The University of the West Indies (The UWI) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) have been ‘walking the talk’ on several blue economy-related initiatives since the 2 entities joined forces in 2019 to drive climate change solutions for the Caribbean.
Among the tangible collaboration initiatives is a joint think-tank on public policy for the Blue Economy developed by The UWI and UNDP Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean to tackle development issues and strengthen development effectiveness. On Monday, 4 April the think-tank also commonly referred to as Blue Economists for the Caribbean, hosted a high-level forum themed, ‘Strengthening Research-Policy Linkages for a Thriving Blue Economy in the Caribbean’ to showcase some of the work advanced to date.
The Honourable Dean Jonas, Minister of Social Transformation, Human Resource Development and the Blue Economy for Antigua and Barbuda delivered opening remarks. He applauded The UWI and UNDP and expressed the Government of Antigua and Barbuda’s enthusiasm for the establishment of The UWI’s Centre of Excellence for Oceanography and the Blue Economy at the Five Islands Campus, one of the initiatives realised following the collaboration. The Centre, he said, “illustrates the range of potential areas for partnership.” He added, “Forming strategic partnerships with stakeholders such as The UWI complements regional efforts executed with, and by other international development agencies, donors, civil society, national government and local stakeholders.”
Professor Sir Hilary Beckles, Vice-Chancellor, The UWI and Luis Felipe López-Calva, UN Assistant General Secretary, and UNDP Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean also delivered remarks at the forum which was chaired by Pro Vice-Chancellor for Global Affairs Dr Stacy Richards-Kennedy, whose office spearheaded the partnership between The UWI and UNDP.
Vice-Chancellor Beckles expressed pride at the progress from the partnership. “I’m happy to report that after 3 years, what I have seen is the development of a best practice in terms of partnerships, activism, and establishing a track record for getting things done. We know that MOUs are not always ‘MO-DOs’ by tradition. But this is an instance in which The UWI and UNDP have been establishing a legacy of action.” He declared, “We are going to be able to demonstrate at the highest possible level that UWI will be a best-case scenario in the implementation of agreed positions and policies.”
Acknowledging that the partnership with The UWI has yielded many fruitful results, Dr López-Calva noted that the forum underscored important components that drive Caribbean development, and underlines the vision for a Blue Economists programme to be a key instrument in the pursuit of a new way of thinking about development solutions. He offered 3 reflections on development solutions: that research is critical to the development of good, evidence-based policies and noted, “the pivotal role of a regional research institution like UWI cannot be overstated”; that given the limited financial and institutional capacities in the region as a whole, strategic alliances are needed to build robust, user-friendly, comprehensive and digital data management systems that can lead into that objective, the blue economy; and that policies for the blue economy backed by research should be effectively implemented to deliver results to the people.
Following the opening remarks were reports on the key areas of research-policy work undertaken since the signing of the partnership agreement in 2019. This segment featured presentations from Dr Julian Roberts, Managing Director, Blue Resources Ltd on Challenges and Opportunities for the Blue Economy in the Caribbean; Dr Akshai Mansingh, Dean, Faculty of Sport, The UWI; Matthew Goldie-Scot, