Island States/Island Territories: International Conference

Island States/Island Territories:
Sharing Stories of Island Life, Governance and Global Engagement

The 1st International Conference on
Small Island States (SIS) and Sub-National Island Jurisdictions (SNIJs)

Location: The Shared (Dutch/French) Island of Sint Maarten/St Martin
Venue: The University of St Martin, Philipsburg
Dates: 12-14 March 2018

Supported by the UNESCO Co-Chairs in Island Studies and Sustainability, University of Prince Edward Island, Canada/University of Malta, and The University of St Martin, Philipsburg


Small Island Developing States (SIDS) comprise a significant and vocal lobby of sovereign island states: of late, they have been especially active on the ‘climate change’ front, and have secured global media attention to (and much sympathy with) their predicament as likely victims of global warming and sea level rise at UNFCCC COP 15 in Copenhagen (2009) and again at COP 21 in Paris (2015).

To this well organized and visible category, it is time to acknowledge another, much less organized and much less visible, but even more numerous: that consisting of SNIJs: subnational island jurisdictions.

SNIJs, and their residents, have their own stories to tell, particularly in how they have navigated the always tortuous, often tense, relationships with their metropolitan powers and governments. In many cases, these non-sovereign territories have shied away from outright independence, even when this option was encouraged by their respective metropole. Instead, they have opted for federalist arrangements that offer varying degrees of autonomy and self-determination, while maintaining important ‘provisions’ from their ‘mainland’: defence, welfare, international representation, citizenship and mobility rights.

We propose the first even conference to discuss life, governance and global engagement on, for and with SIDS and SNIJs. We do so by encouraging conversations and presentations that engage critically with multiple levels of ‘island living’:

  • The unfolding of daily life on small island states and/or territories, involving the challenges of securing decent livelihoods and navigating the opportunities and threats of living on small island jurisdictions. These include: coping with monopolistic services; tightly networked communities; partisan politics; flight and ferry schedules; the strategic resort to migration.
  • The role of institutions, whether public or private (including NGOs and commercial) on small island states and/or territories in facilitating, exploiting, or guarding against the spaces and practices created by globalization. What development strategies are preferred? How best to avoid over-dependence on one main export product or service (typically tourism)? How best to promote innovation and entrepreneurship? How to avoid uneven development and centrifugal tensions, especially in archipelagic jurisdictions?
  • The role of national and regional elites and interest groups, including political parties and governments, in seeking to take maximum advantage of sovereignty (in island states) or non-sovereignty (in island territories), as the case may be. Initiatives to discuss include: nation-building, constitutional reform, regionalization (as with the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States) and diaspora engagement.

We want to share stories. We welcome submissions that look at these dynamics on a case by case, or island by island, basis, and from different disciplinary standpoints. We are especially keen to engage with presentations that adopt a more comparative framework or methodology in their critical analysis.

For example: to what extent are SNIJs less autonomous and sovereign than SIDS? Why has the impetus for small island independence stalled since 1984? Why are there island independence referenda planned only for the SNIJs of New Caledonia and Bougainville? Are UK SNIJs more autonomous than French or Dutch ones? Is offshore banking better regulated on SIDS than SNIJs? Can SIDS and SNIJs just as competently achieve the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals? Is there better climate change preparedness in sovereign island states (because of localised decision making) or in non-sovereign ones (because of easier access to metropolitan funding)? Etc.

Abstracts of around 150 words each are invited on any of the above themes. These should be accompanied by the full name and institutional affiliation of the author/s. They should be submitted electronically to: by not later than Sunday, October 1, 2017.