President Michel addresses Aims sub-regional grouping meeting - ‘We are bound together by the blue economy’


President Michel addressing guests and delegates at the opening of the meeting


The President expressed this view at the opening ceremony of the Atlantic, Indian Ocean, and South China Sea (Aims) sub-regional grouping meeting held yesterday in preparation for the upcoming international conference on Sids in Samoa next year.

The Samoa Conference is a follow-up to the Barbados Plan of Action (BPOA) agreed in Barbados in 1994, which was the first specific conference on Sids, and the Mauritius Strategy of Implementation (MSI) of 2005, which was attended by President Michel.

The president said the protection and sustainable development of the oceans surrounding small island states was an issue deserving of attention, as it gave Sids the opportunity to take control and ownership of their oceanic spaces.

This, he said, would in turn enable fisheries resources to be developed sustainably by island states, and not only exploited by larger nations.

“The blue economy is about the future we want. Sustainability for islands is all about our ability to use our oceanic space as opportunities for development. As a consequence, achieving sustainable management of this oceanic space will be one which provides for the sustainability of our planet.”

“We are bound together by the blue economy, a theme that brings together the issues that matter most to Sids,” said President Michel during his opening speech.

“We are bound together by our oceanic space; and this oceanic space is also one which provides for the sustainability of our planet.  It connects islands, it connects continents and it connects us to each other.”

The prevailing theme at the meeting was the blue economy, so it was an effective show of solidarity that the Seychellois participants at the opening ceremony, and in fact even the United Nations under secretary-general Wu Hongbo himself, all wore blue shirts to turn the Kempinski conference room into a sea of blue.

“The first message we must take to Samoa is that we want a fair deal for Sids. A fair deal for Sids translates into a fair deal for our planet and indeed a fair deal for humanity,” said President Michel.  

He added that a fair deal also meant a truly sustainable governance structure for the world’s oceans.
“When harvesting the oceans for fish or other resources, they seem to belong to everyone,” he explained.

“But when it comes to dealing with sustainability of resources, of marine conservation or pollution, or piracy, the oceans seem to belong to no one.”

President Michel urged the participants to foster inter-island youth initiatives that will ensure that they continue to share ideas and mobilise resources for the Sids causes in the future.

 “In this context, an important partnership we must foster is connecting the young people from islands across the world.  I am pleased to note the input of the young representatives from the Aims region who met in Seychelles last week with the support of Unesco, and their ideas will be submitted to our conference,” he said. 

“Earlier this year I spoke about the need to have a regional youth initiative and within the Indian Ocean Commission we are determined to foster a stronger network among our young people.”

Over the next three days, the delegates from the countries represented in the region will present their findings, challenges and identify opportunities. They must then work together to agree on the region’s common vision to present at the conference in Samoa next year.

The Aims regional meeting is the last sub-regional meeting to take place to develop their agenda and solidify their regional position for the Samoa conference; the Pacific and Caribbean regions having already met and finalised their aims.

Global partnership a priority

The under secretary-general of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (Desa), Wu Hongbo, made it clear that the rest of the world also had an important role to play in ensuring the sustainable development of island nations.

Mr Wu said he had been appointed by the secretary-general of the United Nations, Ban Ki Moon, to be the secretary general of the upcoming conference in Samoa.
“Some Sids are among the least-developed countries in the world,” said Mr Wu, saying that island nations faced many social, economic, cultural and environmental challenges.

“I’m aware of the challenges, but equally determined to ensure the success of the Samoa conference,” he said. “Rest assured that the UN will come together to support the Sids agenda.”

“As we meet, the UN is also busy developing its post-2015 development agenda, which will have sustainable development at its core. I hope that the upcoming conferences will present an opportunity to share the aspirations and the unique vulnerabilities of Sids.”

A strong economic case

The chairperson of the Alliance of Small Island States (Aosis), Marlene Moses, said that for small island nations, there were many factors which placed them at risk of irreversible losses, including external factors such as rising ocean acidification levels and rising sea levels, and internal factors like pollution, erosion and overfishing. She said that Sids needed to take measures to make the oceans more resilient by addressing the impacts of these factors, both for the wellbeing of future generations and for the immediate benefits it would bring to local communities.

“Too often, the implementation of these measures has proven elusive,” Ms Moses said. “All too often, we find that implementation begins and ends with workshops and short-term consulting work. Sids are some of the most workshopped countries in the world.”

Delegates in a souvenir photograph with President Michel

Ms Moses stressed that Sids must move beyond capacity-building to institution building, which for some nations would likely require long-term engagement.
She added that for this reason it was crucial for the delegates to present a compelling economic case at the Samoa conference to demonstrate how increased investment in infrastructure could build strong economic growth.

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