The archive itself contains images of the mass flight of the population into the mountains around Dili in 1999 and of women and children praying under gunfire in the cemetery at Santa Cruz in 1991. Also images of the nation’s two Nobel Peace prize laureates in 1996, and the reasons they were honoured by the international community as outstanding leaders of a small nation representing so many others. 

The archiving project is generously funded by the Governments of Finland and Germany, with UNESCO coordinating implementation. 



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