In partnership with the consultancy firm Island Innovation, the Strathclyde Centre for Environmental Law and Governance (SCELG) has published a report detailing a survey launched to better understand how various islands have dealt with COVID-19. The two organizations contacted their island networks to collect “raw” data from individuals. This data can help inform policymakers and wider island-related stakeholders in their adaptation to the COVID-19 pandemic. Acknowledging that islands are incredibly diverse in their geography, society, political organization, and economic capacities, and have responded differently to the different challenges the COVID-19 crisis presented them, this report tries to capture some identifiable trends in the answers to the questions posed in the survey, without expecting to provide a comprehensive picture of islands and COVID-19 in the world. The report also opens up a conversation on how to move beyond the first phase of the COVID-19 crisis exploring means and pathways for the promotion of more resilient and sustainable islands.
From the 130 participants in the survey, the overall response proved positive. Respondents varied from government officials, researchers, and members of island communities unaffiliated with any specific organisation. These responses represented 83 islands from 52 countries, which can be viewed on the webpage which details the survey’s questions and data. The survey began on March 22, 2020, and closed on June 1, 2020.
The survey centered mainly on the first phase of fighting the pandemic: preventing the spread of the virus and dealing with lockdown. SCELG and Island Innovation will collaborate on several initiatives focusing on Phase 2 and 3 of the COVID-19 crisis, living through the pandemic and life post COVID-19 respectively.
Overall, islands have performed very well compared to mainland counterparts. Island populations have avoided the worst health consequences of COVID-19. While the geography of an island is helpful, the success which islands experienced during COVID-19 was also due to timely and stringent measures adopted during the lockdown period.
The pandemic has revealed the fragility of several island socio-economic assets, including tourism, food security, heath, and digital infrastructure.
A transparent discussion must drive post-COVID-19 recovery packages for islands. This conversation needs to include key socio-economic stakeholders which influenced islands’ society and economics prior to the pandemic. It should also include those that advocated for moving away from a “business as usual” model and towards a more resilient and sustainable future.
Post-COVID-19 recovery debates for islands must fully account for the complexities of island jurisdiction (island states vs subnational island jurisdictions), island localisation of the Sustainable Development Goals and island efforts to drive a green energy transformation.
Islands engaging in an open and transparent post-COVID-19 recovery debate aimed at promoting a more resilient and sustainable future need to completely embrace the opportunities given to them by digital innovation, without losing track of traditional knowledge and approaches, to bring together island communities.
Overall, the survey spanned globally to provide a comprehensive understanding of how islands have reacted to the COVID-19 pandemic. While the responses were relatively positive, more discussion and planning will be needed to continue surviving this period and prepare for life post-COVID-19. To guide this conversation, the report provides further resources from both SCELG and Island Innovation which explore responses to the COVID-19 pandemic and how to best navigate this period.
Francesco Sindico, Giulia Sajeva, Nicola Sharman, Patricia Berlouis and James Ellsmoor, Islands and COVID-19: A Global Survey, Strathclyde Centre for Environmental Law and Governance and Island Innovation, 2020.