At a recently concluded International meeting on Small Island Developing States, UN-HABITAT tabled the problems and possibilities of managing sustainable human settlements development in these vulnerable habitats.
Small island developing states are known to suffer from particular disadvantages associated with their small size, marginalisation, remoteness and vulnerability to natural disasters. Climate change will increasingly effect the most vulnerable states exacerbating poverty by reducing coastal settlement areas and affecting livelihoods.
These factors render the human settlements of SIDS susceptible to forces outside their control, as the dramatic, tragic and unprecedented cataclysm of the recent earthquake and Tsunami has demonstrated. Therefore, one of the key challenges facing SIDS is to develop disaster preparedness and rapid response.
However, SIDS are also beginning to face many new challenges including rapid urbanisation. The idyllic image of small islands is being replaced by highly concentrated populations living in towns and cities. In the decade since the adoption of the Barbados Programme of Action, (BPoA), SIDS have become increasingly urban. Of the 52 million people living in SIDS, 30 million, about 58% live in urban areas. Furthermore, 8 million people, about 25% now live in slums or squatter settlements.
Most small island states are thus confronting problems of urban planning and how best to manage their human settlements. There is an increasing need for better urban governance to manage the many economic changes that are taking place. This is especially true, if the urban poor are going to benefit by the possibilities offered by globalisation.
The state of urban settlements is also closely linked to the ability to cope with water supply and sanitation for the poor and the marginalised in SIDS. Water supplies for human settlements in small islands has been a persistent problem. For example, in many countries up to 50% of the urban water supply is being wasted or is unaccounted for. In many places the coverage of adequate sanitation is well below the target set by the Millennium Development Goal of 50% of the population.
For further information see http://www.unhabitat.org/mediacentre/