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National Activities: Barbados

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Report Submitted by Barbados to the Fourth International Workshop on the CSD Indicators of Sustainable Development
Hosted by the Government of the Czech Republic in Prague
19-21 January 1998

1. Background: Barbados, A Small Island Developing State

Barbados has a small land area of 430 sq. km., a resident population of 264,000 people and an annual visitor (stay-over) of approximately 800,000. This makes Barbados one of the most densely populated countries in the world.

In addition, Barbados has jurisdiction over an Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of approximately 400 times larger than its land area, estimated at 167,000 sq. km. In Barbados, almost 60% of the population lives within the coastal zone resulting in heavy impacts on this fragile ecosystem by both locals and tourists.

Given this background, the main sustainable development issues facing Barbados include:

(1) Managing a Fragile Resource Base :

limited groundwater supply and agricultural land
- resulting in high competition for the limited water resources on the island
- Barbados has been recognized as a "water scarce" country
- agricultural land is constantly under threat from housing developments
threat of flooding and natural disasters as a result of global climate change and sea level rise
- due to the geophysical nature of the island (i.e. it is very flat) coastal/marine zone issues
- competition between locals and tourists for utilisation of these resources
- impact of sewage disposal techniques on coral reefs
- loss of reefs on the South coast of the island
solid and liquid waste (including toxic/hazardous wastes)
- heavy waste buildup
- management dilemma in terms of: landfill, treatment before disposal at sea and incineration; recently completed the Greenland landfill however, landfills are not a long-term solution in a small island
urban issues
- traffic
- noise
- ambient air pollution
- space
energy conservation issues
- long term resource base is very small
- import petroleum products which service 65% of our energy needs
- availability of energy conservation devices

(2) Institutional Capacity and Arrangements:

  • fragmented institutional arrangements
  • overlap, duplication and gaps in the decision-making process
  • limited capacity (human resource, technological)
  • lack of public involvement and awareness
  • lack of financial resources

2. Indicators of Sustainable Development

The recent Caribbean Ministers conference for the follow-up to the SIDS/POA hosted by the Government of Barbados (GOB) in collaboration with the UN Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (UN/ECLAC), recognized the importance of Indicators as monitoring and evaluation tools which provide valuable information for environmental management through the gauging of environmental change over time.

3. Institutional Arrangements

The importance of Sustainable Development Indicators (SDI) to SIDS like Barbados has been recognized through the establishment of a sub-programme within the Sustainable Development Work Programme of the Ministry of the Environment of Barbados. The National Commission on Sustainable Development (Commission), also recognizing the importance of this issue, established a Steering Committee charged with:

  • developing a broad framework for collating and providing information about progress towards sustainable development;
  • providing quantitative information for measuring environmental trends, formulating policy targets, and evaluating targets;
  • providing an environmental system that is useful to policy makers, technicians and the public at large, and to regional and international agencies.

4. National Indicators Programme

The Steering Committee on Indicators for Sustainable Development will utilise four documents for the compilation of the Barbadian-specific indicators. These are:

  • UNCHS - Barbados' Report to Habitat II
  • UNCSD List of Sustainable Development Indicators
  • "Environmental Indicators for Barbados" by Tom Crowards, Caribbean Development Bank
  • HDR Report 1997 - Indicators list

The 1998 programme focuses on this area as follows :

  • send CSD list to the relevant government agencies for comment
  • produce position paper on Indicators
  • draft list of Barbadian-specific Indicators
  • identify gaps in CSD list and recommend additions
  • consult with public
  • develop public awareness programme
National Testing

Given the special vulnerabilities and issues facing SIDS, the benefits of Barbados' membership to the testing programme as a Small Island Developing State was also recognized. As the host of the 1994 SIDS conference, it was felt that Barbados should be involved in any ground-breaking work with particular importance to SIDS such as Indicators for Sustainable Development.

The UN Testing Programme provides an opportunity for Barbados to share and exchange experiences with other testing countries as well as ensure that the concerns of SIDS are taken into consideration and applied to the final Indicators list. Activities are likely to include the following:

  • draft programme for national testing
  • develop common methodology for collection
  • inform relevant agencies and begin testing
  • monitor progress
  • evaluate testing
  • report on testing

5. Present Situation

Efforts to develop Indicators or collate environmental information have been hampered by three (3) problems:

  • sources of data
  • access to data
  • frequency of data collection
Sources of data

In Barbados, the sources of data are limited. Although, the Statistical Services Department is the information store-house of the government, they are dependent on the information provided by the other government agencies. Their information needs thus far have been directed towards socio-economic matters. Traditionally, they have collected information such as polyclinics per thousand; Gross Domestic Product GDP), population, deaths and births, etc. This type of information, though useful, is not adequate for monitoring development and the state of the environment.

Data accessibility

Generally, in Barbados there is access to high quality data relating to socio-economic activities. The weakness lies in the area of bio-physical and environmental data which are sporadic and disperse and increasingly in the realms of academia. This is one of the problems that the national programme described at (4) will seek to remedy. Data collection, compilation and analysis is dispersed among various ministries and departments. The establishment of a Steering committee seeks to encourage information-sharing and collaboration.

There is a need to build local capacity particularly as it relates to human resource development, technology and financial resources. In order to overcome these constraints, it is desirable that regional and international agencies work in collaboration with national agencies in developing and executing a programme for Indicators of Sustainable Development.

Preparing the UNCSD report elucidates clearly the problem with data retrieval. The Environment Division, responsible for reporting at the international level, has found that other agencies often find it difficult to respond to this reporting mechanism effectively as well as provide the necessary information. In terms of the Indicators used in the reporting documents, little information is available to answer those questions.

In addition, the data may not be up-to-date or sensitive enough to chart change, e.g. for social data. Due to the qualitative nature of institutional indicators, e.g. the existence of sustainable development strategies, data availability may be hampered.

As regards the availability of data, the relevance of the Indicator must also be examined. Preliminary comments on the CSD list include but are not limited to:

  • maximum sustainable yield for fisheries is a challenge;
  • here are no indicators for beaches and specific coastal issues; and
  • rate of growth of the urban population poses a definitional problem as Barbados does not have an explicit urban/rural divide. Barbados can almost be described as an urban environment.
Data collection

Regular data collection does not occur at the moment. Population census and analysis occurs every 10 years and spot studies occur sporadically in sectors, e.g., water quality. Presently, the Coastal Zone Management Unit (CZMU) of the Ministry of the Environment is undertaking water quality monitoring and sampling.

It has been suggested that one of the problems with collection can be attributed to the psychology of not reporting. Agencies now have to be sensitized on the use of Indicators and encouraged through networking to collect and report on the state of sustainable development in the country. A national consultation has been proposed as the first step in achieving these objectives.

6. Developing National Indicators

With the goal of developing Barbadian-specific Indicators in mind, the committee first step was to research background material. The four documents outlined in (4) formed the basis of this research.

The Steering Committee will then:

  • assess communalities between the background documents and establish a core list;
    - the Indicators will be examined with a view to their relevance to Barbados;
    - recommendations for merging.
  • assess the need for the establishment of a reporting mechanism ad a coordinating agency for data collection and analysis.

The Steering Committee recognizes the need to get all agencies on board in terms of understanding what these indicators are and their use in terms of analysis and defining policy options for the future.

Preliminary comments on the CSD list
  1. There seems to be no indicators for reef conservation and the health of reef ecosystems, which are vital issues to SIDS.
  2. No vulnerability indices are included as yet.
  3. Suggestions for additional perspectives include:
  1. Chapter 21-32: Strengthening of major groups
    • representation of private sector and NGOs on the Sustainable Development council and percentage
  2. Chapter 10: Land use management
    • percentage of land kept as "green space"
  3. Chapter 17 (5): Protection of all oceans, all kinds of seas and coastal areas
    • amount of live reef as a % of total reef area
    • loss of biodiversity in reef area
  4. Chapter 18: Freshwater Resources
    • faecal streptococcus is becoming a better indicator of water quality than faecal coliform, especially for environment and health purposes; there is movement away from the use of faecal coliform to interococcal.
  5. Chapter 9: Protection of the atmosphere
    • the emission of green house gases (GHGs) will be expressed as what? This needs to be qualifies to indicate if it per capita or as a % of world emissions. What measurement will be used?
  6. Institutional
    • how is "access to information" to be measured? This sort of Indicator will necessitate the establishment of uniform measurements.
    • issues arise as well in the measurement of less quantifiable indicators, e.g. existence of National Councils for Sustainable Development and the ratification of international agreements related to Sustainable Development
  7. Chapter 3 Poverty
    • % of poor as a representation of those unemployed
    • access to health care - geographical incidence of waterborne diseases and amongst a certain income level
    • access to education
  8. Protecting and promoting human health
    • for those with no urban/rural divide, incidence of air pollution-related illness, e.g., geographical incidence of asthma and other respiratory disease
  9. Chapter 12: Combating desertification and drought
    • soil quality as related to rainfall
    • % of land affected by desertification

These represent some of the comments arising out of a preliminary evaluation of indicators for Barbados performed by the Steering Committee. How these comments can be incorporated so as to improve the quality of data derived from the Indicator remains the challenge.

7. Conclusion

As Barbados was a late member of the testing programme, following the meeting in Costa Rica 1997, very little has occurred in the way of national testing. Some work has been undertaken by government agencies to develop environmental indicators, e.g., Coastal Zone Management Unit as regards water quality and the Town ad Country Planning Department in the development of Habitat and human settlement indicators. The challenge now is to create quantifiable indicators for Sustainable Development.

Barbados is intent on playing a role in ensuring that the success of this process. By March 1999, a programme for testing should have been developed to accompany the draft list of national indicators.

The main expected outputs for the Indicators programme are :

  • sensitization of government agencies and other stakeholders on indicators and consultation with them on the draft list;
  • recommendations for indicators in Barbados including a framework for the reporting mechanism and coordination;
  • draft list of indicators for sustainable development in Barbados.

These steps, it is hoped, will carry us that step further in truly achieving sustainable development.

For more information, please contact:

The Permanent Secretary (Environment)
Ministry of Health and the Environment
Sir Frank Walcott Building
Culloden Road, St. Michael, Barbados
Tel. no.: (24-6) 431-7680
Fax no.: (24-6) 437-8859