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

Session 5: Matching users, requirements and products

Co-Chairs: Chris Corbin and Doug Wilson

In a novel co-usage effort, the participating experts in Earth observation worked with the stakeholders engaged in SDG implementation to match, where possible, observational requirements to existing data and products. The main purpose of this session was to explore approaches to the co-usage of products and the co-creation of knowledge with these products. The focus of this session was on identifying existing data, products and services that can support the ocean-related identified information needs of the Caribbean Small Island States for monitoring and implementation of the SDGs.

During Day 2 of the workshop, the participants had been introduced to a matchmaking framework. Prior to examining potential matchmaking opportunities, the workshop attendees discussed what types of users and stakeholders require data and visualization products in a plenary discussion. These were broadly grouped as Decision Makers; Information Providers; Monitoring, Regulation and Enforcement; Educational Institutions; Industry; and Local Resource Users. It was decided to focus the matchamking on the first three of these groups:

Priority Stakeholder/User Groupings Considered for Matchmaking Rounds

Group 1: Decision Makers. Moderator: Emily Smail

Stakeholder activities to be considered include:

  • Planning and environment departments
  • Coastal resilience planning
  • Permitting
  • Ministries of finance/budget
  • Parliamentarians
  • Marine Protected Area creation and Management
  • Donor funding agencies

Group 2: Information Providers. Moderator: Chris Corbin

Stakeholder activities to be considered include:

  • National/Regional Weather Services
  • Intergovernmental organizations (CARICOM, UN Agencies, etc.)
  • Statistical Offices
  • Research institutions/academia
  • CLO (Community Liaison officers)
  • National/Regional Human Rights Institutions
  • Media/Public Relations/Communications
  • Environmental/Conservation NGOs
  • Regional Conservation Groups
  • International Conservation Groups

Group 3: Monitoring, Regulation and Enforcement. Moderator: Doug Wilson

Stakeholder activities to be considered include:

  • Maritime and port authorities
  • National offices of disaster services
  • Search and rescue
  • Oil spill response
  • Natural disasters
  • Regional/subregional coordination/management bodies
  • Marine Protected Area creation and Management

Priority Stakeholder/User Groupings Not Considered

Educational institutions:

  • Curriculum development committees
  • Research institutions/academia


  • Oil and gas
  • Maritime transport
  • Aquaculture/mariculture
  • Hotel associations/tourism boards
  • Marine and coastal construction consultants
  • Sustainable Agriculture

Local Resource Users:

  • Resource users
  • Local fisheries organizations
  • Local communities
  • Local NGOs

While this effort resulted in a convenient grouping, there still exists variability within each of these groups and commonalities depending on specific country situations. There is a need for more comprehensive stakeholder mapping identifying specific data and information requirements for local, national, and regional priorities and within a specific thematic context, such as pollution, marine protected areas, etc. One might wish to consider if this is done first at a regional level and then in selected countries. It was emphasized that the (spatial) scale of decision and policy making needs to be linked to the scale of the information provided. A platform for knowledge sharing available for all different stakeholders would link parliamentary and inter-parliamentary bodies better to information and stakeholder groups. The need for more observation-related infrastructure including research vessels, surface and subsurface data collection, and data management systems was articulated.

Prior to splitting up in three groups, Hans-Peter Plag gave a talk on “Gaps in sustainability-related knowledge, products, and observations.” He pointed out that the gaps we see depend on the goals as well as the perception we have, which in turn depends on the distance we have. Demonstrating the extreme scale of the rapid changes taking place in the planetary system over recent centuries and particularly during the last seven decades, he underlined the importance of foresight and emphasized the challenge arising from epistemic gaps concerning the system's trajectory and possible thresholds and boundaries that might be crossed. He identified gaps in our understanding of the changes, as well as gaps in useful concepts. Using SDG2 as an example, he pointed out that giving the individual SDGs an identity and seeing the world through the eyes or lens of the SDGs could provide insight in what is needed for an SDGs to be successful. Summarizing the work done by other to understand the interdependencies between SDG14 and the other SDGs, he indicated that more work at the target level is need to better understand the synergies and conflicts between the individual targets. Starting from SDG2, he showed that many actions to increase food security can have negative impact on other targets and advocated for a holistic approach to the SDGs. He compared the goal-based approach to the determination of essential variables for SDGs that provided the structure for the workshop program to the widely used expert-based approach and discussed a number of gaps:

