Private Sector Partnerships Key to Building Ocean Economy of Small Island Nations

KOROR, Palau – The seventh Our Ocean Conference closed in Palau with the announcement of 410 commitments to protect the ocean worth $16.35 billion while at the business forum for island nations organised by the UN Office for the Most Vulnerable States (OHRLLS), major announcements were made on renewable energy, post-COVID tourism recovery and zero-emission shipping.

In support of the conference objectives to mobilise action for ocean conservation, OHRLLS brought together representatives from SIDS governments and the private sector for a one-day pre-conference meeting of the SIDS Global Business Network to showcase blue economy partnerships being led by the private sector.  

“Small Island Developing States can reap the benefits of a rapidly growing ocean economy, projected to be worth $3 trillion by the end of the decade,” said Ms. Heidi Schroderus-Fox, the UN’s Acting High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States. She continued, “That’s why this forum is a timely opportunity to unlock new private sector partnership opportunities to help island nations capitalize on the blue economy.”

Among the partnerships showcased at the forum were those on decarbonizing the shipping industry, revitalizing the tourism industry and new initiatives to help island nations achieve 100 percent renewable energy.

Recognising that the shipping industry urgently needs to lower its carbon emissions, Maersk, the largest container shipping company in the world, announced partnerhips with Chile and a number of European ports aimed at building a new ecosystem of shipping transporting cargo with zero emissions by 2050.

With tourism in SIDS having suffered a 70 percent drop in 2020 due to COVID-19, the Pacific Tourism Organisation announced a partnership with regional tourism boards to establish a new SIDS Tourism Working Group to create a system of support, knowledge-sharing and cooperation among that would help countries rebound from the pandemic.

Henk Rogers of Tetris fame and founder of the Blue Planet Alliance announced a pilot initiative to build a multi-island network to achieve 100 percent renewable energy by 2045. The initiative benefits from experience helping Hawaii pass the first U.S. 100 percent renewable energy mandate.

Other notable initiatives announced at the forum included Wave of Change by Iberostar, a hotel chain with more than 100 hotels in 16 countries, committing to make tourism a catalyst for the regeneration of nature, and Peace Boat, a Japan-based international NGO working to promote peace, human rights, and sustainability which includes training youth Ambassadors from SIDS.  

Speaking at the forum, Mr. Abdulla Shahid, President of the UN General Assembly, said “The SIDS GBN Forum serves as a vehicle for adding to the voice and language of SIDS as we approach the UN Ocean Conference in Lisbon and throughout this ‘super year’ for the ocean.”  

More than 600 participants from governments, civil society and the private sector took part in the Our Ocean Conference organised by Palau and the United States. It was the first time that the conference has taken place in a small island developing State since its inception in 2014.

The SIDS business forum, held biannually since 2016 by the United Nations Office for the Most Vulnerable States, harnesses the innovation of the private sector to achieve sustainable development in small island developing States (SIDS). The next SIDS business forum is slated to take place in 2024 to coincide with the fourth international conference on SIDS.