´____rnoneSMALL ISLANDS VOICE
KEY ISSUES FOR PEOPLE LIVING IN SMALL ISLANDS
Based on opinion surveys conducted in 2002 and 2003
INTRODUCTION Small Islands Voice started in early 2002 from islands in the Caribbean, Indian Ocean and Pacific regions. The initiative seeks to overcome the isolation of small islands by building capacity and strengthening local, regional and inter-regional communication. It is all about people in small islands: exchanging their views on environment and development issues working together to solve their problems taking part in the Small Island Developing States’ Programme of Action
Throughout 2002 and 2003 various activities have been undertaken in the islands to find out the concerns of the general public in the environment-development domain. This document provides a summary of the emerging issues.
ISSUES OF CONCERN TO THE GENERAL PUBLIC IN SMALL ISLANDS Opinion surveys were conducted in Cook Islands and Palau in the Pacific; Maldives and Seychelles in the Indian Ocean; and St. Kitts and Nevis in the Caribbean, using similar methodologies in 2002-2003. One per cent of each territory’s population was sampled. (In the Maldives, one island was selected and 10% of the population was sampled, in the Cook Islands, 2% of the population was sampled in Rarotonga and five Outer Islands). Among other questions, respondents were asked to list the three main issues that they were most concerned about. The issues identified have been combined and prioritised according to the quantitative survey results. Following the surveys, certain issues are being discussed in more detail on a global internet-discussion forum with many thousands of readers from islands in the three regions, as well as at regional and interregional consultations. Issues common to all three regions (Caribbean, Indian Ocean and Pacific) The following is a ranked list of key issues that were identified in all five island territories (and all three regions):
1. Economy Among the specific items mentioned were the following: high cost of living high taxes less spending power increased poverty
sluggish economy economic stress national debt economic stability declining ‘Compact of Free Association funds’ - major part of Palau’s income and scheduled to stop in 2009 (Palau) economic downturns (especially Cook Islands since 1996) shortage of foreign exchange (especially Seychelles) foreign investment – this was also discussed on the internet forum where 65% of the respondents considered that large scale foreign investment does not benefit small islands need for banking services (Maldives)
2. Employment Among the specific items mentioned were the following: lack of jobs no job security low wages/salaries unfair hiring practices increased number of foreign workers 3. Health care Among the specific items mentioned were the following: public health facilities, including mental health health care services HIV/AIDS 4. Education Among the specific items mentioned were the following: schools and facilities educational opportunities tertiary education vocational training education for special groups e.g. teenage mothers loss of qualified people (brain drain) 5. Infrastructural development Among the specific items mentioned were the following: houses, roads, hospitals – road construction was also discussed on the internet forum where 65% of the respondents considered road development a benefit provided environmental concerns were taken into account airport/seaport telecommunications solid and liquid waste disposal systems 6. Environment Among the specific items mentioned were the following: waste management pollution
deforestation drainage beach erosion global warming
Issues common to a majority of the regions (Caribbean, Indian Ocean and Pacific) The following is a ranked list of key issues that were identified in a majority of islands (and in some cases they were at the top of an individual island’s list), but they were not necessarily common to all five island territories sampled:
1. Tourism Among the specific items mentioned were the following: new tourism development – this was also discussed on the internet forum where 67% of the respondents felt that an island’s tourism facilities should included a variety of properties (up-market, medium scale, small scale establishments) so as to benefit all local players improvement of tourism facilities control of tourism – the issue of tourism resorts restricting public access to the beach was also discussed on the internet forum where 77% of the respondents said there should be unrestricted public access to beaches over-dependence on tourism 2. Decline in moral and/or traditional values Among the specific items mentioned were the following: breakdown in moral fibre of society decline in moral values bad behaviour among young people, lack of respect for elders eroding traditional values and customs decline in traditional leadership lack of community spirit and collaboration – in part due to people being resettled from adjacent islands 3. Increased crime and violence* Among the specific items mentioned were the following: increased crime rates especially violent crime – this was also discussed on the internet forum where a majority of respondents considered that societal changes including education were necessary to solve the problem public safety revised penalties for criminals more crime as a result of increased drug abuse 4. Good governance Among the specific items mentioned were the following: political corruption
political greed political victimization international peace
* During a consultation in the Caribbean in July 2003, among 12 Caribbean territories, two Pacific territories and one Indian Ocean territory, the main priority issue was identified as a group of social
issues comprising drug abuse, crime, violence and especially gang violence, and unemployment. Participants felt that it was impossible to separate these issues.
* The issue of crime and violence has also been discussed on the Global internet discussion forum (August-September 2003) and on the Youth internet-discussion forum (October 2003) and based on these discussions it appears to be an issue of importance in all three regions. Indeed a recent (November 2004) article in The Economist has further highlighted the serious nature of this issue.
The role of the general public in planning future development During the surveys, respondents were asked whether the public participates enough in planning the future development of their island. In St. Kitts and Nevis, and in Palau, the response was clear with 91% saying that the public does not participate at all or only very slightly in planning the country’s development. In the Cook Islands, 65% of the respondents felt they were able to contribute to local decision-making through their Island Councils. This question was not asked in the Maldives or Seychelles.