Small Island Developing States (SIDS) are a group of low-lying island nations that are home to approximately 65 million people. Despite being responsible for less than 1% of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, SIDS are extremely vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.

The Republic of Mauritius, a SIDS in the Indian Ocean, is increasingly affected by tropical cyclones, storm surges, droughts, changing precipitation patterns, coral bleaching, and invasive species. The country’s development is hampered by climate induced challenges and as such, there is need to develop strategies to include circular economy to become sustainable and climate resilient.

Headshot - Devina Lobine

Devina Lobine

In March 2024, the UK Commonwealth Alumni – Mauritius Chapter (UKCAC) delivered a global conference on the impacts of climate change on SIDS, with a specific focus on Indian Ocean Islands. The activity was led by Commonwealth Alumnus, Devina Lobine, President of UKCAC, with support from fellow alumni members. Devina is currently an Officer at the Mauritius Institute of Biotechnology.

The activity promoted the 2023/24 ACEF theme: Small Commonwealth States.

One-day conference for representatives from SIDS

CSC UKCAC-Mauritius Chapter team

Members of UKCAC – Mauritius chapter: Prakash Ramiah, President – Dr Devina Lobine, Secretary – Madev Balloo, and Meghna Raghoobar.

On 29 March 2024, UKCAC delivered a one-day conference to foster an open exchange of ideas, knowledge, and experiences around the socio-economic impacts of climate change on SIDS in the Indian Ocean. The conference included thematic plenary discussions with expert panel speakers and explored the barriers to climate change adaptation and mitigation, and promoted the importance of circular economy.

The hybrid conference was held at United Dock, Port Louis, Mauritius with over 70 participants joining the event.

Attendees joining virtually represented from SIDS around the world, including Comoros, Dominican Republic, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, Madagascar, Malta, Seychelles, Singapore, Timor Leste, and Trinidad and Tobago. Local representatives included personnel from the Ministry of Environment, Solid Waste Management and Climate Change, United Nations Development Programme-Mauritius, National Youth Environment Council, University of Mauritius, European Union Youth Forum, Indian Ocean Rim Association, Tourism Authority, and local NGOs.

Engaging global climate experts

Honourable Kavydass Ramano, Minister of Environment, Solid Waste Management, and Climate Change giving key note address

Honourable Kavydass Ramano, Minister of Environment, Solid Waste Management, and Climate Change

Special guest, the Honourable Kavydass Ramano, Minister of Environment, Solid Waste Management, and Climate Change, opened the conference commenced with a keynote address.  In his speech, he highlighted the importance of such conferences to amplify the impact and outreach towards sustainable solutions and collective action in SIDS and commended UKCAC’s efforts.

The Honourable Minister later took part in a national television interview alongside Devina.  The broadcast helped in further promoting the conference’s significance and discussions on climate mitigation and adaptation measures in Mauritius.

Following the keynote address, Devina welcomed participants to join expert panel members in thematic plenary discussions.

The first session was on, ‘Challenges of Small Island Developing States in fighting climate change’, moderated by Krishnee Appadoo, Lecturer, University of Mauritius. Attendees heard from panellists, Dr Vimi Dookhun, Senior Lecturer, Head of Department of Chemical and Environmental Engineering, University of Mauritius, Miss Marie Stéphania Perrine, Fellow at UN Climate Change, Mr Yudhish Rohee, Vice-chairperson on of National Youth Environment Council, and Mr Jeremy Raguain, Climate Change and Ocean Advisor.

Speakers highlighted the challenges in mitigating climate change. They noted that the narratives surrounding SIDS are often dominated by actors from the global north, leading to solutions designed for SIDS rather than with SIDS. Speakers suggested that while the North-South cooperation remains crucial, it is imperative to adopt a ‘for SIDS, by SIDS’ approach to ensure that local expertise and traditional knowledge stay at the forefront. The panel also credited that the UN International Conference plays a vital role in maintaining the presence of SIDS on the global agenda, despite the inclusion of several members that do not fit the SIDS criteria.

Following this engaging discussion, the second session discussed ‘Climate change through the science diplomacy lens’, moderated by Pamela Bapoo-Dundoo, Eco-Counsellor and National Coordinator, GEF Small Grants Programme, UNDP Mauritius. Panel speakers included, Professor Paul Arthur Berkman, Founder of Science Diplomacy Center™, Dr Temitope Sogbanmu, Senior Lecturer, Environmental Toxicologist, University of Lagos, Mr Raj Mohabeer, Officer in Charge at the General Secretariat of the Indian Ocean Commission, and Miss Karuna Rana, Social Entrepreneur and Circular Economy Expert.


Panel discussion with speakersProfessor Paul stated that science diplomacy is a language for all. It is fundamentally about fostering dialogue, which is essential for creating awareness and driving change. Similarly, it is crucial for people SIDS worldwide to meet, engage in dialogue, and raise awareness about their unique challenges. In this context, the involvement of youth is particularly important. As the generation that will experience the long-term effects of climate change, young people should be at the forefront of climate diplomacy, advocating for sustainable solutions and equitable policies, which are out of reach for a single nation to address alone.

During this session, panellist Karuna Rana emphasised that SIDS should be referred to as Big Ocean States. Collectively, SIDS control 30% of the global oceans, giving them unique leverage to foster a sustainable blue economy and attract investments in Sustainable Development Goal 14 – Life below water.

Throughout the sessions, panellists and attendees promoted the principles of circular economy, such as resource efficiency, waste reduction, and the reuse and recycling of materials, which SIDS can apply to address environmental challenges while also promoting sustainable economic growth.

Call for collective action in SIDS

Based on the key points discussed during the conference, Devina will draft a reflection paper to be used for future dialogue with the government, private sector, civil society, and youth. The paper will include recommendations discussed to increase efforts for capacity building and collective action towards climate change in SIDS. One such recommendation is the development of a platform for youth to become advocates of change and raise concerns of climate change at the international level.

Devina hopes to share this paper at local, regional and international conferences to defend the cause of SIDS and promote the adoption of circular economy strategies. As an immediate outcome, the Honourable Environment Minister has requested a copy of the reflection paper for consideration while formulating national policies around climate action.

Devina will also work with fellow Commonwealth Alumnus, Meghna Raghoobar, to present the recommendations at the Global Indigenous Youth Summit on Climate Change (GIYSCC) 2024, coinciding with the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples on 9 August 2024. Through this platform, Devina and Meghna aim to engage with youth from SIDS to play a prominent role in climate diplomacy to address climate change.

Devina Lobine is a 2013 Commonwealth Split-site Scholar from Mauritius. She completed a PhD in Biotechnology from Durham University and University of Mauritius.