SANDWATCH - a Global Observatory of Changing Environments in SIDS based on citizen science
Status of initiative: On track
Description/achievement of initiative

Coasts and beaches are highly dynamic environments of critical importance to the economic, socio-cultural and bio-physical integrity of SIDS. During recent decades, these environments have been subjected to an increasing rate of change due to urbanisation and expanding coastal development, as well as climate change and climate variability. These changes are impacting, often adversely, the lifestyles and livelihoods of islanders living in coastal towns and villages, and beyond that, resource-based and tourism-based economies from local to national levels.Working in this context, Sandwatch is an activity-oriented program, operational for 12 years, in which children, youth and adults work together to scientifically monitor, design and implement practical activities and projects to address particular issues facing their beach environment and build resilience to climate change. The Sandwatch approach is called MAST: Monitoring, Analysing, Sharing information, and Taking action. For example, students monitor water quality levels at a local beach, analyse their data in the classroom, share the information with their community, and take action if pollution levels indicate warrant. Sandwatch is open-access and is presently active at community-level and in schools in 30 countries worldwide. After many years of piloting and improving Sandwatch - its manuals (in four languages), coastal monitoring protocols, global database, training videos, website, and networks in all SIDS regions, it is now opportune for UNESCO to scale-up this flagship project in response to rapidly growing demand from SIDS world-wide. The high vulnerability of SIDS in the face of global climate change has made them acutely aware of the need to build awareness amongst their citizens, including in particular youth, about this emerging threat to their livelihoods, natural and cultural heritage and in some cases, their very existence. But beyond education, SIDS citizens also seek the opportunity to act: to contribute to global understanding of the changes underway and to counter where possible negative impacts. Sandwatch offers this dual opportunity to learn and to act. In this International Year for SIDS and the 20-year review of the Barbados Programme of Action, the expansion of Sandwatch across schools in SIDS, and across SIDS regions, is a dynamic and positive message of increased understanding, action and hope.The key objectives of the partnership are to build on the popularity and success of Sandwatch to:- expand and enhance the Sandwatch International Database to become a community-based observatory of changing coastal environments in SIDS and to serve as a global archive of coastal and beach changes that is also a baseline for measuring impacts of climate change and variability.- using new technologies to expand existing networking between islanders and islands to share information and solutions relating to coastal issues and to involve all age groups from children to elders.- promote Sandwatch as a citizen science initiative that makes a tangible difference on the ground through tangible beach enhancement and improvement activities

Implementation methodologies

Teachers, students and community members in more than 30 countries around the world regularly conduct Sandwatch observations and collect data on their changing coastal environments. These trained Sandwatchers serve as a cadre of SIDS-SIDS trainers who can train new groups and respond to requests to introduce Sandwatch into new SIDS countries. A subset of these individuals has been trained to input data from field-based observations into the recently-launched global Sandwatch database. An important work component will include further teacher and student training to maximize the rigour of collected data, and scientific assessments of the strengths and limits of data sets collected by students in training.

Arrangements for Capacity-Building and Technology Transfer

As an interdisciplinary collaborative effort, key activities include regional training workshops to introduce Sandwatch monitoring to new schools in participating SIDS, and into new SIDS across the AIMS, Caribbean and Pacific regions. Furthermore, Sandwatch will also provide the opportunity to introduce information on climate variability and change into education programs and curricula in SIDS. Furthermore, students and teachers will be trained to enter the data recorded from their coastal monitoring into the global Sandwatch database which (i) stores their data in a secure place; (ii) provides tools to analyse observed changes; and (iii) serves as a vehicle to share and compare data across years and from location to location. In step with the growing popularity of citizen science, SIDS students from around the world will actively contribute their observations to a global data set that enhances scientific understandings of environmental variability and trends from local to global scales. Finally, ICTs will be mobilized to build global connections amongst youth in SIDS to share and compare their Sandwatch monitoring efforts, and small grants will be provided to support local community-based actions that respond to adverse changes to their coastal homes. Finally, a Policy Brief will be developed on how community-based monitoring can be mobilized to reinforce scientific observation of climate change impacts in SIDS and action can be taken at the local level.

Coordination mechanisms/governance structure

Children and youth, both at school and at the community level, are the key audience for expanding climate change awareness through hands-on learning. The project will also seek the involvement of local experts from government, NGOs, tertiary colleges and relevant community members. It will network youth, community members and local experts from SIDS world-wide, promoting SIDS-SIDS networks and sharing of expertise.


Sandwatch is an international partnership between the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), the Sandwatch Foundation, University of Puerto Rico, together with other NGOs, schools (some of which are part of the Associated School Network -ASPnet), numerous local governments and ministries in 30 countries worldwide, half of which are SIDS, as well as sponsors such as Denmark, teachers and curriculum developers, students, coastal communities. UNESCO, the Sandwatch Foundation, University of Puerto Rico, Denmark.
4. One Sandwatch Photo Competition to compare Beaches in the Past and the Present
2. One regional Sandwatch training workshop held in each SIDS region: AIMS, Caribbean and Pacific.
1. At least three national training workshops on using the Sandwatch Global Database and improving the scientific rigour of monitoring protocols
3. One Policy Brief on mobilizing community-based monitoring to reinforce scientific observation of climate change impacts in SIDS, and promote local action as a response.
Resources devoted to implementation
In-kind contribution
Time of the Sandwatch volunteer network
Staff / Technical expertise
UNESCO and Sandwatch Foundation staff
Financing (in USD)
Progress reports
Cut off date each year: 1 July
This initiative fulfils the SMART criteria.
Date of completion: 2020
Operating in countries
Contact information/focal point(s)
IKHLEF Khalissa, k.ikhlef@unesco.org

Copyright 2017 United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs