By Dr Patrick I. Gomes, ACP Secretary-General
BRUSSELS (IDN) – Our Ocean, Our Future: Call for Action is the outcome document agreed by Heads of State and Government and High Level Representatives of the 193 member-states of the United Nations that met in New York from June 5 to 9 2017 at the first-ever Oceans and Seas Conference.
With the Republic of Fiji and the Kingdom of Sweden, as co-conveners, the Conference was a widely participatory event aimed at giving concrete support to the implementation of Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 14 of the 2030 Agenda that seeks to Conserve and sustainably Use the Oceans, Seas and Marine Resources.
The participation of the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Group at the conference was very fitting and timely to shore up support and stand in solidarity with a hosting member state in its endeavour to rally unwavering commitment to accelerate the collective actions of the international community to deliver for the attainment of SDG 14.
That our planet is more than 75% of oceans and seas is the fundamental factor that demands of all humanity the responsibility to ensure sustainable use of our oceans and seas. In addition, for the 31 member-states of the ACP Group that comprise the Small Island Developing States (SIDS) from the Caribbean and Pacific, good governance, sustainability, conservation and people-centred development of oceans, seas and marine resources are at the very centre of their quest for just access and secure livelihoods that respect their cultures and traditional stewardship of “life below the water”.
Addressing structural vulnerabilities
Characterized by persistent development challenges, due to limited economies of scale and remoteness as well as unique ecological vulnerabilities, SIDS are recognised as constituting a special case for sustainable development.
Increasingly, scientific evidence indicates that SIDS will become continually more vulnerable to the adverse impacts of climate change which pose the most serious long-term threat to the achievement of sustainable development, in such areas as food and nutrition security, sea level rise and the intensity and frequency of hurricanes, cyclones, storms causing extensive loss of life and damage to crops and property.
Against this backdrop, the ACP Group of States, decided to establish an ACP Forum on Small Island Developing States. The Forum, as part of its work programme, is developing a Support Programme that will focus on, inter alia:
- Sensitizing relevant stakeholders about the development challenges and the unique vulnerabilities of SIDS;
- Strengthening partnerships for the implementation of the SIDS agenda;
- Facilitating access to financial resources for ACP SIDS; and
- Supporting the implementation of the SAMOA Pathway at the regional and national levels.
In collaboration with the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), the ACP approach is for a comprehensive and complementary action programme that addresses awareness-building, primarily aimed at policy and regulatory mechanisms to build capacity for resilience, and strengthening institutions for policy analysis and information exchange on successful practices to overcome structural constraints to sustainable development of SIDS.
With the ACP-FAO collaboration, emphasis is being given to climate-smart agricultural production as well as linking crop and livestock improvement that is conscious of nutritional needs of island populations. The diet-related health issues from heavy sugar content in staples have been identified as needing systematic attention and will be addressed by changes to cropping practices along with nutrition education as part of the FAO’s food and nutrition security programme.
The ACP-UNCTAD partnership is centred on the recognition of the vast potential of oceans, seas and marine resources as a critical engine for structural transformation of island economies from the perspectives of trade opportunities in the fisheries and marine sectors, mobilising coastal communities for technologically-advanced artisanal fishing with links to tourism and related services.
In this comprehensive overview of what is called the blue economy, trade and services are promoted in ways that reverse the environmental decline of ocean health and enable investments that respect all aspects of sustainable development – economic, social and environmental.
Harnessing potential of the Blue Economy
Participation by the ACP Group at the Conference afforded an opportunity for a multi-stakeholder breakfast meeting to demonstrate the scope and on-going practices that unlock the potential of investment for private enterprise in the fisheries and marine sector, despite the perceived high risk constraints.
Moreover, the range of science and technological innovation on marine resources was an area of growing importance and with significant achievements that needed to be shared among ACP member states for the agenda of their research institutes and academia in general.
Attendance among the stakeholders included the Hon. Josaia Voreque Bainimarama, Prime Minister of Fiji who gave the feature address, the Hon. Jose da Silva Goncalves, Minister of Economy and Employment of Cabo Verde, representatives of the European Investment Bank (EIB), the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), UNFAO, UNCTAD, UNDP, the Caribbean Regional Fisheries Mechanism (CRFM) and the law firm, Kelley, Drye and Warren.
H.E. Mr. Johnson Weru (Kenya), Chairman of the Sub-committee on Sustainable Development and H.E. Mr. Haymandayol Dillum (Mauritius), Coordinator of the ACP SIDS Forum, represented the ACP’s Committee of Ambassadors.
From the Fijian Prime Minister’s speech and the rich experiences of advances made in various countries to encourage investments and job creation in the marine and fisheries sectors the meeting derived valuable insights that would benefit both policy and practice for implementation of SDG 14 on oceans, seas and marine resources.
Moreover, a strong platform and enhanced solidarity have been reinforced that will benefit the work of the ACP Forum on SIDS, as well as guide the agenda for the forthcoming ACP’s 5th Ministerial Meeting on Fisheries & Aquaculture, scheduled for the Commonwealth of the Bahamas from September 18 to 21 2017. [IDN-InDepthNews – 27 July 2017]
Photo: Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimaram (second from left), and Secretary General of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States (ACP) (second from right), and other members of the ACP delegation after a high level meeting on the margins of the UN Ocean Conference in New York on June 6, 2017. Photo: DEPTFO New
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