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Department of Geography


Exploring economic reformation and the Sustainable Development Goals in a post-Covid Galápagos

Project summary

Galápagos is a unique archipelago, a World Heritage Site and one of the most important conservation areas in the world. Prior to the pandemic, these factors were attracting >250,000 tourists per year, generating economic input and employment but also driving human population growth, overwhelming social services and introducing invasive species. The fragility of this socioeconomic system has been clearly highlighted by Covid-19 with the corresponding collapse in the tourism-reliant economy.

There is, therefore, an urgent need for policy reform. Both the localGalápagos and national governments wish to transform Galápagos into a Sustainable Development Goals ‘Territory’ and move toward a more knowledge-focused economy. However, there are many obstacles to be overcome in working toward this aim, including economic limitations, key knowledge gaps and challenges in the existing policy-making processes. Our project aims to support Galápagos decision makers in overcoming these obstacles by identifying sustainable recovery options and facilitating a shift toward the knowledge economy and away from tourism reliance. We are supporting progress toward the Sustainable Development Goals in Galápagos, facilitating community involvement in conservation and development and working to strengthen the science policy interface in the Islands.

Primary aims

Explore post-Covid economic recovery options

To support the Governing Council of Galápagos to work toward a sustainable recovery from Covid-19, we are working with the Charles Darwin Foundation to organise and conduct scenario Sustainable Development Goalsanalysis research into post-pandemic economic recovery options and provide policy recommendations. In simultaneously supporting a shift away from tourism reliance and toward the knowledge economy, we are considering alternative methods of revenue generation for conservation in Galápagos. Here our work ties in with that of another project in the Department of Geography. This element of the project is funded by the Global Challenges Research Fund.

Identify priority SDG targets for the islands

Using stakeholder participation and network analysis we have been working with local NGO FUNCAVID to prioritise and adapt 40 SDG targets for Galápagos, through participatory workshops, and build a tool to help policy makers achieve these identified priorities. As part of this, we have identified synergies and conflicts between these targets in the Galápagos context, to enable appropriate focus of resources toward those with the potential to yield maximum benefits while mitigating possible negative impacts on others.

Supporting Community Initiatives

In 2021, in collaboration with FUNCAVID, and with the support ofGalapagos sea lions Galápagos Conservation Trust and Galápagos Conservancy, we launched a new initiative called Co-Galápagos. This works to facilitate community-led social and ecological projects that can support achievement of the identified 40 priority SDG targets.

We collate project ideas from Galápagos residents that fall under the topics featured in the 40 targets, such as education, biodiversity conservation, gender equality and clean water provision. We support in project planning and work to obtain funding for the project, often through sponsorship by tourists or other private donors. When the project receives sponsorship, we support project leaders in their work, providing them with training as necessary and assisting them in producing outputs appropriate for policy-makers. We have also launched the first ever paid internship scheme for young Galapagueños to gain experience in projects relating to the 40 targets, without having to support themselves through volunteering.

Galápagos Project Network

networkLinked with the Co-Galápagos Initiative, we are currently working with FUNCAVID and the Galápagos National Park Directorate to build a network of all past and present research and community projects across the islands. The idea behind this is to bring information about all the projects into one place, allow an easy overview of the work that has been/is being done and show the topics each project relates to. We will also be developing this tool to connect all projects to the 40 Priority SDG Targets, the objectives of the Galápagos 2030 Plan and the 50 Top Research Questions for Galápagos. This will allow easy understanding of what work is being done toward these ambitions and, importantly, where key gaps lie.

Improve the science-policy interface in Galápagos

In collaboration with Talking Transformation and the Charles Darwin Foundation, we have established a Policy Advisory Group, linked to the newly launched Galápagos Hub for Sustainability, Innovation and Resilience. The Advisory Group is connected to a wider network of scientific and technical organisations within and beyond Ecuador, to inform policy and pilot solutions. This is aimed to improve the efficiency of Galápagos-focused research, enable the filling of necessary knowledge gaps, allow science-informed policy decisions to be made and allow policy needs to feed back into research aims.