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Island Biodiversity - What Needs to be Done?

A number of international forums on sustainable development in recent years have outlined workplans to address the challenges faced by islands, particularly small island developing States (SIDS). Agenda 21 (Chapter 17, G), one of the documents stemming from The United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (The Earth Summit) in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, recognized small island developing States (SIDS) and islands supporting small communities as “a special case for both environment and development."

Agenda 21 set out a number of activities for implementing sustainable development in SIDS, including increasing knowledge, techniques, data and information, plans and response strategies, technology, human resources development and capacity-building, and emphasized the cooperation and assistance of the international community as essential to its achievement.

Two years later, in 1994, the United Nations Conference on the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States produced The Barbados Programme of Action (BPoA) for the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States, which is still considered the blueprint for SIDS and the international community to address national and regional sustainable development in SIDS. Addressing the economic, social and environmental issues inherent in sustainable development, it calls for national, regional and international action in 14 priority areas, including biodiversity resources, climate change and sea-level rise, coastal and marine resources, freshwater resources, land resources and tourism resources.

Under biodiversity resources, the BPoA calls for such actions as the development of strategies for the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity, provision of public education on biodiversity, establishment of genebanks for in-situ reintroduction in case of disaster, research on and inventories of biodiversity, protection of intellectual property rights, the involvement of non-governmental organizations, women and indigenous and local community groups, regional action to protect biologically significant sites, studies of the value of biological resources, the regional exchange of information, capacity-building, protection of SIDS from the introduction of alien invasive species, and improved access to financial and technical resources for the conservation and management of biodiversity.

The BPoA has since been endorsed and supported by the twenty-second special session of the General Assembly (1999); the Millennium Declaration (2000); and the Plan of Implementation of the World Summit on Sustainable Development (2002), which called for accelerated national and regional implementation and adequate financial resources, transfer of technologies and assistance for capacity-building; and the Mauritius Strategy for the Further Implementation of the Programme of Action for the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States, which, in 2005, called for the “further full and effective implementation of the Barbados Programme of Action” and renewed the commitment on the part of the international community to assist SIDS in implementing the BPoA.

For its part, the Conference of the Parties to the CBD decided, at its seventh meeting in 2004, that a specific programme of work for island biodiversity was needed to squarely address the problems facing these unique ecosystems.

Information and input from the international forums above was taken into account in the drafting of the new programme of work on island biodiversity, adopted through decision VIII/1 at the eighth meeting of the Conference of the Parties in 2006. It sets out almost 50 priority actions for Parties, organized under 11 goals and seven focal areas, aimed at achieving the three main objectives of the Convention and, more specifically, at reducing island biodiversity loss by 2010 and beyond as a contribution to poverty alleviation and the sustainable development of islands, particularly small island developing States. The implementation of the programme of work thereby contributes to the objectives of the Strategic Plan of the Convention on Biological Diversity, the Barbados Programme of Action, the Plan of Implementation of the World Summit on Sustainable Development, the Mauritius Strategy for the Further Implementation of the Barbados Programme of Action for the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States and the Millennium Development Goals.

In 2008, COP 9 adopted decision IX/21, which recognizes the Global Island Partnership (GLISPA) as one of the mechanisms to implement the island biodiversity programme of work, welcomes the establishment of a coordination mechanism for GLISPA, to be hosted by the IUCN, calls on donors to assist island Parties and Parties with islands to implement the programme and requests SBSTTA 15 to undertake an in-depth review of the programme of work for consideration by COP 11.

  • United Nations
  • United Nations Environment Programme