In August 2015, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of the Netherlands and UNESCO-IHE Institute for Water Education jointly launched the project "Strengthening Small Island Developing States’ capacity in the water sector to cope with the effects of climate change”. The project aims to strengthen the capacity of professionals and decision makers to improve water management in SIDS, to better address future challenges such as coping with the effects of climate change.
The beneficiaries of the project are water professionals who are responsible for key decision making processes in the governments of SIDS.
UNESCO-IHE will provide at least 20 key water professionals with MSc level education on relevant topics for the SIDS, in two batches starting in 2015 and 2016. The 18 month MSc programmes includes 6 months' field based research, to be conducted on specific problems in the home country of the participant.
Furthermore, UNESCO-IHE will provide at least 50 water professionals and decision makers with specific expertise on relevant topics, by enabling them to enrol in UNESCO-IHE Short Courses that start in 2016 and 2017.
Read more about how to apply and deadlines here.
The need for capacity building of water professionals in SIDS
The Report of the United Nations Conference of Sustainable Development reiterated the importance of Development of Small Island Developing States, as set out in the Barbados Programme of Action, for the overall achievement of the Rio +20 Agenda.
In SIDS, management of natural resources, particularly water, is a key issue: the quality and quantity need to be preserved for the people, the environment and for the economic prosperity of SIDS, that often rely on tourism for their survival.
The Rio +20 Agenda acknowledges the importance of SIDS for the future sustainable development, as set out in the Development of Small Island Developing States - Barbados Programme of Action and the Mauritius Strategy for the Further Implementation of the Programme of Action for the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States.
SIDS have their own peculiar vulnerabilities and characteristics, and the difficulties they face in the pursuit of sustainable development, are particularly severe and complex. These include:
- Small size: Their narrow range of resources forces undue specialization; excessive dependence on international trade and hence vulnerability to global developments; high population density, which increases the pressure on already limited resources, including water; overuse of resources and premature depletion; relatively small watersheds and threatened supplies of fresh water; limited institutional capacities.
- Isolation: Their geographic dispersion and isolation from markets, due to remote locations, place many SIDS at a disadvantage economically.
- Climate change and sea-level rise: Due to the coastal zone concentration in a limited land area, the adverse effects of climate change and sea-level rise present significant risks to the sustainable development of SIDS, and the long-term effects of climate change may threaten the very existence and viability of some SIDS.
- Natural and environmental disasters: SIDS are located among the most vulnerable regions in the world in relation to the intensity and frequency of natural and environmental disasters and their increasing impact, and face disproportionately high economic, social and environmental consequences.
The climate change vulnerability is a particularly serious challenge for SIDS. While they contribute little to climate change, small islands are greatly affected by changes in climate patterns, and the rise in sea level can cause loss of land along coastlines of low-lying islands, disrupting economies and livelihoods. For example, a 50-centimeter rise in sea level will result in Grenada losing 60 per cent of its beaches, while a 1-metre rise would inundate the Maldives.
In view of the above mentioned challenges, and consistent with the Post 2015 ,we believe that a special focus and attention should be devoted to tackle the challenge of providing SIDS key professionals with the tools and the skills needed to increase the resilience of such states to the future water challenges.