  • There is a lack of an epistemology for the creation of transition knowledge from the current system state and trajectory to the desired future.
  • There are no or insufficient integrated environmental and socio-economic databases.
  • There is insufficient accounting for environmental variables in SDG indicators.
  • To some extent, there is a missing link between SDGs and sustainability
  • Tools and capacity to assess cross-SDG dependencies are missing.
  • Tools for assessing cross-SDG impacts and policies are not available.
  • Skills required for matching providers and policy makers are largely not available.
  • Many of the essential variables for SDGs related to the built environment and are not measured or extracted from Earth observations.

The participants were then split into three moderated groups focusing on the knowledge and information needs of decision makers, information providers and those engaged in monitoring, regulations and enforcements. Other main stakeholder groups identified included educational institutions, industry, and local resource users, but the needs of these groups were not yet addressed. The original goal was to demonstrate the use of the data and products to generate relevant knowledge. The groups were asked to discuss data and information needs and consider if there is existing data and products to meet these needs. In cases were no matching products were known, the goal was to indicating gaps in observation, processing or capacity.

A cursory data inventory was provided to facilitate discussions along with a framework and requirements and matchmaking matrix (see Appendix on Approach to Matching). The group deliberations focused more on the process of matching that the actual matching. It was also realized that a more “neutral” moderation of the deliberations by experienced independent moderators would have been an advantage compared to moderation by either Earth observation providers or societal stakeholders. The absence of one or more facilitators and the co-chairing of the sessions by subject-matter experts resulted in little overall moderation of the workshop. Moreover, there was a lack of efficient tools to capture the outcomes of deliberations in previous sessions constantly and have them available in electronic form for Session 5. As a consequence, Session 5 did not get a specific list of observational requirements to build on.

Matchmaking Group 1: Information Providers

Moderator: Chris Corbin


While the need for several products relating to all the SDGs were mentioned, discussions focused on those products related directly to the implementation and reporting on Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 14 on Oceans and those most related to achievement of this SDG.

It was suggested that the specific data user, target audience and reason for a given information need would inform the type of information product or products required and what would be most useful and relevant to a specific decision or policy making context. The following were highlighted as the major uses of data and information products by the stakeholders included in the list:

  • Inform policy, legislative and institutional reforms at national level;
  • Inform selection of policy options/responses and allow for more evidence-based decision-making at local community, national and regional levels;
  • Inform local, national and in some cases regional development planning processes including areas such as: marine spatial planning, watershed and coastal zone management; land use and land capacity planning, national and sector development plans, risk reduction and disaster response planning;
  • Inform the design and content of Public Awareness and Educational Programmes for various audiences and target groups;
  • Use to assist in setting a baseline and for providing justification when developing grant proposals;
  • Use to demonstrate programme and project achievements at multiple levels;
  • Use in an Advocacy Role — mainly environmental NGOs; and
  • Facilitate country reporting on the achievement of the SDGs, and other relevant Regional and Global Commitments including Multilateral Environmental Agreements.

Agencies working more directly with local communities see themselves involved in generating new and/or obtaining existing data, and then analyzing, interpreting and communicating relevant information based on the data to local communities to assist in participatory management processes including improving the management and/or use of natural coastal and marine resources. It was felt that other agencies — Government and Regional Technical Agencies also played a role in analyzing and interpreting scientific data for use and understanding by a broader audience including the media. Concerning the desired output from the generation and sharing of the data and information, the following were some of the expected outcomes identified:

  • General awareness raising and increased knowledge about specific resource management issues;
  • Encouraging attitudinal and behavioral changes among various publics and decision-makers;
  • Promoting Calls to Action at individual, household, community, national, regional and global levels;
  • Identifying new investment opportunities;
  • Securing new funding and technical assistance to address data/information gaps and root causes of problems; and
  • Identifying new employment opportunities and livelihood alternatives.

