SIDS Centre of Excellence in Aruba: Building Bridges Between Islands of Knowledge


How can SIDS ensure its tourism sector is more sustainable for its economy, people and environment? And: How can SIDS develop a coherent pathway to increase their use of renewable energy?

SIDS Centre of Excellence in Aruba

These were just two of many key questions that were addressed at the Inaugural Training of the Centre of Excellence (COE) for SIDS on Aruba in November 2016. The COE was launched last year as a collaborative effort of the Government of Aruba, the Kingdom of the Netherlands and UNDP. It aims to support SIDS in their sustainable development efforts, in particular with regards to Renewable Energy, Sustainable Tourism, Public-Private Partnerships and Social Innovation.

Sustainable Development as a Balancing Act

Policy-makers from close to 30 SIDS attended the training. At the opening of the Inaugural Training, the Prime Minister of Aruba, Mike Eman underlined the importance of a well-balanced vision on sustainable development: ”Aruba has prospered due to tourism over the past thirty years. When we took office in 2009 as a government, we were determined to let the population share more in this prosperity than before. Quality tourism must go hand in hand with quality of life of our citizens, otherwise one cannot speak of sustainable development,” Eman said.

Knowledge Shared and Connections Made

Participant Omar Bafakih from The Comoros explained: ”The training was very useful. Our country is struggling with the implementation of the SDG’s. In Aruba we learned to create a policy and a roadmap for sustainable development. The island also gave us hope, seeing how far along Aruba is with sustainable energy. We met many interesting people, and I will keep in touch with them.” His words underline the spirit of the Centre of Excellence, as Arno Boersma, manager of the COE, elaborated: ”SIDS often lack the economies of scale, so ‘how-to’ knowledge becomes a valuable, renewable resource. We must therefore collaborate and share solutions, best practices and lessons learned. That’s what we aim to do with the Centre.”

Highlights from the Inaugural Event

In addition to getting to know peers from other SIDS who are facing similar challenges or may have found solutions, the Inaugural Training included:

  • A very practical session with local Public-Private Partnership (PPP) experts about their experiences and lessons learned for using PPPs in a SIDS context;
  • A presentation by Kenroy Roach, UNDP Regional Advisor, Caribbean, outlining his experience with the MAPS approach (Mainstreaming, Acceleration, Policy Support) for the SDG agenda in Jamaica;
  • Various field trips to Aruban champions in sustainability, such as the Vader Piet Wind Park, TNO’s Smart Community, Bucuti & Tara Beach Resort, and WEB Water & Energy Utility. Some of these organizations have been part of the COE case studies that can be found at the COE’s website

2017: Supporting SIDS on the Ground

The COE will continue to build up the knowledge hub and virtual platform in 2017. It will also commence a number of in-country technical assistance missions linked to the COE’s focus areas. Arno Boersma explains: “We really want to be a bridge between islands of knowledge.”

How can you become involved?

For starters, go to and sign up for the COE Newsletter and find the resources from the Inaugural Training. Next, let the COE know if you have a great practice to share with other SIDS. The COE will work with you to turn it into an insightful knowledge product for the benefit of others. For more information, please contact Arno Boersma, Manager, COE at

Copyright 2016 United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs