Aligning Economic Development and Water Policies in Small Island Developing States (SIDS)

Policy Analysis

image of Aligning Economic Development and Water Policies in Small Island Developing States (SIDS)


Small island developing States (SIDS) are among the most water-scarce countries in the world. This strategic risk is exacerbated by their extreme exposure to climate changes, such as sea-level rise, changing rainfall patterns, and more frequent and severe weather events. Water being an element of life, its scarcity undermines fundamental priorities, such as the human right to clean water and sanitation and the conservation of habitat and biodiversity. By extension, water scarcity constrains economic development in SIDS, impacting the feasibility of developing water-intensive industries or more productive technologies, such as irrigated agriculture. Scarcity also imposes zero-sum compromises in allocating water for the production of, on one hand, essentials such as food and energy and, on the other hand, commercial goods and services. Despite the strategic threat posed by mounting scarcity, water security is only sporadically treated in SIDS’ economic development plans. By contrast, many of their plans are tempered with policies to build resilience and mitigate other strategic risks, such as climate change adaptation, disaster risk reduction, and ensuring food security. In this paper, we analyze how SIDS can better align their economic development and water management policies to support the productive transformation their economies, in particular by incorporating water security and water productivity as priorities into their economic plans.


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