"Dialogue on Oceans and Blue Economy:A High Level Event organized by Norway
His Excellency Dr. Mohamed Asim, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Maldives
22 September 2016
Excellencies, Distinguished Delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Let me begin by thanking the Honourable Prime Minister of Norway and the Norwegian Mission for arranging this event and for giving me the opportunity to address all of you today.
The theme “Oceans and Blue Economy” is in our opinion, very timely and appreciated. Much more than a metaphor, the “Blue Economy” literally captures the reality of island nations today. Our food, our businesses, our property, and the prosperity of our people, are intimately linked to rich and healthy oceans. And we know, that unless policies change soon, irreversible impacts to our marine ecosystems and all they sustain will be unavoidable. As such, in many ways irreparable damage has already occurred due to the twin effects of climate change and ocean acidification.
Small island developing states like mine are the first to feel the effects of climate change and deteriorating ocean health. However, considering our small sizes, small populations and even smaller environmental footprints, we are unable to effect change in the order and magnitude that is required to either adapt to our new planetary conditions or mitigate their risks.
Having said that, we as SIDS do and can exercise control over local threats. These threats range from overfishing to coastal erosion and pollution. Scientists overwhelmingly agree that our best strategy for dealing with the inevitable ocean warming and acidification is to make our oceans more resilient by reducing local impacts. Not only can addressing issues like pollution and overfishing and improving coastal zone management ensure that our oceans continue to provide for the well-being of future generations, but these measures can also bring immediate benefits to our communities.
As with most things, the first step towards transitioning towards a “Blue Economy” will involve making a compelling business case for it. Oceans don’t just matter for the environment. They also matter for the economy and for humans. It has been estimated by the World Bank that around 350 million jobs are linked to the oceans through fishing, aquaculture, coastal and marine tourism, and research. More than 1 billion people depend on fish for their primary source of protein intake. These numbers are a stark reality in my own country the Maldives, where 100% of the population lives close to the sea, and the largest contributors to our GDP, fishing and tourism depend on the health and wealth of our oceans.
The concept of the “Blue Economy” encapsulates the entire spectrum of economic, production and trade activities in land territories as well as oceans-based marine environment. Harnessing the resources of the marine environment, sustainably, is one of the precursors of sustainable development. However, for SIDS this is very much a lived reality. For us, oceans and seas constitute a much larger space for developing economic activities to foster growth and development. Our exclusive economic zones (EEZs) represent about 30 per cent of all oceans and seas. EEZs exceed by far their total terrestrial space in all cases, be it the CARICOM states, SIDS in the Indian and Atlantic Ocean, or Pacific SIDS.
In order for us to achieve sustainable development, therefore, we have to sustainably and responsibly manage our vast ocean spaces.
One way of approaching these challenges is through partnerships - partnerships between north and south, governments, and non-governments, academia, private sector and so on. This is also a key focus of the first UN Conference to support the implementation of SDG14 to be held in June 2017, to which we are all looking forward to.
In conclusion, I wish to once again, thank Norway for being such gracious hosts and for organizing this event.