Two oceans, six countries, three distinct languages: it may seem like the nations of Cabo Verde, Comoros, Maldives, Mauritius, São Tomé & Príncipe and Seychelles have little in common, but as Small Island Developing States (SIDS), they face very similar challenges when it comes to the management of waste and water resources.

The six countries − located in the Atlantic and Indian oceans (AIO) − differ profoundly in size and level of economic development, but all six share problems relating to the scarcity and contamination of freshwater supplies; over-exploitation and poor management of groundwater resources; increasing pressure on agricultural production; and rapidly disappearing biodiversity. To a lesser or greater degree, the countries also face serious difficulties with providing clean drinking water and waste management facilities to their people.

In response to these challenges, the Global Environment Facility has funded a full-sized project that recognises and addresses the urgent need for comprehensive Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) and improved Water Use Efficiency (WUE) in the SIDS of the Atlantic and Indian oceans. The so-called IWRM AIO SIDS project is designed to strengthen the commitment and capacity of the six participating countries to implement an integrated approach to the management of freshwater resources, with a long-term goal of enhancing their capacity to plan and manage their aquatic resources and ecosystems on a sustainable basis.

The GEF is already providing assistance to SIDS in the Caribbean and Pacific Ocean and the inclusion of these six participating countries from the Atlantic coast of Africa and the Indian ocean region ensures that SIDS around the world are receiving considerable help to address the critical issues of water quality and wastewater management and their relation to sustainable development.

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The project is implemented by UN Environment and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) with the support of the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS). It addresses the paragraph 64 of the SAMOA Pathway on water and sanitation and directly feeds into the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its 17 Global Sustainable Development Goals.

In particular, it will help ensuring availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all (Goal 6), paying special attention to women participation in the process (Goal 5). It also responds to the need to take urgent action to combat climate change and its impact particularly in Small Island Developing States (Goal 13). Thanks to its ecosystem based philosophy the project will feed into Goal 14 on life below water and Goal 15 on life on land. Finally, it will build on existing initiatives to develop measurements of progress on sustainable development that complement gross domestic product, and support statistical capacity-building in developing countries (Goal 17).