About UNEP UNEP Offices News Centre Publications
Calendar Awards Milestones

United Nations Environment Programme
Regional Seas Programme

search UNEP


Barbados Programme of Action for the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States

The populations of small islands are acutely vulnerable to environmental degradation, climate change, overexploitation of fisheries resources, land-based pollution, and natural disasters. Moreover, they share a number of disadvantages, including a limited population, a narrow range of available resources, excessive dependence on international trade and vulnerability to global developments. In addition, they suffer from lack of economies of scale, high transportation and communication costs, and costly public administration and infrastructure.

In April 1994 a global conference was held in Barbados to consider how small island States could face up to their special challenges. The Global Conference on the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States determined that sustainable development was the logical answer, and adopted the Barbados Programme of Action for the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States to help bring it about.

Some 125 States and territories participated in the conference, 46 of which were small island developing States and territories. As part of the follow-up action, the Commission on Sustainable Development, in the context of its Multi-Year thematic Programme of Work, reviewed the implementation of the Barbados Programme of Action at its fourth session in 1996 and its sixth session in 1998.

The Inter-Agency Committee on Sustainable Development considers on a regular basis the United Nations system-wide coordination in the implementation of the Conference outcome.

At present, forty-one small island developing States and territories are included in the list used by the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs in monitoring the progress in the implementation of the Barbados Programme of Action. These states and territories often work together through the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) which also includes small low-lying coastal States. All of the 41 are participants in one of the Regional Seas programmes, and in fact two of the regions are dominated by small island developing States and territories: The Wider Caribbean and the South Pacific.

To facilitate the follow-up to the conference and the implementation of the Programme of Action, a SIDS unit was placed within the United Nations Division for Sustainable Development.

Programme of Action

The Small Islands Developing States Programme of Action (SIDS/POA) explicitly identify coastal and marine resources as an area requiring urgent action and asks for the establishment and/or strengthening of programmes within the framework of the GPA and the Regional Seas programmes, to assess the impact of planning and development on the coastal environment, including coastal communities, wetlands, coral reefs habitats and the areas under the national jurisdiction of SIDS and to implement the POA.

As a group, SIDS have special needs if they are to develop in a sustainable way. They share characteristics that make them economically, environmentally and socially vulnerable to shocks over which they exercise little or no control, placing them at a distinct disadvantage in comparison with larger countries. The marine and coastal environments of SIDS represent a vital resource for socio-economic development. Marine and coastal areas encompass diverse ecosystems and habitats, which perform a number of functions and services.

The Regional Seas Programme provides an important globally coordinated, region-wide mechanism to implement all relevant global environmental conventions and agreements. SIDS mainly dominate two regions; the Wider Caribbean and the South Pacific, but all SIDS are part of a Regional Seas programme.

In 2002, the United Nations General Assembly called for a comprehensive review of the Barbados Programme of Action (BPoA) which was adopted in 1994. The BPoA sets forth specific actions and measures at the national, regional, and international levels in support of the sustainable development of the small island developing States (SIDS). In 2005, the International community will convene in Mauritius to discuss recommendations for further and successful implementation of the BPoA.

For more information:
SIDS website
SIDS website of United Nations/Sustainable Development
SIDS website of FAO
SIDS website of UNDP
AOSIS website
UNEP islands website