Building Blue Economy Partnerships and Pandemic Recovery in Small Island Developing States

NEW YORK- 11 December 2020 – A virtual webinar on partnership opportunities for sustainable blue economy transition and pandemic recovery in Small Island Developing States (SIDS) was organized by the Office of the High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States (UN-OHRLLS) in cooperation with the World Ocean Council.

The dialogue focused on how ocean partnerships could be used to integrate our oceans as part of the sustainable blue economy. Oceans play a strategic role as they not only feed the SIDS but also the global community. However, sectors dependent on oceans have been severely impacted with the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. Discussants shared their experiences and ongoing projects in the blue economy particularly in sectors like sustainable tourism, aquaculture and renewable energy.  

In her opening remarks, the High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States, Ms. Fekitamoeloa Katoa ‘Utoikamanu, stressed that ocean business partnerships are important as part of the sustainable development path of SIDS as laid out in the SAMOA Pathway. This is because SIDS are bearing the adverse impacts of overfishing, pollution and climate change which has further been worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic. Furthermore, SIDS are experiencing a drastic fall in revenues from sectors like tourism and fisheries which is consequently affecting the livelihoods of their populations.

There was a common agreement that ocean business partnerships are crucial and should include governments, financial institutions as well as the private sector. The SIDS Partnership Framework and the UN-OHRLLS SIDS Global Business Network (GBN) were cited as important examples of platforms that encourage private sector participation in the ocean sector.

The SIDS GBN focuses on several thematic areas like disaster risk reduction, fisheries and marine resources, renewable energy and sustainable tourism. The SIDS GBN Forum will tentatively take place at the Our Ocean Conference in Palau in 2021, with webinars and events to foster partnerships for SIDS leading up to the Forum. The first webinar will focus on Ocean Energy and be organized together with IRENA in the first quarter of 2021.

A panel discussion during the dialogue discussed a number of existing projects already being undertaken across SIDS as part of the transition towards the sustainable blue economy and it included desalination projects in Cabo Verde, promotion of sustainable tourism in the Caribbean region as well as renewable energy projects like the production of electricity from tidal waves. Aquaculture was also deemed as another promising sector for SIDS particularly the cultivation of seaweeds which contributes towards ocean sustainability.

Participants also widely acknowledged that since ocean use is growing at a very fast pace, the challenges facing the blue economy are cross-cutting across various sectors like shipping, aquaculture and tourism. These challenges include (i) conservation of marine biodiversity, (ii) ensuring food security, (iii) reduction in anthropogenic impacts as well as (iv) addressing climate change and disaster risk reduction.

The takeaways from the meeting included the need to form partnerships and share knowledge across islands as they face similar challenges regarding the ocean economy. It was also considered crucial to involve all stakeholders namely the government, private sector, academia as well as NGOs in ocean partnerships. The forthcoming 2nd UN Oceans Conference and the launch of the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development were also welcomed as important milestones in advancing partnership opportunities in the blue economy.