Implementing and Monitoring the Sustainable Development Goals in the Caribbean: The Role of the Ocean

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This project is supported by NASA under grant 80NSSC17K0241.


Mapping the requirements for ocean observations serving the implementation and monitoring of the SDGs and matching these requirements to data, products, and knowledge.


2030 Agenda and Earth Observations

Many governments are working on the execution of the United Nation’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The implementation and monitoring of the seventeen Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the Agenda pose wicked problems to society. Making progress towards the SDGs is further complicated by many interconnections and interactions between the individual goals that are variable across different economic, social, and cultural settings.

Monitoring progress towards the SDG Targets depends on geospatial data of the environment. Likewise, the development of transformational policies that can facilitate progress towards the SDGs hinges on knowledge derived from data related to the state and trajectory of the Earth system. One of the three engagement priorities of the Group on Earth Observations (GEO) is the support of the 2030 Agenda. At the core of this engagement priority is the GEO Initiative “Earth Observations in Service of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development” (EO4SDGs), which is co-led by NASA. The GEO Initiative “Oceans and Society: Blue Planet” (see also the description in the GEO Work Programme) has a focus on the SDGs, particularly SDG 14 “Life Under Water.” The GEO Initiatives, Community Activities and Foundational Tasks supporting the 2030 Agenda are in need of a better understanding of the observational requirements to serve the 2030 Agenda. Identifying the observational needs for the co-creation of the knowledge required to execute the 2030 Agenda necessitates a system approach considering the data needs of the full set of the SDGs.

Implementing the SDGs in Small Island States

The governments cannot implement the SDGs without the people, and they cannot implement them for the people; they have to implement them with the people. This necessitates to bring the SDGs to the people in a way that demonstrates the benefits of the 2030 Agenda to the people. The government in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) use a “real-world space” (RWS) concept to create ownership for the SDGs in communities. Earth observations, knowledge derived from Earth observations, and other data are fundamental in this effort. Most of the knowledge relevant to SDG implementation in the Samll Island States (SIS) relates in one way or another to the surrounding ocean.

The Ocean and SDGs

The challenges faced by the SIS in the execution of the 2030 Agenda are closely linked with the ocean surrounding these states. In these locations, for almost all of the SDGs, there is a strong interconnection with SDG 14. Moreover, in the SIS, reaching most of the SDGs requires ocean-related policies and actions.

Human interactions with the Earth’s life-support system (ELSS) have impacted the physical, chemical, and biological state of the ocean and triggered distinct trends in the ocean system and its functional position in the ELSS. The trends in marine ecosystems, ocean circulation, the global water cycle, and sea level have many impacts on human communities and influence progress towards most of the goals. For SIS, the changing ocean poses a particular challenge.

Workshop Scope and Participation

In a collaborative effort of GEO Initiatives led by the Blue Planet Initiative, SIS governments, United Nations Agencies, and regional NGOs, a workshop is organized to take place on January 17-19, 2018 in SVG. This workshop will bring together stakeholders representing the governments of the SIS, Earth observation providers, scientists, NGOs, and private businesses with the goal to link on-going efforts to implement and monitor the SDGs in the Caribbean SIS to required ocean observations and engage in the co-creation of the knowledge needed by these governments. The overarching goal is to fully map the requirements for ocean observations serving the implementation and monitoring of the SDGs. Working with the governments in the SIS and participating in their efforts to implement the 2030 Agenda is a novel avenue to better understand what ocean observations are required and what products are available to inform their decisions. In a co-usage effort with the SIS government, these requirements will be used to match existing data sets and services to the requirements and engage in a co-creation process for the knowledge needed for the implementation and the monitoring of progress towards SDG Targets.

The workshop is part of a project supported by NASA that aims to engage with governments to identify knowledge needs and ocean observation requirements related to SDG implementation and monitoring, match these needs and requirements to existing products, identify gaps, and inform relevant GEO components about the findings. It also has the goal to prepare information to the GEO Plenary 2017 to be held on October 25-26, 2017 in Washington, D.C. and to develop a demonstration pilot for the 2018 GEO Plenary.

Workshop and Project Outcomes

The main outcomes of the project include a workshop report summarizing the results of the deliberations, a white paper detailing the relevance of ocean observations for the implementation and monitoring of SDGs in Caribbean SIS, and a demonstration pilot for the GEO Plenary in 2018. A road map will provide details on how to ensure support of SDG implementation and monitoring in SIS with data and products and how to facilitate the co-usage of the products and the co-creation of knowledge. These outcomes are of central importance to the GEO Blue Planet Initiative and contribute to EO4SDGs. They also are of value to all other GEO components that are engaged in supporting the 2030 Agenda. NASA contributes significantly to the implementation of the GEO Work Programme, and the outcomes can be used to prioritize resources NASA makes available for GEO Work Programme activities.