Community Vilaj

Day 2 - January 7

The second day at the Community Vilaj addressed substantive issues on the SIDS Mauritius 2005 agenda and continued the sharing of knowledge and experiences between community participants that began in earnest yesterday. Full photographic coverage of Day Two at the Community Vilaj can be found in the daily Photo Diary.

Community Discussion - SIDS Programme of Action

The morning session began with a discussion of the document which, in many ways, brought the diverse group of community participants together in the Vilaj - the SIDS Programme of Action, also known as the Barbados Programme of Action or BPaA.

Dr. Albert Deterville, Executive Chairperson, Indigenous People of Saint Lucia, raised several issues with the BPoA, as a document, that he felt might be of concern to communities. For instance, he raised the concern - from a Caribbean perspective - that the document might not sufficiently reflect some key needs of the Caribbean island states.

Alejandra Pero and Allison Drayton (UN) shared the global perspective on the Programme of Action. They said that 70 % of the document is already agreed to and that work will continue, in wide consultation with stakeholders, to finalize the document.

It was noted that Gordon Bispham, from the Civil Society Forum, has been following up on the process of delivering the Programme of Action since 1994. It was noted that at previous meetings, in the Bahamas for example, there was considerable consultation between government and civil society on the draft to ensure incorporation of community views. It was also recognized that work still needed to be done to accommodate different interests and new emerging issues.

Some of the issues that were raised from the discussion include:

  • There is a need to have a team look into the document and come up with a formal proposal on critical issues affecting populations and livelihoods in SIDS where there seems to be disagreement.
  • There is a need to articulate each community's issues and effectively pass this on to government representatives to ensure that these concerns are addressed.
  • The use of stories shared at the community Vilaj as a medium for expressing community concerns was proposed as a means of influencing policy makers and the Programme of Action.
  • The exchange of experiences and expertise is necessary for implementation.
  • There needs to be quick implementation of successful examples.
  • Is it possible for international funding institutions (e.g., The World Bank) to fund communities directly? This is important.
  • It will be important to provide communities and civil society with resources that will allow them to scale up their capacity and increase involvement in plan implementation.

Jane Cook, from PNG, noted that those most affected by SIDS issues are not able to participate. She termed this the "silence of the sufferers".

Esther Mwangi, a Community Vilaj facilitator from Kenya, stated that an action plan was needed and that young people should encouraged to bring in their perspective, as it was likely to be very different from that held by others.

The morning session concluded with a series of breakout sessions to analyze in groups the strengths and weaknesses of the BPoA Document. The focus for these breakout discussions was the question - How can the Programme have international relevance while still truly benefiting, and reflecting the needs of, communities?

Main Strengths of the Programme of Action:

  • Recognizes the important role that the grassroots level can played in the implementation of the plan.
  • Highlights, and has spurred, new legislations since 1994 in the areas of the environment, land, marine resources, forests, women, and communities.
  • Helped to solidify the SIDS as a lobbying body searching for solutions to common and national problems.
  • Increased possibilities of funding and resources, through GEF and other partners, for development of national action plans.
  • Promotes ecotourism as a tool for sustainable environment development.

Main weaknesses identified:

  • Needs a broader communication process with civil society.
  • Lack of enforcement of legislation to protect women and the environment.
  • Some of the potential projects do not come from the community directly.
  • Communities do not have representatives from the local level that can voice their concerns.
  • Lack of coordination among the funding agencies.
  • Lack of financial control.
  • No international consensus on the full entry into force of the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change.
  • Lack of resources for SIDS to control their territorial waters. Little interest from developed countries to finance this aspect.

Following lunch, community participants in the Vilaj were treated to presentation by Will Maheia and Celia Mahung from Belize's Toledo Institute for Development and Environment (TIDE). They spoke about TIDE's work to manatees, and how they manage to protect and preserve an endangered species through community involvement. They also talked about their relationships with national, regional and international organizations and their ongoing efforts to influence policies and change patterns of decision making. Will and Celia concluded by describing how they had brought four countries together through the TRIGO organization and how they have developed comprehensive educational and community organizing techniques to teach fishermen about biology and ecosystem ecology and even include them in research.

"Forget about the environment if people haven't got food on the table"
-Will Maheia, TIDE - Belize


The presentation by TIDE was followed by intense breakout discussions around common experiences shared in similar areas by community participants. The main messages arising from these talks were:

  • The role of the community should be appreciated and recognized at all levels and should be incorporated into methodologies for the formulation, implementation and evaluation of projects.
  • Communities need to know how much their public assets cost, and are worth, to remain functional, safe and attractive and they need to apply pressure to governments to ensure that funds are allocated for this purposes.

Community Vilaj Message on the SIDS Programme of Action

At the end of Day Two, participants in the Community Vilaj decided together to make a formal "Community Vilaj Message" in response to the offer of the parallel Civil Society Forum to include an eight line statement by the Vilaj participants in their final declaration/report to the SIDS governments.



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