Facing the Future Together: Collaboration as the Key to Success of Island Communities

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“If you want to lift yourself up, lift up someone else.” These words, spoken by the great orator, author and educator Booker T. Washington, are indicative of a truth that many island nations have come to realise: One of the most effective and enriching ways to build social, economic, cultural and educational resilience is to work together to conquer challenges. The past few years have indeed brought their fair share of challenges in the form of climate change, the COVID-19 pandemic, supply chain issue, and economic crisis. However, the challenges have also illustrated that nothing is impossible to overcome when islands from across the globe choose to focus on amplifying each others’ voices, and seeking solutions to common issues.  The United Nations Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 17 aims to strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development. According to the UN, these SDGs can only be realised “if we work together. International investments and support is needed to ensure innovative technological development, fair trade and market access, especially for developing countries. To build a better world, we need to be supportive, empathetic, inventive, passionate, and above all, cooperative.”

Essential Targets to Achieve Effective Cooperation

In outlining the key aspects of SDG 17, Partnership for the Goals, the United Nations have outlined some crucial areas of focus.  These include the necessity of enhancing global macroeconomic stability, the importance of mobilising financial resources for developing countries from international sources, and strengthening domestic capacities for revenue collection. Another vital area of focus is the importance of trade for developing countries, and equitable rules for governing international trade. In addition to all of this, SDG 17 emphasises the importance of access to science, technology and innovation, in particular internet-based information and communications technology. The areas that are more relevant to island communities include mobilisation of financial resources from international sources, the importance of trade, and access to science, technology, and internet-based information.

Mobilisation of Financial Resources from International Sources

Behind the picturesque scenes of blue skies and crystal clear water of many islands, lies the reality of vulnerability in the context of island communities’ ability to build resilience in the face of climate change. Both the Kyoto Protocol and Paris Agreement have established that those member states with greater access to financial resources are obligated to play a greater part in ensuring that these resources are allocated to the more vulnerable territories, such as islands. It has also been argued that there is a moral imperative to do so, especially in light of the fact that Least Developed Countries, of which island territories form a significant portion, are responsible for a mere 1.1% of global greenhouse gas emissions, yet are on the forefront of being ravaged by the climate crisis. During COP26, the leaders of SIDS called on the international community to  ensure access to financial contributions from developed and industrialized countries, as they are a key component to ensuring survival in the face of the climate crisis.

The Importance of Trade

Trade is fundamental to ending global poverty, and to building economic and social resilience. Effective trade policies facilitate numerous benefits, and territories open to international trade tend to grow faster, have higher levels of innovation, improve productivity and provide higher income and more opportunities to their residents. For example, in the Caribbean, there is a dependence on exports to produce manufactured products at an efficient scale and trade makes an essential contribution to increasing employment and reducing poverty by supporting growth. Exports are an extremely important source of foreign exchange earnings and cash income generation, employment and growth. This is true of many island territories, and it is ironic that the high dependence on trade also makes island economies vulnerable to external shocks. 

Access to Science, Technology, and Internet-based Information

These three elements are important ways to foster collaboration among island communities. When suitably adapted and individualised, science, technology and innovation initiatives rooted in the combined research of local scenarios and that of larger and more industrialised countries can provide a springboard to foster useful initiatives. This can provide a backbone for best practice with regards to effective design, implementation and operation of science and technology. Regarding internet connectivity, this is an essential feature to ensure viability in all sectors: Governments, civil society, academia, as well as the technological, industrial and hospitality sectors. This level of connectivity prevents islands from being isolated, and facilitates adaptation to change.

Stronger Together: Building a Bridge Between Island Communities

Island communities encapsulate many of the sustainable development challenges facing humanity today (Connell, 2013, Lewis, 1999). These common challenges include climate change vulnerability, food security, unsustainable tourism, and waste management. By becoming a united community, the island nations can effectively collaborate and build visibility on a global level to amplify their needs and the value they add to the world. A focus on community building in this context helps to increase awareness of the social and cultural traits that are shared. This awareness helps to foster meaningful and long-lasting connections. Working together, the island communities can make their voices heard and achieve a more relevant position in the global arena. An example of this was seen when the island territories of Antigua & Barbuda and Tuvalu came together to announce the signing of an Accord on 31 October 2021, which establishes a Commission of Small Island Developing States on Climate Change and International Law.


The most important aspect of collaboration is the opportunity to discuss common problems and opportunities, and eventually discover new ideas and advice. This leads to empowerment and motivation, resulting in a more resilient and sustainable future for islands all over the world.

Click here to register for the 2022 Virtual Island Summit, where you will have the opportunity to communicate and collaborate with representatives from various sectors. The Summit will emphasize the need for input and partnerships from across the private, public, academic and NGO sectors.

We invite you all to save the date for this year’s Virtual Island Summit, scheduled for September 26th to October 2nd. This summit provides a number of exclusive benefits, including free access to world-class experts, interactive sessions in various formats, immersion in a diverse range of viewpoints, and the opportunity to experience cross-sector collaboration. 



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