The World Bank/WBIs CBNRM Initiative

Case Received: January 28, 1998

Author: Winston Fiander

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National Strategies for Sustainable Development of Caribbean Small Island States -- From Vision to Action

Identification of the Case

Sustainable development is a multi-dimensional concept that rests on the pillars of economic, social, cultural, political and environmental sustainability. Partnership arrangements with leaders in governments and civil society including NGOs, educators, the media, business, fishing, agriculture, etc. are essential to sustainable development in order to draw on the broadest base of expertise and to strengthen commitment to action.

In the Caribbean, sustainable development presents unique challenges because of the small island context in which development occurs. In this context development requires making decisions that seek to achieve a balance between the finite carrying capacity of small island ecosystems and the need to achieve economic growth to meet the aspirations of present and future generations.

The Initial Situation

Sustainability of the environment in the Caribbean is critical to the economies of the small island states that make up the region. Tourism, the economic engine of the islands, as well as their agriculture, fisheries, water supply, and recreational activities are all intricately linked to environmental sustainability.

The traditional response to environmental issues is policies, programs, and institutions that attempt to compartmentalize issues and address them one by one. We now recognize that environment issues cannot be treated in isolation but must be addressed in a manner that ensures they are an integral part of all planning and decision making. Strategies were needed to ensure a comprehensive approach to environmental sustainability and to infuse environmental considerations into planning and decision making of government and all sectors of civil society.

The Reform Process

The Caribbean Conservation Association (CCA) through its CIDA funded Natural Resource Management for Sustainable Development Project launched an initiative to assist countries in the Eastern Caribbean to develop National Strategies for Sustainable Development (NSSDs) to provide a mechanism to achieve better integration of government plans and programs in relation to the environment. The national strategies would also provide donor and technical agencies operating at the regional level with a framework within which to position their programs and projects, and thereby establish a basis for improved coordination of environment programs.

National Strategies for Sustainable Development would aim to:

NSSDs had three levels of conceptualization. An NSSD would:

Vision, Principles, and Performance Criteria

A clear vision of how the limited land and sea based natural resources will be allocated over the long term is essential to a sustainable development strategy for the small island states of the eastern Caribbean. At the macro level, the NSSD initiative will focus on assisting islands with the development of a vision and framework for sustainability.

The vision statement would articulate government policy regarding long term use of land, the coastal zone and the extended economic zone as the key macro level environmental elements essential to sustainability. These policies would articulate long term land use targets consistent with the broad development objectives of the government and would be aimed at achieving the right balance amongst competing land use needs in forestry, agriculture, tourism, industry, transportation infrastructure, waste disposal, and human settlement. Similarly, a policy statement on coastal zone utilization would deal with competing demands for coastal areas to meet requirements of the tourism industry, fisheries, and recreational users, and as a sink for the disposal of waste.

The vision statement might take the form of a white paper that would set out for public discussion the principles that would act as a guide to all sectors of society including the government on the sustainable use of the environment. The white paper might deal with such things as keeping within the carrying capacity of ecosystems, minimizing the depletion of non-renewable resources, empowering communities to care for their environment, and integrating environment into development decision making.

Specific strategic performance criteria would be used to asses progress in achieving the overall vision over the long term. For example, percentage of land allocated to forestry, settlement, and agriculture, targeted sustainable yields from fishing, and forestry, proportion of land and coastal areas set aside as park land, populations of select wildlife species, etc.

National strategies for sustainable development would also make provision for the design and implementation of the programs and administrative machinery needed to manage ecosystems in a small island context. Country Environment Profiles (CEPs), completed for each of the six OECS countries, document the issues and critique the frameworks in place for managing the environment in six eastern Caribbean countries. CEPs would provide an excellent staring point for program planning in each of the six countries.

For each of the land based sectors (forestry, freshwater, agriculture, solid waste, coastal zone, agriculture, bio-diversity, etc.) and the coastal and offshore marine based sectors (fisheries, tourism, liquid waste, etc.) various options for controlling the resource would be explored, and options chosen taking into consideration financial, political and other constraints, and the result desired. Program options such as updating legislation, monitoring environmental conditions, conducting analysis of various environmental phenomena, use of technology, education and public awareness programs, using incentives, changing decision making processes, protecting certain spaces and species, and institutional strengthening are discussed in an attachment to this paper.

Work Plans - Acting Locally on Priority Issues

Within the context of the vision and national framework for managing the environment, priority items would then be selected and project WORK PLANS developed to implement environment programs.

WORK PLANS would detail the planned activities and deliverables that will be undertaken during year one of the 3 - 5 year planning period referred to above. For each major deliverable, the costs, sources of funding, and the individual accountability for acting on it will be identified. Deliverables will include such things as funding proposals, legislative changes presented to parliament, environmental monitoring systems in place, public awareness programs launched, etc.

The Outcome

The process was launched by five Caribbean islands - St. Kitts, Nevis, Antigua, Tobago, and Grenada- with varying degrees of success. Important initiatives were launched and changes were made to the way governments plan their development initiatives. However, the most important change occurred in the minds of the community leaders who participated in the NSSD process. Through the process they became aware of the issues and the part they could play in securing sustainability. It is a real challenge to maintain interest and momentum for environment initiatives.

Lessons Learned

Partnership arrangements with all sectors of society are fundamental to sustainable development. Workshops, advisory committees, and other mechanisms will be used to involve people from all walks of life in setting priorities, defining results, defining responsibilities, and monitoring progress. Consultations with leaders in politics, the public service, the tourism industry, youth, business, the media, education, health professions, etc. will be a key element of the NSSD development process in order to draw on the broadest base of expertise and to strengthen commitment to action.

Because of the inter-sectoral nature of sustainable development and environmental management, the commitment and support of a number of government departments, NGOs, and private sector organizations will be critical to the success a national strategy for sustainable development.

Alliances amongst all major stakeholders is essential. Task forces, interagency committees, etc. will be required to forge that alliance, but these instruments will work only if there is an individual dedicated to orchestrating the work and ensuring that progress is maintained. An "environment desk" or equivalent was recommended for each island to oversee the development of NSSDS and to facilitate networking during implementation to mobilize all stakeholders.

Developing national strategies for sustainable development in the eight island states of the Eastern Caribbean has to be seen as a long term undertaking in the best of circumstances. It will demand patience, persistence, determination, and cooperation of all partners at the national, regional and international levels. The initiative will suffer many set backs from a variety of sources at the national level as governments divert their attention away from the issues being addressed, important though they may be, to deal with urgent issues of the day.

In the final analysis having a framework within which to position projects will enhance the effectiveness of all environment and development efforts of the small island states of the Caribbean.