Small Islands Organisation - SMILO

Small Islands Organisation (SMILO)’s objective is to support islands of less than 150 km² to achieve good governance and sustainable management of their resources. This is achieved through a certification and labeling scheme that focuses on five primary areas: 1) waste management and treatment; 2) water resources and sanitation; 3) renewable energy and reduced fossil fuel energy consumption; 4) marine and terrestrial biodiversity conservation; and 5) landscape and heritage conservation.

In its development phase (2017-2021) SMILO intends to support 18 small islands located in West Africa, the Indian Ocean, the Pacific Ocean, and the Mediterranean. To do so, SMILO has the support of many international key-players involved in island and the coastal protection, such as the French Facility for Global Environment, Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation, the French Environment Ministry and the European Union. Its main institutional partners to raise the voice of islands are the Conservatoire du littoral and the Global Island Partnership (GLISPA).


Small island nations are particularly vulnerable to global changes and face a multitude of challenges across the globe. With limited assets and access due to geographical location and small territories, small islands frequently lack the resources necessary to tackle these challenges. Yet while they are often the first to bear the burden of global changes such as sea level rise, water shortages, and biodiversity loss, small islands are also the laboratory of solutions and innovations to these global challenges. Small islands therefore share similar challenges with common solutions.



Small Islands Organisation (SMILO) is an international NGO that supports sustainable development initiatives in small islands of less than 150 km². Through a thoughtful certification and labeling process, the Sustainable Island Label, these islands gain international recognition and resources that they would not have otherwise. SMILO believes that all small islands share the same issues, regardless of development levels or geographic location, and it is critical to create a network to share common challenges and solutions towards sustainable development.

How it Works

SMILO methodology, labeling process, and support enable islands to touch on all Sustainable Island Platform pillars from blue economy, circular economy, and climate resilience. Once island communities have gone through the steps outlined in the SMILO methodology, the final one is recognition of good practices created by the islands through this process. This recognition is in the form of the Sustainable Island Label.

In order to obtain the label, islands must go through the following steps: 1) create an Island Committee involving all stakeholders of the island, giving people an equal voice in management and planning of their territory; 2) have the Committee conduct a territorial diagnosis, assessing the progress of the island in the 5 topics outlined in the SMILO methodology to identify where the challenges are and what can be improved; and 3) incorporate these points into a strategic plan, outlining objectives for the next 3-5 years for the island to be more sustainable SMILO’s 5 topics.

Once this is complete, SMILO helps support the island in the implementation of the strategic plan via on-the-ground support from their team of experts, as well as access to an Island Fund to provide financial support to smaller innovations on the island via a micro-grant scheme. This fund provides small grants (up to 50,000 euros) to small stakeholders on the islands. Many large grants right now are not available for small actors, since the grants are too big and barriers to entry are too high. Using small grants, island innovators can use this as a tool to initiate bigger projects, after receiving support from SMILO in writing the project proposals and passing the first step of labeling.

Finally, an Independent Assessment Committee performs an evaluation of the island to ensure these steps have been completed, and grants the Sustainable Island Label.

While the label itself provides international recognition to the work of small islands, giving them a communication tool to leverage in their work, the steps to achieve the label are the most important for many islands, who now have a concrete way to achieve a more sustainable future, and access to resources to do so. To strengthen cooperation and solidarity between islands, SMILO also hosts an annual meeting of small islands, organizes the Celebrate Islands event in addition to other communication tools like a newsletter, social networks, and in-person training.


SMILO NGO outlines ambitious objectives for the next ten years. By 2030, SMILO plans to have 500 islands as part of the SMILO network, consisting of sustainable islands sharing good practices and benefiting from tools like annual meetings, technical workshop, and a network of experts that can come to the island in person to provide skill training. By 2030, SMILO also hopes to have 50 islands around the globe certified with the Sustainable Islands Label.

Impacts to Date

  • 18 islands have been engaged in labeling process, and 11 have passed first step of the label on their way to achieving the Sustainable Islands Label.
  • 7 islands have currently access to the Island Fund to support innovative and sustainable operations on their territory.
  • 30 islands are a part of the SMILO network and engaged with conversation around sustainability and island innovation.
  • The dialogue amongst small islands have been encouraged during international meetings and workshops.


SMILO is looking to involve small islands that are usually excluded from these kinds of initiatives in furthering sustainable development, thus providing resources and access to networks they would not have otherwise. This gives rise to a number of challenges, including the nature of working remotely with very isolated territories. Internet access can often be a challenge, which is why an in-person annual meeting hosted by SMILO is so critical to the success of this initiative.

What's Next

In 2020 SMILO is launching the World Island Networks during the IUCN Congress, a global mapping of the stakeholders working on islands sustainable development worldwide. This will be the first step to define an international strategy for the sustainable development of small islands. In the future, SMILO hopes to expand its focus to Asia-Pacific, Latin American and the Caribbean, to focus on islands in this region that need support. SMILO also hopes to increase financial support from public and private donors to further expand the Island Fund.

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