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2019 has been a rollercoaster for islands around the world. We witnessed the hottest June in history and then in July the hottest month ever recorded. Hurricane Dorian hit the Bahamas, forcing thousands from their homes and caused food and water shortages. Parts of the Marshall Islands were evacuated due to king tides, just as a growing awareness in the US media picked up on the serious issue of nuclear waste buried on Enewetak Atoll.

But many island communities have seen great awareness of their unique needs. The launch of a National Plan for Scotland’s Islands includes a comprehensive list of commitments and sets a direction of travel for the Scottish Government. It also provides a framework for action in order to meaningfully improve outcomes for island communities. Similar plans are underway in the Republic of Ireland, where the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs launched a consultation process to formulate a new national policy for development on the country’s offshore islands.

Elsewhere, Dominica took steps towards tackling hurricanes proactively and to become the world’s first ‘hurricane-proof’ country. Nine countries in the Caribbean also came together to manage and eliminate toxic waste and chemicals as part of a $450 million initiative in partnership with the Global Environment Facility.

Many islands put sustainable development and climate change at the forefront of their governance, regional integration, and diplomatic decisions. Pacific Island leaders put climate change first at the China-Pacific islands forum held in Samoa. A number of summits, including the Caribbean Community conference in July, and the UN Summit on SIDS were also instrumental in rekindling sustainable development challenges specific to island nations, as well as a review of the SAMOA Pathway among many other measures.

Island nations will face climate change and sustainability challenges head-on as we move to 2020. The genesis of how these nations will tackle their future relations with the rest of the world already started when the Association of Small Island States (AOSIS) ambassador Lois Young launched a rebuke to the world’s biggest polluters at the recent COP25 Summit held in Madrid – which was widely viewed as unsuccessful.

To create a platform for sharing these experiences, Island Innovation brought together island leaders, organizations, and communities from around the world to share their challenges, talk about solutions and share ideas on the way forward at the Virtual Island Summit in October. This event was free and entirely online, designed to connect global islands to share their common experiences through a digital platform.

As we enter 2020, we will continue to bring islanders together to share lessons and actions taken by that will help to chart the way forward. Keep an eye out for the upcoming announcement of dates for the Virtual Island Summit 2020 and more big opportunities in the year ahead!

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This occasional newsletter highlights events and stories about innovation in sustainable development for rural, remote and island regions. We want to change the discourse to demonstrate how islandness can be a driver for innovation.