Review of the Scientific and Institutional Capacity of Small Island Developing States in Support of a Bottom-up Approach to Achieve Sustainable Development Goal 14 Targets
2. Overview of Small Island Developing States (SIDS)
2.1. Physiographic and Environmental Characteristics of SIDS
2.1.1. Caribbean SIDS
2.1.2. Pacific SIDS
2.1.3. Atlantic, Indian Ocean, and South China Seas SIDS
2.2. Economic Characteristics of SIDS
3. Commonalities of SIDS—Marine Challenges
4. The Way Forward—Needs to Tackle the Challenges
- Define Indicators—Identify a manageable set of measurements (proxies and indices), which are globally applicable to evaluate ecosystem health in various regions in order to reduce cost and time; engage government entities, donors, funding agencies, and the public; as well as allow the interoperability of research data. Frameworks such as the Ocean Health Index  can be used in SIDS to assess ocean health and thus inform policy and evaluate progress.
- Establish Protocols and Standards—Standards and protocols for sample collection, handling, analysis, and data products are needed to obtain high quality data, meet global standards, and allow the interoperability and reproducibility of research data. For this, SIDS can take advantage of repositories such as the Ocean Best Practices System (OBPS; ), which includes standard operating procedures, manuals, and method descriptions for most ocean-related sciences and applications.
- Establish Baseline Measurements—Establish monitoring programs or engage with existing monitoring programs such as the Global Ocean Acidification Observing Network (GOA-ON; ) to quantify baselines and detect changes in the biogeochemistry of water bodies to evaluate ecosystem health. These data are needed to inform policy-makers and thus support better decision making on management strategies.
- Create Data Reporting Networks—Create data products, reporting networks, and mechanisms to share scientific findings and lessons. Herein, SIDS can take advantage of the Ocean Data and Information System Catalogue (ODIS, ) to find ocean-related web-based data products or participate in existing networks such as the Ocean Acidification International Coordination Centre (OA-ICC; ) and the Global Ocean Observing System (GOOS, )
- Improve Local Modelling Projections—Advance the resolution of existing scenario models to help identify and address local priorities and issues.
- Advance Scientific Understanding—Conduct national/regional vulnerability assessments to identify the potential impact of climate change and anthropogenic activity on key ecological, cultural, and economic marine resources and species, as well as the communities that depend on them.
- Optimize Research—Enhance the research capacity and infrastructure by developing low-cost instrumentation and secondary standards to reduce costs and help SIDS to gather, access, and use data to take ownership in capacity building activities and decision-making. There is also a necessity to make pre-existing technology (e.g., autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs); Argo floats; conductivity, temperature, and depth instruments (CTDs); Gliders; Monitoring Buoys etc.) globally available to obtain relevant data for effective adaptation, mitigation, and resilience strategies.
- Take Meaningful Actions and Implement Solution-based Strategies—Reduce the causes of climate change and anthropogenic activity by implementing effective mitigation, resilience, and adaptation strategies, tailored to local and regional needs and priorities. Some marine problems can be circumvented with human interventions, e.g., reduction of atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations, solar radiation management, protection of biota and ecosystems, and manipulation of biological and ecological adaptation . One example of an effective climate change action is championed by the Blue Carbon Initiative  which aims to mitigate climate change through the restoration and sustainable use of coastal and marine ecosystems such as mangroves, tidal marshes, and seagrasses. The success of existing and emerging management strategies has to be validated and quantified with scientific means. Networks such as EVALSDGs , the International Organization for Cooperation in Evaluation (IOCE; ), and Eval4Action  can support SIDS to effectively evaluate efforts on the timely delivery of SDGs to guide evidence-based decision-making.
- Raise Public Awareness—Inform and educate the wider public about current and emerging local marine challenges and their impacts on social, environmental, and economic security to develop local awareness, expertise, knowledge, and thereby drive action. Initiatives such as UNESCO’s Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) program  and the Sandwatch program  can support regional efforts in SIDS via climate change education.
- Coordination and facilitation of capacity building at a national and sub-national level—To empower national ownership and local leadership, the involvement of stakeholders at the national level is necessary to understand national capacity needs, define and shape the national capacity building agenda, and subsequently guide and coordinate appropriate national capacity efforts. Coordinated governmental bodies, agencies, and institutions, with clearly defined responsibilities and duties, are a requirement to effectively and efficiently guide, navigate, and facilitate the implementation and management of capacity building efforts and SDGs without duplication and fragmentation . Herein, the Ocean Action Hub platform  and organizations such as GOA-ON  can be used to support SIDS in creating web-based and regional science hubs to facilitate multi-stakeholder engagement in order to address regional challenges, needs, and priorities as a collective.
- Enhancementof Collaboration and Coordination—Bridging the gap between scientists, communities, and policy makers is an essential component to increase awareness and understanding of marine risks and to develop mitigation and adaptation responses and resource management strategies targeted to local priorities. Further, there is a need for more sustainable and effective international partnerships and collaborations between and among developed and developing nations to build capacity, transfer technology, link initiatives, share networks, and mobilise resources. International organizations such as the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO (IOC-UNESCO; ) and The Ocean Foundation  can help SIDS to facilitate dialogue among stakeholders and further catalyse partnerships among scientists, policymakers, academia, businesses, industry, and the public.
- Increase Sustained Financial Support—Develop coordinated funding strategies and identify existing or potential funding sources that will help complement regional long-term actions such as research, monitoring, and outreach activities. There is a strong need for long-term funding in SIDS to support ongoing costs of analysis centers (e.g., maintenance, staffing, quality control, standard solutions, and consumables) and to guarantee efficient monitoring efforts and outputs relevant to improve and inform modelling predictions, national strategies, and policy. There are many regional and multi-lateral funding opportunities available for SIDS including those endorsed by the World Bank’s Global Environment Facility (GEF), the EU’s Advancing Capacity to support Climate Change Adaptation project, the Asian Development Bank, the Adaptation Fund (AF), the Climate Investment Funds (CIF), and most recently the Green Climate Fund (GCF).
5. Research Infrastructure and Capacities in UN SIDS
6. Conclusion and the Way Forward
- Collect data—Gather more data on human resources, research infrastructures, and institutional capacities and facilities to create regional information baselines. In this connection, it is important that the public websites of institutions have easily-navigated site maps and include up-to-date information on institutional research facilities and capabilities. Regional initiatives (i.e., WIOMSA, SPREP, and CCCCC) will also be key in gathering and updating capacity information outside the tertiary environment and in carrying out activities to improve it.
- Put data networks in place—Data on research capacities, capabilities, and infrastructures have to be made publicly available and easily accessible via data products and networks to share data and thus inform governments, policymakers, and the international community to support better decision making. The current lack of information sharing and accessibility is supported by the fact that the IAEA’s TC Programme supports 23 SIDS, 14, 5 and 4 of which are situated in the Caribbean, Pacific, and AIS region, respectively, but as of yet only 12 SIDS report on available research capacities and infrastructures for nuclear and isotopic science, including organic and inorganic geochemistry.
- Identify metrics—Reliable assessment procedures and metrics have to be put in place to evaluate the progress of capacity building efforts and serve as an analytical base to understand patterns and determinants of successful capacity building programs . Frameworks such the Capacity Building Initiative for Transparency (CBIT; ) under the UNFCCC can help SIDS to track and report progress of existing and future country commitments.
- Increase sustained funding and expertise—The previously listed measures can only be realized if appropriate access to funding and expertise is put in place. The required financial resources are unlikely to be met from national government budgets since the lack of funding and expertise is the single major impediment in SIDS to sustainably carry out sustainable marine development in the first place . Therefore, the long-term provision of financial resources and capacity building in SIDS must be sought through international and intergovernmental cooperation (lending/funding/donor/aid agencies) to enable SIDS to become equal partners in dealing with global economic and environmental issues .
Conflicts of Interest
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(US$ Billion, 2018)
|GDP Per Capita (US$, 2018)||GDP Growth|
|Travel and Tourism (% of GDP, 2018)||Agriculture, Forestry, and Fishing|
(% of GDP, 2017/18)
|Industry (Including Construction)|
(% of GDP, 2017/18)
|Services (% of GDP, 2017/18)||Exports (% of GDP, 2017/18)||Imports (% of GDP, 2017/18)|
|Antigua and Barbuda||1.62||16727.0||4.9||13.1||1.7||19.3||68.0||41.6||46.9|
|British Virgin Islands||0.94||-||-||33.0||-||-||-||-||-|
|St. Kitts and Nevis||0.96||19275.4||3.0||6.6||1.2||23.9||63.9||54.1||53.6|
|St. Vincent & Grenadines||0.78||7361.4||2.6||6.0||6.7||15.0||62.3||35.2||55.2|
|Trinidad and Tobago||23.88||17129.9||0.7||2.8||0.5||39.0||57.1||-||-|
|Turks and Caicos Islands||0.96||27142.2||5.3||-||0.5||9.7||74.4||-||-|
|U.S. Virgin Islands||5.18||35938.0||−1.7||18.2||-||-||-||72.5||78.6|
|C. of Northern Marianas||1.24||-||-||-||-||-||-||-||-|
|F. S. of Micronesia||0.33||3568.3||1.4||27.1||6.1||61.9||26.6||72.4|
|Papua New Guinea||20.69||2730.3||0.4||0.7||17.9||34.7||-||72.2||58.9|
|Sao Tome and Principe||0.41||2001.1||2.7||10.63||11.4||14.8||71.8||-||-|
|Key Area||Marine Challenge|
|Marine Litter/ Wastewater|
|Ocean and Climate||Biodiversity Damage and Loss|
|Sea Level Rise |
Severe Weather and Natural Disasters
|Marine Resources||Loss of Habitat|
|Exploitation of Marine Resources/Overfishing|
|Island State||Expenditure-on Tertiary Education 2018|
(% of Government Expenditure on Education)
|Total Government Expenditure on Education 2018 (% of Government Expenditure)||Research and Development Expenditure 2018 (% of GDP)||Scientific and Technical Journal Articles (2016)|
|Antigua and Barbuda||7||6.9||-||8|
|St. Kitts and Nevis||15||8.6||21|
|St. Vincent & Grenadines||7||18.8||0.12||2|
|Trinidad and Tobago||10||-||-||3|
|F.S. of Micronesia||23||14.3||-||155|
|Papua New Guinea||9||10.5||-||5|
|Sao Tome and Principe||10||18.4||-||1|
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Zitoun, R.; Sander, S.G.; Masque, P.; Perez Pijuan, S.; Swarzenski, P.W. Review of the Scientific and Institutional Capacity of Small Island Developing States in Support of a Bottom-up Approach to Achieve Sustainable Development Goal 14 Targets. Oceans 2020, 1, 109-132. https://doi.org/10.3390/oceans1030009
Zitoun R, Sander SG, Masque P, Perez Pijuan S, Swarzenski PW. Review of the Scientific and Institutional Capacity of Small Island Developing States in Support of a Bottom-up Approach to Achieve Sustainable Development Goal 14 Targets. Oceans. 2020; 1(3):109-132. https://doi.org/10.3390/oceans1030009Chicago/Turabian Style
Zitoun, Rebecca, Sylvia G. Sander, Pere Masque, Saul Perez Pijuan, and Peter W. Swarzenski. 2020. "Review of the Scientific and Institutional Capacity of Small Island Developing States in Support of a Bottom-up Approach to Achieve Sustainable Development Goal 14 Targets" Oceans 1, no. 3: 109-132. https://doi.org/10.3390/oceans1030009