About us

UNESCO Chair in Island Studies and Sustainability
University of Prince Edward Island 

The UNESCO Chair in Island Studies and Sustainability is a prestigious initiative orginally spearheaded by UPEI and the University of Malta, and now hosted at UPEI. Part of a network of 700 other Chairs from around the world, this UNESCO Chair is the first in Atlantic Canada, and the only one east of Quebec.

Meet our Chair
Dr. Jim Randall is an economic and social geographer, Coordinator of the Master of Arts Island Studies programme at UPEI and has taught in Island Studies, Geography, International Studies and Planning.Jim Randall low-res In the past 20 years, Dr. Randall has secured more than US$2.25 million in competitive grants and contracts and has written 35+ peer-reviewed publications. He is currently writing an eTextBook for undergraduate students titled An Introduction to Island Studies. He has extensive experience as an academic administrator at three universities, including as a Dean, Vice-President Academic and Provost. He is also a pioneer in community-university scholarship, has assembled and led large multidisciplinary teams of researchers and practitioners from communities and universities, organized major international conferences and has coordinated field courses on sustainability issues in Africa and Mexico.



This Island Studies and Sustainability Chair, led by the University of Prince Edward Island and supported by various other universities and organizations, works to establish and expand academic and research programmes on Small Island Developing States (SIDS) and Sub-National Island Jurisdictions (SNIJs). It operates from the premise that SIDS and SNIJs are innovative, entrepreneurial and connected, not vulnerable, lacking and isolated. It builds North-South and North-South-South networks of knowledge and practice. In so doing, it assists in achieving the MDGs and proposed SDGs for SIDS and for the estimated 600 million Islanders worldwide.

The principal long-term mission of the Chair of Island Studies and Sustainability is to contribute to achieving the sustainable development of Small Island Developing States, a UNESCO priority since the articulation of the Millennium Development Goals in 2000, and to extend this priority to Sub-National Island Jurisdictions. To accomplish this, we propose to harness the insights and experience of island studies scholars, students, governments, and organizations worldwide, many of which the Chair-holder, the Institute of Island Studies, and our partners and supporters have already established.

One of the overarching themes of this initiative is the study and practical application of the sustainable development strategies available to small-island governments and NGOs, not only in SIDS, but also in SNIJs, of which there are more than 100 in the world, including Prince Edward Island. This is critical, since many small islands in larger “developed” states may face both challenges and opportunities that are also experienced by SIDS. However, unlike SIDS, their ambiguous jurisdictional status makes them less visible to study and adopt actions. In this context, the Chair takes into account the capacity that small islands have for implementing sustainable practices in socio-political, cultural-artistic, economic and environmental domains. In transferring innovative ideas, methods, technologies, and resources among islands, the Chair searches for commonalities within and between SIDS and SNIJs, thereby developing a deeper understanding and appreciation of the power of island jurisdiction.


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Launched in 1992, the UNITWIN/UNESCO Chairs Programme promotes international inter-university cooperation and networking to enhance institutional capacities through knowledge sharing and collaborative work.

The Programme supports the establishment of UNESCO Chairs and UNITWIN Networks in key priority areas related to UNESCO’s fields of competence – i.e. in education, the natural and social sciences, culture and communication.

Through this network, higher education and research institutions all over the globe pool their resources, both human and material, to address pressing challenges and contribute to the development of their societies. In many instances, the Networks and Chairs serve as think tanks and as bridge builders between academia, civil society, local communities, research and policy-making. They have proven useful in informing policy decisions, establishing new teaching initiatives, generating innovation through research and contributing to the enrichment of existing university programmes while promoting cultural diversity. In areas suffering from a dearth of expertise, Chairs and Networks have evolved into poles of excellence and innovation at the regional or sub-regional levels. They also contribute to strengthening North-South-South cooperation.

Today, the Programme involves over 700 institutions in 126 countries.