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

Workshop Overview

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. Wicked problems are social or cultural problem that are difficult or impossible to solve because of incomplete or contradictory knowledge, the number of people and opinions involved, the large economic burden associated with progress towards a solution, and the interconnected nature of these problems with other problems. All of this applies to making progress towards the SDGs: Knowledge on how to make progress towards the SDGs is incomplete and contradicting, reaching the SDGs even on a local level involves the whole of society, making progress requires a rethinking of economy (UNRISD, 2016), and the goals are strongly interconnected and there are many interactions between the individual goals that are variable across different economic, social, and cultural settings. For example, poverty (SDG 1) is linked with education (SDG 4), nutrition (SDG 2) with poverty, the economy (SDG 8) with nutrition, and so on. Poverty in California is grossly similar but discretly different from poverty in Angola, and there is no practical set of characteristics that defines poverty.

Monitoring progress towards the SDG Targets presents its own challenge: It is hard and maybe impossible to measure success with wicked problems because they impact one another. However, in the case of the SDGs, a crucial input for assessing progress is geospatial data of the both the human and non-human environment. Likewise, the (iterative) 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. Responding to this need, 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). 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. Other GEO Initiatives, Community Activities and Foundational Tasks support the 2030 Agenda in various ways, and they are in need of a better understanding of the observational requirements to serve the 2030 Agenda. Identifying the observation needs for the co-creation of the knowledge for policy development and monitoring of SDGs can build on approaches developed to address wicked problems (e.g., Conklin, 2006; Brown et al., 2010). Within this setting, a transdiciplinary systems approach that considers the data needs of all SDGs provides a basis for compiling those observation needs that are essential for executing the 2030 Agenda.

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) uses 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 Small 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

The workshop aims to facilitate a dialogue between the governments and people of the Caribbean Small Island States about their efforts to implement and monitor the SDGs and, by monitoring this dialogue, to extract knowledge needs, which then can be related to data needs. The workshop will take place on January 17-19, 2018 in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. The collaborate effort brings together governments and people of the Caribbean Small Island States, Earth observation providers, scientists, United Nations Agencies active in the region, and regional non-governmental organizations with the goal to link on-going efforts to implement and monitor the SDGs in the Caribbean Small Island States to required ocean observations and engage in the co-creation of the knowledge needed by those engaged in SDG implementation. The overarching goal is to fully map the requirements for ocean observations serving the implementation and monitoring of the SDGs. Working with, and monitoring the dialogue of those engaged in 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 governments, these requirements will be used to match existing data sets and services to the requirements and to engage in a co-creation process for the required knowledge.

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 initiate the development of a demonstration pilot for the 2018 GEO Plenary.

Workshop and Project Outcomes

The main outcomes of the project include a workshop report documenting 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. The white paper will provide details on how to ensure support of SDG implementation and monitoring in Caribbean 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. Funding agencies will be able to make use of the outcomes for the prioritization of resources made available for GEO Work Programme activities in service of the 2030 Agenda.

The Program Committee and the Local Organizing Committee are currently under development.

Workshop Program Committee

  • Hans-Peter Plag, Old Dominion University, IEEE, GEO Blue Planet Initiative (Co-Chair)
  • Paul DiGiacomo, NOAA, GEO Blue Planet Initiative (Co-Chair)
  • Emily Smail, NOAA, AquaWatch, GEO Blue Planet Initiative (Co-Chair)
  • Hon. Saboto Caesar, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
  • Lorna Inniss, Monica Borobia-Hill, Caribbean Environment Programme - UN Environment
  • Danielle Evanson, UNDP, Lorenzo Harwood UNDP and OECS
  • Rose Alabaster, Waterlex
  • Douglas Cripe, GEO Secretariat
  • Frank Muller-Karger, University of South Florida, MBON/GEOBON
  • Gabrielle Canonico, NOAA, MBON/GEOBON
  • Rene Garello, OES/IEEE
  • Alan Evans, International and Strategic Partnerships Office, National Oceanography Centre, Southampton
  • Martin LeTissier, Shona Paterson, FutureEarthCoasts

Local Organizing Committee

  • Hon. Saboto Caesar (Chair)
  • Hans-Peter Plag
  • TBD


The Workshop is organized with a number of partners supporting the effort:

  • International Organizations:
    • IEEE/Ocean Engineering Society (OES)
    • ICSU (tbc)
    • Future Earth (tbc)
    • FutureEarthCoasts.
  • Other Partners:
    • Mitigation and Adaptation Research Institute (MARI), Old Dominion University, USA



The workshop will take place on January 17-19, 2018 in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG). The venue will be the Beachcombers Hotel near Kingstown. More information on the venue will be made available here in the near future.

Travel Logistics

SVG can be reach with LIAT flights from Barbados (Bridgetown), St. Lucia (Castries) and Trinidad and Tobago (Port of Spain) with several flights per day (see routes). These three islands are well connected to international airports in North America and Europe. Flights arrive at the new Argyle Airport opened in Spring 2017.

Transfer from the airport to the hotel should be prearranged. It is possible to arrange shared rides. Recommended is to provide arrival times and flight numbers to Samuel Taxi Service at, phone +1-784-593-2188, who will then pool as many travelers as possible.


Accommodation will be available at the Beachcombers Hotel. There are also other nearby hotels that offer rooms at reasonable rates. See here for more details.


The Beachcombers Hotel has a restaurant that offers breakfast, lunch and dinner. The "French Veranda" is another restaurant in walking distance. Information on other restaurants close to the workshop venue will be made available in the near future.

Workshop Dinner

It is planned to organize a workshop dinner on Wednesday evening, January 17, 2018. More details will be available here soon.


