There is reason to believe that the year 2017 promises to be an important year for the oceans. With the inclusion of a stand-alone goal for oceans, Sustainable Development Goal 14, we see new impetus at the international efforts to address the current opportunities and challenges that the oceans present.
As you may be aware, 37 of the 57 Small Island Developing States (SIDS) that the world counts as listed by the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA), are Member States of the ACP Group. Similarly, 27 of the 32 coastal Least Developed Countries (LDCs) are also member states of the ACP Group.
We take a keen interest in promoting the blue economy as an approach to meet the socio-economic needs of our member states, particularly, the SIDS and LDCs. The over 31.5 million Km2 of maritime space under the jurisdiction of ACP coastal and island states holds the promise for their socio-economic wellbeing and presents opportunities for food security, livelihoods and employment.
ACP Island and coastal countries are taking concrete actions to develop the blue economy as an important pillar for new growth for the national economies, particularly for Small Island Developing states (SIDS). Depending with the specific country context, location and availability of natural resources, the sectors which offer the greatest opportunity for blue growth in ACP countries include coastal fisheries, aquaculture, and coastal tourism.
However, the efforts for SIDS and LDCS to fully unlock and accelerate blue growth would be constrained by gaps in critical enablers such trade and investments, technological advances and innovation across the broad spectrum of these ocean based economic activities.
At the same time, countries are confronted by serious decline in ocean health. Marine pollution, overfishing and IUU fishing pose a serious threat to the sustainability of the ocean resources. Additionally, the impacts of climate change noticeably aggravate the situation, by raising sea levels, escalating ocean acidification, and bleaching coral reefs, all of which cause serious harm to marine ecosystems and coastal areas.
In this regard, investing in blue growth should go hand in hand with addressing human induced threats to the ocean and its natural assets.
Strengthened cooperation and partnerships can be an effective way to not only address these environmental challenges, but also assist in bridging the existing gaps in innovation, financing, technical capacity development to help spur blue growth for the coastal and SIDS.
Therefore, the ACP Group is keen to further cooperation and build partnerships to address critical issues to support the sustainable management of oceans and create the necessary conditions for blue growth in a way that benefits national economies and local communities.
By Patrick I. Gomes
ACP Secretary General.