A sustainable blue economy vital for small countries and coastal populations |
The world’s coastal populations contribute significantly to the global economy – about $1.5 trillion annually – with expectations pointing to some $3 trillion by 2030.
Ensuring the health of ocean ecosystems, supporting livelihoods and driving economic growth requires targeted support to key sectors including fisheries and aquaculture, tourism, energy, shipping and port activities, and l seabed mining, as well as innovative areas such as renewable energy and marine biotechnology.
“Essential” marine resources
This is particularly important for small island developing states (SIDS)for whom marine resources are essential assets, providing them with food security, nutrition, employment, foreign exchange and leisure.
Furthermore, through evidence-based policy interventions, these assets can also make increased and lasting contributions to economic growth and prosperity in SIDS and least developed countries (LDCs).
Participate in the main interactive dialogue of the second day of the Conference, the former President of Seychelles, Danny Faure, explained to UN News that it is “extremely important that small states have a place around the table, to ensure that they can assert their aspirations and move in the right direction”.
Recognizing that climate change continues to affect his own country, and several SIDSFaure called on the international community to continue supporting countries like Seychelles.
“The blue economy is essential for the livelihoods of our peoples and our nations. I see [investment] is happening very slowly and I think it is very important that at the international level we continue to focus, so that we can build partnerships between civil society and the private sector,” he said.
© FAO/Luis Tato
What does a truly sustainable blue economy mean?
Despite the lack of a universally accepted definition of term blue economythe World Bank defines it as “the sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth, improved livelihoods and jobs while maintaining the health of the ocean ecosystem.
A blue economy puts everyone first three pillars of sustainability: environmental, economic and social. When talking about sustainable development, it is important to understand the difference between a blue economy and an ocean economy. The term implies that the initiative is environmentally sustainable, inclusive and resilient to climate change.
In addition to providing goods and services measurable in monetary terms, coral reefs, mangroves, seagrasses and wetlands provide essential ecosystem services such as coastal protection and carbon sequestration.
Small Island Developing States control 30% of all oceans and seas. But how can SIDS and the private sector build equitable and responsible partnerships for a sustainable ocean?
Calling for the implementation of the pledges set out in the SIDS Accelerated Modalities of Action, known as the Shortcut SAMOA course and the ambitions of Sustainable Development Goal 14 (SDG14), on the conservation and sustainable use of the oceans, experts on the second day of the conference reiterated the importance of mobilizing the collaboration of the private sector to make this possible.
Impacts of climate change
Speaking to UN NewsTuvalu’s government secretary, Tapugao Falefou, said his country was “not just beginning to understand what climate change is and how it affects [the world] but also to physically understand its impact [us].”
Describing the severe coastal erosion, drought and inundation of the interior by seawater, Mr. Falefou said: “This did not happen 20 years ago. here are the effects of climate change that I can attest to, that big countries may not know.
The road to multilateralism
With millions of people employed worldwide in fishing and fish farming, most in developing countries, healthy and resilient marine and coastal ecosystems are essential for sustainable development.
Other sectors essential to the resilience of developing countries include the coastal tourism sectorwhich contributes up to 40% or more of the world’s gross domestic product (GDP) in some SIDS, and the marine fishing sector, which provides almost 20% of the average animal protein intake consumed by 3.2 billion people, and more than 50% of the average intake in some least developed countries.
Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Director General of the World Trade Organization (WTO), added that without multilateralism no one can solve the ocean problem.
“SIDS have the potential to be great ocean economies (…) if we do this in a sustainable way, we can unlock development opportunities,” she added, highlighting the blue economy pathway. .
© FAO/Sylvain Cherkaoui
women and the ocean
By focusing on the interdependence between SDG14 and SDG 5 (gender equality and empowerment of women and girls) group of experts defended to increase women’s participation and leadership at all levels.
With women severely underrepresented in ocean actions, especially in decision-making roles in ocean science, policy-making and the blue economy, the panel called for more action and step change of the society.
“We have a huge responsibility to do everything we can to ensure the sustainability of our planet, and an event like this [Conference] is probably one of the most important in terms of the future of life,” said Cleopatra Doumbia-Henry, president of the Sweden-based World Maritime University.
Reiterating the importance of looking at women’s working conditions and the pay gap in fishing, Ms. Doumbia-Henry added: “We need to focus on some of these issues, and what I’m tired of is is paying lip service, we need changes, and implementing them, to move it forward.
Integrating women’s participation
For Maria Damanaki, founder of Leading Women for the Ocean, a concrete action plan is needed, accompanied by legislation.
“We have to see women as part of the blue economy, we have to see them everywhere, to mainstream their participation, because without their leadership humanity as a whole is going to lose a lot,” Ms. Damanaki said.
With the expected participation of more than 12,000 ocean advocates, including world leaders, entrepreneurs, youth, influencers and scientists, the Conference will continue to build momentum to advance SDG14, at the heart of the global action to protect life under water. Concrete actions will be taken to build ocean resilience and more sustainable communities, underpinned by a new wave of commitments to restore ocean health.
During the week, UN News will bring you daily coverage of the Conference as well as interviews, podcasts and reports, which you can access here.