Leaders from coastal nations and small island developing states from the Commonwealth will surf a wave of optimism this week at a major United Nations summit which aims to deliver on a global promise to conserve and sustainably manage the seas.
Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland leads a delegation from the Commonwealth Secretariat, which is working with its member states – who represent a third of the world’s population and much of its ocean space – to champion a new sustainable approach to growth centred around the blue economy.
Secretary-General Scotland said: “This conference presents an historic opportunity to deal with the great magnitude of threats to the ocean including climate change, overexploitation and competition for resources. At stake is a new settlement for the seas which will deliver a positive and enduring legacy for generations to come.”
Between 5 and 9 June 2017, the high-level Ocean Conference brings together governments, international and financial institutions, civil society, academics, scientists and representatives from the private sector. The conference in New York aims to be “the game changer that will reverse the decline in the health of our ocean for people, planet and prosperity”.
The government of Fiji, a Commonwealth member state, is co-chair of the conference alongside the government of Sweden. “We in the Commonwealth family are bursting with pride and offer our wholehearted support,” the Secretary-General said.
On Tuesday, Prime Minister of Fiji JV Bainimarama will join the Commonwealth Secretary-General at a ‘A Blue Commonwealth’, a high-level roundtable hosted jointly by the Commonwealth Secretariat and the government of Seychelles, represented by Vice President Vincent Meriton.
The Commonwealth Secretariat helps coastal and small island member countries to claim national maritime territory, sustainably manage the marine environment and realise its economic potential. Forty-five of our 52 members are ocean states and 24 are small island developing states.
The roundtable on Tuesday will examine the role of the Commonwealth in supporting the achievement of Sustainable Development Goal 14, in maximising innovation and economic opportunities in the development of blue economies. The side event will also look at ways to ensure fairness, equity and women’s empowerment and how to mobilise partnerships and support.
Prime Minister of Grenada Keith Mitchell will join Vice President Vincent Meriton and ministers from Bangladesh, Barbados, Cyprus and Tonga, plus speakers from UNCTAD and the Commonwealth Foundation for the roundtable. Speakers will discuss their experience of blue economy successes and hurdles and explore how individual country needs can be best aided.
During the roundtable, Secretary-General Scotland will discuss the proposed development of a ‘Blue Charter’, a set of guiding principles for sustainable, fair and equitable ocean economic development based on the Charter of the Commonwealth.
The Secretary-General will also participate in 2-panel discussions organised in partnership with UNCTAD on the trade in fisheries and innovative Pacific approaches to the oceans economy.
During the conference, initial findings will also be presented from ‘A Sustainable Future for Small States: Pacific 2050,’ a forthcoming report from the Commonwealth Secretariat.