By Shanta Roy
NEW YORK (ACP-IDN) – When the 79-member African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Group of States – along with the government of Seychelles – sponsored a high-level forum at the United Nations on September 26, the primary focus was the emerging new “blue economy” underlining the protection and preservation of the world’s heavily-exploited oceans.
The world’s Small Island Developing States (SIDS), who comprise some of the most environmentally-vulnerable countries, are being increasingly threatened not only by climate change, resulting in rising seas and shrinking lakes, but also suffering the negative after-effects of pollution, sea-bed mining, illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing and the unauthorized extraction of marine resources in the high seas.
The subject of the forum was: “Oceans Governance and ACP Small Island Developing States: Harnessing the Blue Economy.”
The ACP, which comprises 48 countries from Sub-Saharan Africa, 16 from the Caribbean and 15 from the Pacific, believes that oceans and coastal areas are vital for the livelihoods and food security of many nations, including SIDS, and improving ocean governance mechanisms at international, national and local levels is necessary to ensure the promise of a sustainable blue economy.
As the keynote speaker, and a strong advocate of the survival of SIDS, President Danny Faure of the Republic of Seychelles, pointed out: “The ocean is our pathway to prosperity.”
Underscoring the importance of partnerships and collaborative research, he said the blue economy is also an alternative approach to ocean governance.
Among the highlights of his address were the need for increased private investments and the role of civil society as a “crucial driver”. Reflecting on gender empowerment, he said there has been increasing participation of women in the island’s tuna industry.
All of these developments are pegged onto the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – and in particular SDG 14, which calls for the conservation and the sustainable use of the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development.
The United Nations has warned that the increasingly adverse impacts of climate change, including ocean acidification, overfishing and marine pollution are jeopardizing recent gains in protecting portions of the world’s oceans.
The protection of marine resources and the preservation of ocean life will be on the agenda of three key upcoming meetings: the UN climate change conference (COP 24) in Katowice, Poland, December 2-14, 2018; the UN climate summit in New York in September 2019, and the UN oceans conference in Portugal in 2020.
All these conferences will take place even as the UN continues negotiations for a new international treaty to regulate “the high seas beyond national jurisdiction”. The final treaty is expected to be ready in 2020.
Speaking earlier at the high level segment of the General Assembly on September 25, President Faure said that Seychelles pioneered a Blue Economy Strategic Framework and Road Map to multiply the potential of its territorial waters while also protecting them for future generations.
He said the country is shifting from dependence on bilateral aid to developing innovative sources of financing for its emerging blue economy. Seychelles also continues to call for a vulnerability and resilience index that accounts for the unique vulnerabilities of small island developing States, he said.
Speaking of financing at a climate change event on September 26, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres emphasized the need to mobilize some $100 billion a year by 2020 for climate action.
These projected funds are expected to come both from governments that have to fulfil their pledges and by the private sector.
Addressing the forum, Ambassador Peter Thompson of Fiji, the UN Special Envoy for Oceans and a former President of the UN General Assembly, said: “We should marshal our forces and we will win the battle.”
If the world is to fully implement the climate change agreement, he said, we need political leadership. “And it is doable.”
He also called for a need for partnerships, including non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and private entrepreneurs.
Addressing the ACP forum, Elizabeth Wilson, Director for International Conservation Policy at the Pew Charitable Trusts, warned that ailing oceans will hurt the economies of all nations – large and small, landlocked and coastal, developed and developing.
But the impacts will be felt most significantly by those who depend heavily on the oceans, such as the small island developing states.
“That makes it vital that political leaders around the world recognize this threat to the global economy now and act to restore our seas to good health,” she added, and pointed out there is no area so urgent for international action as finally concluding an agreement to eliminate harmful fisheries subsidies.
In the Sustainable Development Goals, UN members reiterated a commitment to eliminate harmful fisheries subsidies that contribute to IUU fishing, overcapacity, and overfishing by 2020.
Negotiations over a potential agreement on this issue are being held at the World Trade Organization. Its members announced at their Ministerial Conference last December in Buenos Aires their decision to work toward an agreement to end harmful fisheries subsides by the end of 2019, after more than two decades of talks.
Wilson said: “It has been globally recognized that overfishing and other destructive fishing practices have severely decreased the world’s fish stocks, thus undercutting food security and work to end poverty.”
She warned that fisheries subsidies are one of the key drivers behind this decline.
While not all subsidies are harmful, she argued, governments pay an estimated $20 billion per year in damaging types of fisheries subsidies to offset costs such as fuel, gear, and vessel construction. And most of these subsidies go not to small-scale or artisanal fishers, but to large-scale industrial fleets, she added.
In his closing remarks, Dr Patrick I Gomes, Secretary-General ACP Group of States, said President Faure, gave a snap shot of the innovative approach not only to manage that “Large Ocean State” which Seychelles is known, as having a “Maritime Security Strategy” against over-fishing, plastic pollution, piracy, but also keeping the ocean productive, secure as a source of food and jobs resilient and innovative through investment in Sovereign Blue Bonds.
The Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) is a plastic free zone and has instituted a Fisheries Transparency Initiative while designing a SIDS Specific Index that will measure targets for the achievement of SDG 14 for sustainable use and protection of Oceans, he noted.
Dr Gomes said this is a high priority area of the ACP Group in its strategic pillars for post-Cotonou negotiations and to join forces with Seychelles on the way to having a climate-smart sustainable future will be a strong platform to work with the European Commission in advancing Triangular Cooperation.
“All in all the many initiatives on the Blue Economy must be brought together for coherence and impact in the lives of people. This is what the ACP is about,” he declared.
Singling out innovative financing mechanisms, he also referred to the $50 million contribution by India aimed at enhancing South-South cooperation.
At the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in London last April, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, announced the launch of a $50 million “Commonwealth window” to the India-UN Development Partnership Fund.
This contribution is in addition to $100 million pledged in 2017 for the India-UN Development Partnership Fund, thereby increasing India’s multi-year contribution to $150 million.
The countries supported by this fund are located in various parts of the world and include some of the most vulnerable Member States of the Commonwealth, including SIDS.
Grenada, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu are the first three development partners engaged under this newly created Commonwealth window. [IDN-InDepthNews – 01 October 2018]
Photo (l to r): President Danny Faure of the Republic of Seychelles, ACP Secretary-General Dr .Patrick I Gomes, Ambassador Peter Thompson of Fiji, the UN Special Envoy for Oceans. Credit: Seychelles Permanent Mission to the UN in New York.
IDN is flagship agency of the International Press Syndicate.
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