Blue Talk presenters engage with the audience.

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus have partnered to present a series of talks on the Blue Economy.

With its inaugural session now complete, The Blue Talk brought together leading innovators in the field to engage with the public on the unique opportunities that the blue economy provides. For UNDP, the inaugural Blue Talk is part of the inception activities of UNDP’s new Global Accelerator Lab on the Blue Economy (The Blue Lab). The UNDP Sub-regional Office for Barbados and the OECS will hub one of 60 Global Accelerators under the UNDP Global Innovation Facility. Speaking on the importance of such an initiative, Chisa Mikami, UNDP’s acting Resident Representative remarked, “here in the Caribbean, the accelerator lab has been selected to work in the development area of the blue economy, with the aim of supporting small island developing states (SIDS) in the sustainable development of their ocean-based economic sectors; a sector we can no longer ignore.”

The first Blue Talk was held at the Cynthia Wilson Arts Lecture Theatre at UWI Cave Hill and brought together over 70 attendees eager to hear more about the Blue Economy. The principal of the UWI Cave Hill Campus Professor Eudine Barriteau, expressed the commitment of the UWI to continuing the conversation surrounding the Blue Economy. In her remarks, she highlighted the work of the Centre for Resource Management and Environmental Studies (CERMES) in championing the work of research and innovation in the area of the Blue Economy. She highlighted their recent work on sargassum and on gender in fisheries. The UWI partnership is integral to the success of the UNDP Accelerator programme as the Lab seeks to support the efforts of those who have been involved in the Blue Economy.

Equally, Dr Leo Brewster, Director of the Coastal Zone Management Unit from the Ministry of Maritime Affairs and the Blue Economy, highlighted Barbados’ commitment to the Blue Economy, and Mr, Didier Trebucq, United Nations Resident Coordinator, emphasized in his remarks, how the Blue Economy allows us to make “better use of the ocean as an engine of economic growth while contributing to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals”.

The featured speaker was Dr. Julian Roberts; a marine scientist and author of the Blue Economy Scoping Study for Dominica. Dr Roberts took the audience through understanding the importance of a focus on the blue economy for Caribbean nations. He reiterated that “the blue economy is not new or separate from the current domestic activity, but as an opportunity to bring together sectors, breaking silos and working different”. He further went on to state that what is new about the blue economy is that it is “much more clear how important the health of the ocean is in supporting these activities, livelihoods.” Dr. Roberts added, “oceans are now front and centre of the international development agenda.”

This featured talk was complemented by a talk by Nikola Simpson of Sustainable Caribbean, who engaged the audience on the area of plastic pollution. She shared real facts about the impact of plastic pollution on the health of Barbados. One such glaring fact noted that in 2018 Barbados imported 150,000 pounds of plastic cups which equalled the weight of 46 ZR Vans. She then went on to challenge the audience to revisit their habits and monitor how much they interact with plastic in their daily lives. She asked the audience – would they choose planet or plastic?

The talk also featured a presentation by Blue Economy Entrepreneur - Joshua Forte of Red Diamond Compost. Joshua took the audience on his journey as an entrepreneur in the field speaking of his motivations to get involved with the conversion of sargassum to a bio-stimulant compost. He spoke of his personal reflection on the healthiness of food production as his main motivator to explore this area. Joshua also spoke of the challenges as an entrepreneur in the field of access to finance and behavioural change of peers.

The talks were ended by an invigorating talk on innovation. Tamaisha Eytle of the Blue Economy Accelerator Lab with UNDP spoke to the audience about how UNDP seeks to innovate the development agenda through the blue economy. She encouraged the audience to bring these ideas to the Blue Lab and connect them with new and creative solutions to sustainable development challenges.

The Blue Talk occurred as part of the Blue Tour which allows UNDP to engage with regional stakeholders in the British Virgin Islands, Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados and Dominica.

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