The group also felt that there were some significant national or institutional capacity limitations related to the generation, analysis, interpretation, packaging and dissemination of data and information products. These include:

  • Data availability — quantity, quality, appropriateness
  • Data accessibility — policies and laws on access to information
  • Level of spatial resolution of data especially when used for local and/or national decision making;
  • Timeliness of data to make real-time decisions;
  • Information products for different uses and/or audiences especially those that integrate data from multiple sectors to be used as a decision-support tool or system;
  • Data sensitivity: e.g. recreational water quality data and data that might negatively impact major economic sectors such as tourism might not be readily available.
  • How is data availability linked to Human Rights and Security?

There are several ongoing and planned national, sub-regional and regional projects which call for the development of “State of” Reports and are generating data and information on a range of environmental variables. Some of these are promoting the establishment of data bases, clearing house mechanisms, decision-support tools, models, interactive maps etc. It is important that an analysis be carried out where such efforts have failed in the past - lack of sustainability — and how best to ensure that products developed are used in the decision-making process in the future. Most importantly, there is a need to generate data and information products that respond to the policy question(s) being posed. If funds available from these projects can be used more synergistically, this might result in tools and products that are more useful and avoid overlap and duplication.

Role of Regional Agencies and Intergovernmental Processes.

Regional and Sub-Regional UN and other Intergovernmental Agencies (CARICOM, OECS etc.) could play a pivotal role in promoting upscaling, replication and incorporation into regional decision-making processes. This could also contribute to greater synergies especially at the sector level and where there is a lack of coherence with regional, national and local development priorities. Examples include the role of UN in supporting countries in monitoring all the SDGs; the support of the UN agencies for a multi-country development assistance framework (MSDF) and specific Country Implementation Plans (CIPs); the role of Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEAs) such as those under UN Environment Cartagena Convention where countries are required to report periodically on the state of the Caribbean Sea.

The following represents a few examples that were provided through the matchmaking analysis. It was generally felt difficult to go to the level of specificity asked for. However, some guiding principles were identified and immediate opportunities that might help in the further development of this process.

Guiding Principles

  • Data and Information must be “Fit for Purpose”
  • Data and information must be demand driven and assist in responding to specific decision-making questions and/or policy options and different scales and levels — regional, sub-regional, national and local/community;
  • Issues of data quality assurance must be considered;
  • Socio-cultural context must be considered in the design of products and mechanisms used for dissemination;
  • Should build on existing frameworks, mechanisms, institutional mandates for data generation, analysis, reporting and dissemination;
  • Must consider issues of sustainability — who maintains the data bases and keeps data updated?
  • Encourage development of decision-support systems that integrate all the dimensions of sustainable development so that broader development issues are addressed.

General Analysis of Matchmaking Exercise

Type and Implementation Mechanisms: These varied widely from group to group and included:

  • Formal or ad-hoc government committees which could be at the technical or political levels;
  • Project Steering Committees often established only for large national projects;
  • Meetings of Governing Councils, Boards etc. which covered NGOs, Statutory Bodies and Municipal Authorities;
  • Intergovernmental Fora — Technical, High Level Policy or Ministerial usually for UN and other regional Intergovernmental bodies.

Geographic Coverage: This varied from local community to national to sub-regional (OECS) to regional to Global. It is important to note that regional organizations have varying and often overlapping geographical scope coverage and this will be important when engaging higher level political decision-making.

Temporal and Spatial Resolution: For data collected at a very local scale — high resolution data for management of the use of coastal and marine resources was viewed as very important. It was also felt that to convince decision-makers of the impacts of any given action — trend analysis and temporal resolution was needed. It was mentioned that there was value in the use of scenarios but the more they could be related to on the ground issues — the more likely they would be considered in a decision-making process.

Processing and Visualization: This was identified as a strong potential area for partnership and support. This reflected that most data were generated as reports and not always packaged into information products. Data also tended to be segmented and not integrated across multiple sectors to inform real decision making. Making linkages across socio-cultural, economic and environmental issues was critical.

Data availability: This was considered highly variable depending on type of data, country etc. Some NGOs mentioned that limited primary data on specific ocean related issues are generated by Government but rather by CBOs and NGOs. Others indicated that data is provided to Governments but there is no evidence that such data is being used to inform decision-making. Persons through there was some data not available at a national data level that could benefit from larger scale regional and/or global data sets especially on issues such as pollution.

Funding and Duration: Many monitoring programmes undertaken by Government are often underfunded and not sustainable. There is still a culture that does not always recognize the importance of environmental data in decision-making. Many programmes run by NGOs are voluntary and heavily dependent on external often grant and project funding. This leads to gaps data as well as varying methodologies, parameters etc.

Potential Opportunities

  • Reporting Frameworks being established under the United Nations (lead by UNDP) relating to Multi country Development Assistance Frameworks (MSDFs) in the Caribbean;
  • Development of Regional State of Pollution, State of Marine Habitat and State of Fisheries Reports under UN Environment, FAO and other regional agencies under projects such as CLME+ and BIOPAMA;
  • Development of national and regional State of Environment, Marine Protected Areas, Coral Reefs and Mangroves by several agencies such as UN Environment, WWF, IUCN, The Nature Conservancy
  • Ongoing or planned multi-country projects who have been tasked to develop data bases, clearing house mechanisms and decision-support tools for example in support of Ecosystem-Based Management Approaches in the Caribbean;
  • Reporting Requirements for SDGs and in particular SDG 14 — UN ECLAC, CARICOM and various Statistical Bureaus
  • Using existing regional technical and intergovernmental fora to demonstrate how data and information products can be used in a decision-making process — practical examples, case studies;
  • Using already existing regional platforms e.g. on Nutrients, Marine Litter and Wastewater
  • Supporting regional responses to topical issues e.g. sargassum, nutrient pollution (algal blooms), ballast water discharges, movement of sediment from large rivers and impacts on coastal and marine habitats and ecosystems; emerging issues — microplastics — movement and risk to fisheries and human health;
  • Replicate and upscale the geospace for SDGs to be established in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
  • Promote greater involvement of Caribbean countries in GEOs; and
  • Need to maintain and build on network and commitment of partners identified at the Workshop;

Matchmaking Group 2: Monitoring, Regulation and Enforcement

Moderator: Doug Wilson

Discussion Summary

This group prioritized data and information needs for Marine Protected Areas (MPA); Maritime and Port Authorities; and Disaster Services. Ultimately, the focus was limited to MPA Creation and Management. The discussion of the topic — observing needs for Monitoring, Regulation, and Enforcement, specifically for Creation and Management of Marine Protected Areas — had to organically move through local issues with MPAs (particularly enforcement) before being able to discuss observations.

In general, practitioners cannot jump immediately into discussion of requirements without considerable discussion of the nature of the activities themselves. To get the level of detail we were trying to achieve would have required a much longer and more focused preliminary process — but would have resulted in a more educated practitioner base. This should be considered for future workshops and in the follow up for this meeting.

The group also discussed and agreed that there is a lack of appropriate tools and framework to conduct end-to-end (observation-to-product use) activities. This includes both the actual tools (data, information, products, capacity, etc.) but an organized framework within which to work. The group Habitat for Humanity as an example (an established, organized framework capable of directing an activity supporting sustainable housing) which is necessary in addition to workers, materials, designs, funding.

Discussion of Marine Protected Areas

The agency or ministry for Marine Protected Areas varies by country in the Caribbean. MPA enforcement is critical to sustainability and is a legislative issue, requires an appropriate legislative framework in place. Traditional enforcement approaches require resources for monitoring. Community ‘enforcement’ through identification and ‘public shaming’ is effective in some areas but requires public sensitization.

Data for MPA Monitoring and Enforcement: For MPAs, baseline data is needed with appropriate resolution and quality for science-based management. Some specific data requirements include:

  • Available and caught biomass by species
  • Nutrient pollution
  • Sediment traps
  • Water quality
  • Point source pollution

In general, SIDS need improved tools to collect data such as drones and planes for remote sensing data collection and less expensive, lower maintenance in situ sensors. There is also a need for apps that allow for easy collection of data and information and reporting by managers, citizens and engaged users. There is also a need for a data system to collect and organize information and deliver products. There are also basic policy and management hurdles to navigate for monitoring. In St. Vincent for example, there are no requirements for fishing boats to have ID numbers.

Matchmaking Group 3: Decision makers

Moderator: Emily Smail

This group focused the discussion on data and information needs for decision makers. It was discussed that data and information tools are needed for informing planning processes, land use and risk reduction. There is also a need in the region for information about the baseline state of the environment for grant proposals from NGOs and local researchers. In general, it was agreed that the scale of products for decision makers needs to be linked with scale of decisions made on the local level. The region also needs a thorough analysis of the existing data and information in the region including where it is stored and if it is accessible.

Data Access and Sharing

One challenge in identify existing data to meet needs are the data sharing policies in the region. An example was given that the public health organizations collect data on water quality but do not always advertise it or share that data. It was suggested that the Caribbean Environmental Health Institute may be an appropriate body for encouraging the open sharing of data related to public health such as water quality.

It was discussed that data and information providers also need to work with local community and government representatives to package data in a way that is not controversial to local culture or economic sensitivities. It was agreed that mechanisms for identify and sharing data are broad and include national, regional, and international networks that could be tied into.

The group discussed that there needs to be simpler tools for collection and aggregation of data. It was stated that there is a need for an organizational structure that is a framework for small island states and has a standardized capability that is easy to use.

Identifying and matching ocean-related user data and information needs

The group discussed that identifying requirements would be aided by sharing of experiences within the region and examples outside the region and proving case studies and example products and visualization tools. Specific data and information needs that were identified during the discussion are outlined below. An in depth matching of data and products with these needs will need to be completed following the workshop.

Ocean-related data and information needs

  • Near real time data and time series data
  • Sargassum monitoring and forecasting
  • Parrotfish distribution an abundance
    • There is a “pass on parrotfish” initiative being led by a non-profit in the region. Some local people do not know what data this is based on and would benefit from information about the distribution and abundance of the species.
  • Tools for ecosystem forecasts for species distribution
    • With climate change and other environmental pressures, there is a need for forecasting about predicted changes in species distributions for effective fisheries management policies.
  • Fisheries alerts (likelihood of fish in certain areas, safety warnings)
  • Data and information about the extent and change in ecosystems that provide protection from storm surge
  • Data and information about beach and coastal erosion
  • Conditions and predictions on lobster spawning for management purposes
  • Tracking of the water from the Amazon River plume
    • There is concern in the region about the impacts of polluted water from the Amazon River on the Caribbean region given the mercury-based gold mining that goes on in the region. There was also a recent fish kill in the region from a fresh-water bacterium from the Amazon River.
  • High level water quality products for warnings
    • The suggestion was made for a “brown water advisory” type product to alert the public that they should consider avoiding dirty water that may be contaminated similar to the alerts that are put out in Hawaii.
  • Harmful algal bloom monitoring and forecasting
  • Heavy metal monitoring
  • Information on the impacts of volcanic ash on the water column
  • Scenario based forecasting of land use on water quality
  • Marine debris tracking and source identification
  • Direction and strength of currents in the region

Other information needs

Decision makers need more scenario based information that take into account economic estimates of the environment. There also needs to be an ocean-related policy and framework mapping done for the region with a focus on tourism, disaster management and fisheries.

This workshop was sponsored by:

under grant 80NSSC17K0241