All eyes on Sustainability Week for promotion of blue economy


Delegates during a panel session on day two of the conference yesterday

This was the view expressed by New Zealand’s foreign affairs minister, Murray McCully, in his speech on the second day of the Atlantic, Indian Ocean, and South China Sea (Aims) preparatory meeting in the build-up to the 3rd international Sids conference in September 2014.

“I do not wish in any way to diminish the importance of the meeting in Samoa, but I do want to say that we need to ensure that we don’t use it as an excuse for not doing other things in the meantime,” he said. “We need to make sure that we always move for opportunities for collective action.”

With a nod to President James Michel’s remarks about turning rhetoric into action at the opening ceremony yesterday, Mr McCully said the governments of small nations were by their very nature more nimble at making quick, important decisions than their larger counterparts.

“I think it’s therefore important that we capitalise more on that advantage of being small,” he concluded.

The Minister for Natural Resources and Industry, Peter Sinon, echoed these sentiments and said the blue economy message would also be represented in the margins of the upcoming Sustainability Week, which will be held in Abu Dhabi early next year.

“To ensure greater focus on the blue economy at all levels, President Michel made the subject matter the heartbeat of his interventions at the AU summit in Addis Ababa in May, as well as at the Tokyo international conference on African development (Ticad) in Japan in June,” said Mr Sinon.

“The blue economy is the application of the principles of ‘green’ economy in our blue world,” he said. “The blue, interconnected oceans cover no less than 72% of our planet and they offer a range of opportunities. However, these opportunities are continually being exploited at different paces by different stakeholders.”

It was clearly apparent from the participants that the concept of the blue economy, a catchphrase that emerged during the Rio +20 summit on sustainable development, was one that needed to be defined more clearly to be heard as a distinctive voice in indirect competition with the concept of ‘green’ economy.

Once the blue economy was defined, island nations in the Aims region would then need to come up with a strong position and strategy to take forward in voicing their concerns about the sustainable management of the world’s oceans.

However, the director of energy and climate change in the UAE ministry of foreign affairs, Dr Thani al-Zeyoudi, said that when assessing whether they should adopt the models of blue or green economy for the United Arab Emirates, it was found that no one-size-fits all solution was available. He said it was necessary to adopt a more tailor-made strategy to ensure the sustainable growth of all its interests.

Mr McCully, who is an active member of the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF), submitted that the concerns of the Pacific islands were in many ways mirrored by island nations across the world, and said he believed that PIF needed to build stronger ties with the islands represented in the Aims region.

“The 14 small Pacific island countries that are members of the forum collectively see about $2.6 billion a year of tuna taken out of their economic zones, and about another $400-500 million of tuna is taken illegally through illegal fishing. The returns that the Pacific countries got were only about $320 million last year out of a resource that saw $3 billion go out of the waters in the region.”

Mr McCully said the forum was engaging in a range of measures to ensure that a significantly greater return from the resources stayed in the nations of extraction.

Cape Verde’s ambassador to the United Nations, Antonio Lima, said it would be vital to arrive at a collectively agreed-upon, concrete definition of the blue economy concept.

“I will try to explain what we mean by blue economy in Cape Verde,” he said. “You can say that it is to seize the opportunities of ocean business, while respecting, preserving and protecting it, for the collective benefit of all.”

Mr Lima said that due to Cape Verde’s close proximity to major shipping lanes and the world’s major economic blocs in North and South America, Europe and Africa, his country has developed an ambitious agenda for economic transformation which hinges on developing their maritime economy.

Deliberations are expected to resume today in the final day of the Aims meeting, after which the regional outcome document is expected to be officially ratified and adopted by the participants.

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