GLOBAL: UN-Spain aid small island development

The United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs and Spain have launched a joint US$2.8 million initiative to boost access to technology among the world's small islands.

The project carries the title Capacity Development through Education for Sustainable Development and Knowledge Management for Small Island Developing States. The unfortunate acronym for the states is SIDS, the Spanish name for AIDS.

Sha Zukang, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, and Juan Antonio Yáňez-Barnuevo, UN Permanent Representative for Spain, signed a trust fund agreement for the project last Tuesday in New York.

"This project offers a more sustainable path for growth and development," Yáňez-Barnuevo said.

SIDS consists of 51 countries that hold about 5% of the global population. The islands are often categorised according to their three regions: the Caribbean, the Pacific and the AIMS (Africa, Indian Ocean, Mediterranean and South China Sea).

Funded by Spain, the initiative aims at tackling the critical challenges facing island states, including remoteness, isolation and geographic dispersion, poor connectivity and data management, particularly through information and communication technology, as well as limited human and technological capacity.

The project will focus on helping remote and vulnerable groups of islands to create a pool of local and international expertise that can be tapped to address a wide range of development obstacles. These include limited internet connectivity, access to affordable technology and institutional and human resources.

To enhance higher education reform, a virtual curriculum, web-based tools and e-resources will be provided to deliver education for sustainable development. The distance education component of the project will be in partnership with the University Consortium of Small Island States (UCSIS), which includes the universities of Malta, Mauritius, the South Pacific, the Virgin Islands and the West Indies.

The project will help in strengthening universities by setting up a database for island publications and academic research as well as enhancing south-south and SIDS-SIDS sharing of best higher education practices and promoting technology transfer.

The Small Island Developing States Network will be reinvigorated by the creation of a much-needed central knowledge management system and an information clearing house for the SIDS.