Saving the ocean is more than an environmental responsibility. Safeguarding our ocean may be one of the most sustainable ways for Small Island Developing States, or SIDS, to save themselves. This statement captures the overarching sentiments of the July 7th event, moderated by Ms. Valerie Cliff, the Resident Representative of UNDP Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean. The event is part of the ongoing 2021 session of the High-Level Political Forum (HLPF) on the Sustainable Development Goals at the United Nations.
The event, dubbed “Unleashing the Potential of the Blue Economy” provided an opportunity for reflections and recommendations to help small islands tap into the full potential of the Blue Economy to diversify their economies as ‘Big Ocean States’. Ms. Linda Maguire, UNDP Deputy Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean, explained that unleashing the potential of the blue provides a major opportunity to achieve significant socio-economic development in the region, if tapped. She stated, “supported by partnerships, UNDP’s approach to unleashing the potential of the Blue is underpinned by the necessity to protect and restore existing ocean resources that supply food and livelihoods to the region’s population while catalyzing and enhancing sustainable economic activities derived from the ocean.”
The Honourable Kirk Humphrey, Minister of Maritime Affairs and the Blue Economy in Barbados delivered the key-note address at the forum geared towards policymakers, public sector professionals and development practitioners across the Caribbean. During his speech, the Minister noted, “Our vision and at the same time our challenge is to sustainably leverage our ocean as a natural resource and provide the required supportive policy, developmental and physical infrastructure to stimulate economic growth and better protection of our coastal environment and marine life.” He further stated, “that a sustainable ocean economy has the potential to transform the lives of communities via the development of non-extractive industries that provide higher value-added opportunities – this is the thing that we must get right.”
Esteemed members of the panel, namely H. E. Dr. Walton Webson, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Antigua and Barbuda to the United Nations and Chair of the Alliance of Small Island States, Dr. Stacy Richards-Kennedy, Director of the Regional Office of Global Partnerships and Sustainable Futures at The University of the West Indies (UWI), Ms. Marla Dukharan, Caribbean Economist, and Mr. Johanan Dujon, Entrepreneur and Founder of Algas Organics in Saint Lucia also shared their insights and recommendations stirring policy-makers and development professionals to look at the sustainable development of the Blue Economy as a catalyst for post COVID-19 recovery in the region.
The session explored themes related to the challenges and opportunities in harnessing the Blue Economy; the evolution of The UWI-UNDP Blue Economists Programme and the role of The UWI and academia; the steps required to promote an enabling environment for entrepreneurs in the private sector rooted in innovation and sustainability; and the main areas in which SIDS can collaborate in order to increase their resilience and improve economic diversification.
This initiative is part of the work of UNDP Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean in its commitment to promoting economic diversification, job creation and resilience under a "Blue Economy for Green Islands" approach. As the Caribbean continues to seek innovative solutions to build resilience and ensure livelihoods for traditionally vulnerable groups, UNDP Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean, in partnership with governments and stakeholders, remains dedicated to the advancement of inclusive and sustainable development throughout the region and building resilient communities that can withstand shocks and crises through targeted projects and programmes.
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