Is the Caribbean ready to power sustainable cities and nations?

A brief look at the Bahamas Declaration agreed to in December, and what it might take for the Caribbean to realise sustainable cities and nations.

Last month, the period 14—18 December 2015 to be exact, the Bahamas hosted the 5th Green Standards Week in Nassau, on the theme Powering Smart Sustainable Cities, Nations & Islands. The event, which was organised by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), in collaboration with a number of other international organisations including Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), and the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat), had both in person and remote participant worldwide joining to discuss the use of ICTs “to expedite the transition to smart sustainable cities and ensuring a sustainable urban future” (Source: ITU).

By the end of the meeting, the participants had made a series of commitments to advance their countries towards a more sustainable future. The commitments, which have been dubbed the ‘Bahamas Declaration’, covered the 13 areas as outlined below, and the complete declaration can be read here.

  1. Bahamas Declaration Cover PageContribute towards the implementation of the new Paris Agreement on climate change and the New Urban Agenda
  2. Foster smart e-waste management:
  3. Build a circular economy
  4. Lead with vision
  5. Think sustainable
  6. Support greening technologies by design
  7. Foster the development and convergence of global standards and open Application Programme Interfaces (APIs) for the Internet of Things (IoT)
  8. Develop a global smart sustainable index for cities, countries and SIDS
  9. Building trust and develop secure and privacy by design approaches for IoT lifecycle, sustainability issues with the devices, applications and solutions
  10. Ensure end-user involvement and user-centric approaches
  11. Demonstrate success and feasibility
  12. Boost partnerships and mobilize expertise
  13. Shape the global agenda

Some early thoughts

In news reports last week and at the launch of a new e-services platform for the Registrar General’s Office, Bahamas Prime Minister, Perry Christie, appeared eager to take up the challenge of the Bahamas Declaration and have the Bahamas become the ITU’s first ever “smart island” (Source: The Nassau Guardian). He readily recognised the importance of ICT “…as a foundation stone of a modern economy” and that it “… is necessary and indispensable for a modern Bahamas” (Source: The Nassau Guardian).

However, while the Prime Minister’s enthusiasm is commendable, upon careful review of the Declaration, it must be emphasised that implementation of its commitments is an awesome undertaking that is not for the faint of heart. For the countries of the region, it would require considerable vision and coordination, as the tenets of the Declaration would need to be incorporated into a long term national agenda and vision, which would require a time frame far beyond the typical five-year political term. (A more realistic period might be at least 10—15 years.)

Additionally, at the country level, several complementary, yet diverse, initiatives would need to be managed, to ensure they all cohere and that their individual objectives, and that of the whole, are achieved. Further, and among many developing countries and Small island Developing States, especially those in the Caribbean, the enabling policy framework is weak and underdeveloped. Policies and laws to protect the environment and encourage greener initiatives are few when compared with other countries. Hence generally, the region will be starting from a point much further behind, and so would have considerable more ground to cover.

Having said all of that, the task at hand it not impossible. Countries must be realistic about where they are, and the time needed to accomplish what is needed. More importantly, the future of our countries must be seen as a bipartisan issue. There must be the political will and commitment by the major political parties to stay the long term and agreed path in order to realise smart sustainable cities and sustainable nations.

 

Image credit:  Stuart Seeger (Wikimedia Commons)

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