Islands are the canaries in the coal mine for how we treat our planet. Photo UNDP Maldives

I love working for islands, and not just because of their nature, people and weather. Islands are the canaries in the coal mine for how we treat our planet. They are not responsible for climate change, but bear the brunt of its impact.

Islands may be “big ocean states”, but their small size poses challenges: over-dependency on food and energy imports and on a few economic sectors like tourism. The so-called “brain drain” of talent makes it even tougher to manage its cost and waste. As Small Island Developing States (SIDS) face similar challenges, it only makes sense that solutions are shared, to do more with less and not reinvent wheels. Also, due to their constraints, islands are laboratories for sustainable solutions for the rest of the world.  We need to bridge these islands of knowledge!

This is where UNDP’s Centre of Excellence for SIDS (COE) comes in. It is a relatively young initiative, launched by the Government of Aruba and the Kingdom of the Netherlands. I became its manager in 2016 after 10 years at the World Bank Group in Washington, DC.

The COE helps SIDS with their sustainable development challenges. We facilitate knowledge flows in sustainability, innovation and resilience in ways that our audience of policymakers prefer. Using innovative approaches and leveraging our network, we manage to do a lot with a little, all for a positive impact on islands. It often reminds me of Churchill’s quote: “Now that we have run out of money, we have to think.” So here is my thinking: 3 lessons on how we’ve managed to do more with less. Hopefully it can inspire organizations, small and large, to rethink approaches in development:

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