By Justus Wanzala
NAIROBI (IDN) – The Kenyan capital was literally painted ‘blue’ for the first-ever global conference on the blue economy attended by over 18,000 participants from 180 countries.
Running from November 26 to 28, the Sustainable Blue Economy Conference ended with various countries signing commitments to ensure that humanity benefits from the blue economy – or the sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth, improved livelihoods and jobs.
Participants discussed a host of topics around the issue of sustainable use of oceans, seas and inland water bodies, and a joint communiqué issued by leaders undertook to utilise their countries’ water resources for the benefit of their people.
The leaders pledged to devise policies that can spur investment in the blue economy, and called for investment in research and development strategies that can ensure sustainable exploitation of marine resources. Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta said nations will also cooperate to ensure the safety of marine resources.
The three-day gathering, which was co-hosted by Kenya, Canada and Japan, discussed ways of harnessing the potential of water bodies and addressing the vulnerabilities of the blue economy.
Most of the leaders who participated were from Africa and included presidents Yoweri Museveni of Uganda, Filipe Nyusi of Mozambique, Abdullahi Mohamed of Somalia, Ali Mohammed Shein of Zanzibar and Danny Faure of Seychelles, in addition to Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya.
Speaking at the Governors and Mayors Convention organised on the margins of the conference, President Kenyatta underscored the importance of collaboration among countries, cities and communities saying that this remains key in ensuring a sustainable future for the world. “The world has a once in a lifetime opportunity to create a model that is environmentally friendly and which allows maximum exploitation of resources both on land and in oceans,” Kenyatta stressed.
He said the biggest question facing humanity today is how to feed the nine billion people the world is projected to house by 2050, arguing that the easiest way of meeting the challenge is to increase the resilience of communities as well as engage in protection of the environment.
Noting that three-quarters of the world’s population live in coastal cities, Kenyatta emphasised the need to focus on cities. “Scientists estimate that 275 million people worldwide live in areas that will eventually be flooded at 3oC of global warming,” he said. “Although sea levels will not rise instantaneously, the calculated increases will be locked in at a temperature rise of 3oC, meaning they will be irreversible even if warming eventually slows down.”
On the question of the oceans and seas surrounding Africa, the International Seabed Authority (ISA) noted that the wealth of marine resources they contain has the potential to be a key driver for the development of Africa’s blue economy but greater investment and capacity building will be critical to advancing the sustainable development of Africa’s deep seabed resources.
Indeed, African Union Commission Chairperson Mahmat Faki called on member states to begin investing in deep-sea exploration for the sustainable exploitation of ocean resources.
Speaking at a side event, ISA Secretary-General Michael Lodge said African nations are yet to engage with activities in the seabed area by obtaining exploration contracts from the authorities.
“Sustainable development of deep seabed minerals could significantly contribute to leveraging the blue economy for all nations, particularly for developing countries, but this will require addressing specific challenges in relation to technology, data and information,” said Lodge.
At the same time, participants decried lack of resources among poor nations as a hindrance to embracing the blue economy, calling for the setting up of a blue economy bank for countries to access finances.
Nikolai Astrup, Norway’s Minister of International Development, stressed the importance of all states exercising their rights and fulfilling their obligations under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.
Canada’s Jonathan Wilkinson, Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, said his country understands that addressing the challenges that undermine growth of the blue economy and accessing opportunities cannot be effectively addressed by a single entity.
“Presently the world and our oceans face tremendous challenges ranging from the effects of climate change, biodiversity loss, the sustainability of fisheries in the context of a world that has a growing population and large-scale plastics pollution in our waters,” he noted. “Each of these are global issues that will require coordinated global action to find and to implement globally effective solutions.”
Wilkinson said that Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has recently announced a 10-million dollar investment in the Pacific Initiative for Biodiversity, Climate Change and Resilience. “Funding for this joint initiative with the European Union, France, New Zealand and Australia will support the Pacific region to adapt to climate change and protection of ocean resources,” he said.
Isabella Lövin, Sweden’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for International Development Cooperation and Climate, noted that the continuous destruction of oceans will cause catastrophic ecological, social and economic consequences. She said that “climate change and carbon dioxide emissions have various negative effects on the ocean, sea-level rise, acidification and loss of marine biodiversity, to name a few. Implementation of Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 14 is critical.”
SDG 14 calls on countries to “conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development”.
With threats such as high seas crimes piracy, illicit funds transfers, human and drugs trafficking, illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing having become a reality for countries adjacent to oceans or seas, six states – Kenya, Madagascar, Djibouti, France, Tanzania and Somalia – agreed to partner on maritime security in a bid to address the situation.
The European Union-funded Maritime Security Programme of the Indian Ocean Commission is implemented by four regional organisations – Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), The Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), East Africa Community and the Indian Ocean Commission.
Echoing Wilkinson in terms of collective approach and underscoring the reason for her country co-hosting the Nairobi blue economy event alongside Japan and Kenya, Catherine Blewett, Canada’s Deputy Minister for Fisheries and Oceans, told IDN that her country believes the future of the blue economy is tied to that of planet Earth.
“Every second, garbage is being dumped into water bodies, and we can’t even quantify its impact on human health,” she said. [IDN-InDepthNews – 05 December 2018]
Top Photo credit: IISD Reporting Services
IDN is flagship agency of the International Press Syndicate.
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