A paradisical island in the Seychelles archipelago is exemplary of the beautiful but vulnerable ecosystems that will be protected from toxic waste. - Image courtesy of Tommaso Nervegna
A paradisical island in the Seychelles archipelago is exemplary of the beautiful but vulnerable ecosystems that will be protected from toxic waste. – Image and copyright Tommaso Nervegna.
Local fishermen standing up in fishing boat; fishing will benefit from management of waste and chemical pollution. 
Image and copyright Ian Lyons.
Local fishing will benefit from management of waste and chemical pollution.
Image and copyright Ian Lyons.

Washington DC, 12 June 2019 – Twenty-seven Small Island Developing States will come together in a bid to manage and eliminate toxic chemicals and waste in some of the world’s most vulnerable ecosystems under a new initiative announced today in Washington DC.

Backed by $61 million in funding from the Global Environment Facility (GEF), with partner co-financing of over $389 million, the Implementing Sustainable Low and Non-Chemical Development in Small Island Developing States program – or ‘ISLANDS’ – will support island states across the Caribbean, the Pacific and the Indian Ocean to manage the growing impacts of chemicals and wastes on their unique environments.

Addressing the 56th GEF Council meeting in Washington DC, GEF CEO and Chairperson Naoko Ishii highlighted the ISLANDS program as “one of the … exciting programs to address emerging issues which require immediate action through the creation of effective platforms.”

Ms. Ishii said that while environmental challenges were growing, the world’s ability to address them was also becoming stronger, presenting “an historic opportunity to come together to make a difference”.

While their small size, relative isolation and unique biodiversity place many SIDS amongst the world’s most sought-after tourist destinations – with the sector representing more than 30 per cent of SIDS’ total exports – they are also especially vulnerable to environmental threats.

In the Caribbean for example, the approximately 75 million night stays per year are estimated to generate as much as 166 million tons of waste annually. Meanwhile, economic development and growing populations are squeezing many islands’ natural resources, straining waste management infrastructure and putting pressure on the fragile ecosystems – like beaches, reefs and other coastal resources – that the islands rely on to survive.

“As countries with limited land space it is critical to be able to prevent a build of toxic materials in our environment. The ISLANDS program will help us to achieve this through creating the enabling policy and legislative environment to manage chemicals and waste responsibly.”

Jewel Batchasingh, Acting Director of the Basel Convention Regional Centre for Training and Technology Transfer for the Caribbean.

Supported by UN Environment, the United Nations Development Program, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and the Inter-American Development Bank, the ISLANDS program will work to eliminate 23,236 metric tons of toxic chemicals, including 38 metric tons of mercury and 619 metric tons of persistent organic pollutants (POPs), as well as avoiding the release of over 185,000 metric tons of marine litter.

“Small Island Developing States are living each day with the devastating impacts of climate change and pollution. The challenge of protecting these unique and vulnerable ecosystems is a global one and we are all responsible. In supporting island nations in better managing the growing threat of toxic chemicals and waste, we can play an important role in strengthening their ability to meet global commitments and become world leaders in sustainability.

UN Environment Acting Executive Director Joyce Msuya
Leaping dolphin trailing spray.
Dolphins are frequently encountered off the Caribbean island of St. Lucia. Christopher Cox image and copyright.

More About ISLANDS
The Implementing Sustainable Low and Non-Chemical Development in Small Island Developing States (ISLANDS) program is a $450-million, five-year initiative backed by the Global Environment Facility and partners, implemented with the support of UN Environment, the United Nations Development Program, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and the Inter-American Development Bank. Participating countries include: Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Belize, Cook Islands, Dominican Republic, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Guyana, Kiribati, Maldives, Marshall Islands, Mauritius, Nauru, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Samoa, Seychelles, Solomon Islands, Suriname, Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, Tuvalu, Union of Comoros, and Vanuatu.

Seychelles image and copyright, Nick Greenfield.

About UN Environment
UN Environment is the leading global voice on the environment. It provides leadership and encourages partnership in caring for the environment by inspiring, informing, and enabling nations and peoples to improve their quality of life without compromising that of future generations. UN Environment works with governments, the private sector, civil society and with other UN entities and international organizations across the world.

A yacht off St Lucia's Soufriere Bay. Image by Christopher Cox.
Tourist revenue is important to small island nations and it is important to protect the beautiful environment from waste pollution. A yacht off St Lucia’s Soufriere Bay. Image by Christopher Cox.

About the Global Environment Facility
The Global Environment Facility was established on the eve of the 1992 Rio Earth Summit to help tackle our planet’s most pressing environmental problems. Since then, the GEF has provided over $18.1 billion in grants and mobilized an additional $94.2 billion in co-financing for more than 4,500 projects in 170 countries. Today, the GEF is an international partnership of 183 countries, international institutions, civil society organizations and the private sector that addresses global environmental issues.