Standard electricity is at 220 V with a grounded BS 1363 plugs (U.K. Plugs). Some hotels have additional U.S. 110 V plugs in the room or offer adaptors for U.S. plugs. However, to be safe, it is recommended to bring adaptors to connect your equipment for U.K. plugs.


Currency is the Eastern Caribbean Dollar. ATMs are available at the airport, at major supermarkets and at banks in Kingstown.

Climate and Weather

A brief overview of the climate in SVG can be found at

A report on climate change in SVG prepared by the SVG government in 2000 for the UNFCCC is available at

What to do and visit in SVG

For information on places to visit in SVG see the official tourism information available here. Information on the SVG government and its activities in SVG can be found on the official web page of the SVG government.

Useful Information

A Yellow Fever vaccination certificate is required for travellers over 1 year of age arriving from countries with risk of yellow fever transmission. For recommended and routine vaccinations, see

Last, it is illegal to wear or import camouflage clothing in St Vincent and the Grenadines.

Left: View to Bequai. Right: Kingstown

Schedule and Program


Times allocated to sessions are tentative and may change.

Session Description
January 17, 2018

Session 1: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in Caribbean Small Island States

This session will facilitate a dialogue between governments and people of the Carribbean SIS about the challenges of executing the 2030 Agenda in each of the SIS. Linking to “real world spaces” (RWLs) for SDG implementation will bring the local perspective into the deliberations. Questions to be considered include: What are the core challenges? Who is doing what? What are the responsibilities? What knowledge is needed? Where is knowledge on the ocean needed? What data is used and what gaps are known? What science support is available? At the end of the session, a common understanding of the core problems will have emerged. The deliberations will be monitored with the goal to identify the knowledge needs to address these problems.

January 18, 2018

Session 2: Interdependencies and interactions of SDGs, Targets and Indicators in Caribbean Small Island States

This session will address the wicked problem presented by SDGs and focus on the interconnected nature of the SDGs and the potentially large economic burden associated with progress towards the Targets, as well as the challenge that those attempting to solve the problem are to some extent causing the problem. In a transdisciplinary dialogue, the role of the ocean for the interconnected SDGs will be characterized taking into account the many interdependencies between the SDGs. The session will consider that most of the SDGs address the socio-economic and environmental systems based on land, and that both the human and non-human environment in SIS is crucially dependent on the surrounding ocean. While this dependency is grossly similar it is discretly different in the different SIS, and both the similarities and differences will be elaborated on. The goal is to identify those applications and tools that are used in generating knowledge addressing the interdependencies across boundaries between SDGs, government departments and societal sectors.

January 18, 2018

Session 3: Ocean-related variables and indicators essential for SDG implementation and monitoring in Caribbean Small Island States

The knowledge needs identified in the first two session will be used to co-create an inventory of those ocean-related variables and indicators that can inform the development and validation of sustainability policies in the SIS, and can help to engage the people in the implementation of these policies. The goal is to compile a prioritized list of variables and indices characterizing the phycial, chemical, and biological state and trends of the ocean that are essential for both the development and validation of policies in support of SDG implementation and needed for the monitoring of progress towards the targets and more sustainability. This session will merge existing scientific knowledge with the understanding of the societal problem of making progress towards the SDGs in Caribbean SIS developed in the first two sessions.

January 18, 2018

Session 4: Observational requirements for ocean-related variables and indicators

The knowledge needs identified in the first two session together with applications to create this knowledge will be used to develop observational requirements for the prioritized ocean-related variables collected in Session 3. The goal is to have a set of requirements for high-priority variables that specify the spatial and temporal resolution and coverage, accuracy, and latency that are consistent with what those applications require that could make use of the observations.

January 19, 2018

Session 5: Matching user, requirements and products

In a novel co-usage effort, the participating experts in Earth observation will work with the stakeholders engaged in SDG implementation to match, where possible, observational requirements to existing data and products. In some cases, it will be possible to actually demonstrate the use of the data and products to generate relevant knowledge. In other cases, no matching product may exist, or the products may not be usable, indicating gaps in obervation, processing or capacity. The main purpose of this session is to explore approaches to the co-usage of products and the co-creation of knowledge with this products.

January 19, 2018

Session 6: Improving availability of Earth observations in service of SDG implementation in Caribbean Small Island States

The experience of Session 5 will provide a basis to discuss options for improving the service Earth observations and derived products can provide to the execution of the 2030 Agenda. How can regional an international organizations collaborate to ensure that governments and the people have access to the required ocean-related Earth observations and the capacity to utilize these observations for the creation of the needed knowledge? A demonstration project will be outlined that follows this chain from ocean observations to knowledge needs in a RWS for SDG implementation and shows the creation and use of the knowledge in the RWS.


Note that the time allocated to the individual session can change in the course of the detailed planning of the sessions.

January 16, 2018

1800 - 1900:Registration
1900 - 2100:Informal Ice-Breaker

January 17, 2018

0800 - 0900:Registration
0900 - 1230:Session 1: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in Caribbean Small Island States
1230 - 1330:Lunch Break
1330 - 1730:Session 1 continued
1900 - 2100:Workshop Dinner

January 18, 2018

0900 - 1230:Session 2: Interdependencies and interactions of SDGs, Targets and Indicators in Caribbean Small Island States
1230 - 1330:Lunch Break
1330 - 1530:Session 3: Ocean-related variables and indicators essential for SDG implementation and monitoring in Caribbean Small Island States
1530 - 1600:Coffee Break
1600 - 1800:Session 4: Observational requirements for ocean-related variables and indicators

January 19, 2018

0900 - 1230:Session 5: Matching user, requirements and products
1230 - 1330:Lunch Break
1330 - 1430:Session 5: continued
1430 - 1630:Session 6: Improving availability of Earth observations in service of SDG implementation in Caribbean Small Island States

Other Information