Small island states are on the frontline of the Blue Economy challenge
Former Seychelles President James Alix Michel has called on island states of the Pacific Ocean to follow the Seychelles example and bring the Blue Economy to the centre of Government, work with neighbouring islands, adopt innovative financing mechanisms and marine spatial planning tools.
Mr. Michel delivered a keynote address at the 1st High-Level Pacific Blue Economy Conference (PBEC) under the theme ‘Sustainable Oceans in a Changing Climate’ organised by the Pacific Islands Development Forum in Suva Fiji on 23rd and 24th August 2017. The conference is being held in conjunction with the PIDF Biennial Conference.
“We look anxiously at the threat posed by rising sea levels, but we also see the enormous potential of what the sea can offer. No human being is more respectful of the sea than islanders like us, no human being has a keener sense of what is needed. The sea holds the key to our future and, as such, island societies are flag-bearers of human development. This is why I am sure we will, at this conference, have a valuable dialogue – we face formidable challenges but we can also see new opportunities,” said President Michel in his address.
He asserted that the nations of the world need to attach the same importance to the sea as they have placed on the land, but without making the same mistakes in terms of pollution and environmental degradation.
“We will always fish but let us now do so sustainably. Tourists will continue to be drawn to the world’s coastlines but not at the expense of the pristine environment they come to enjoy. And shipping will remain essential to our livelihoods but no longer a source of pollution. Things that we have done for centuries must be done better. And so, in my mind, the idea of the Blue Economy took shape.”
Mr. Michel described the Blue Economy as an exciting concept because it is about so many things that are new, especially as much of the seabed remains unmapped and there will be species in deep waters that are yet to be discovered.
“We know that the power of the waves and currents are a source of constant energy but the ways to harness this are as yet poorly developed; we must put every effort into advancing the technology. And we cannot turn our backs any longer on the vast residue of waste that we have dumped in the sea; the time is long past to redress our harmful practices…The oceans are the planet’s unexplored frontier, extending well beyond our shorelines. Small island states are on the frontline of this new challenge and have a leading role to play. As I will show, much progress has already been made – in just a few short years – to bring the Blue Economy onto the world agenda. And if this progress continues we are poised to make a real difference to our island economies,” said Mr. Michel.
Former President Michel also spoke of the enormity of the challenge and called on island leaders of the Pacific to treat it as an urgent matter and asked them to “act now.
“We know that most of the world’s oceans – the High Seas – remain beyond the reach of effective controls. This must change and we await details of the UN’s ongoing efforts to do so. But in the meantime there is much that can be done within our own designated waters. We have made a start in Seychelles and I would like to tell you of a number of initiatives that illustrate how progress is being made,” he said.
President Michel then spoke about the Seychelles’ initiatives to (a) bring the Blue Economy into the Centre of Government, (b) work with neighbouring nations, (c) convert international debt to fund marine management, (d) creation of a marine spatial planning of the EEZ and (f) Blue binds as a way to raise funds through public-private partnerships.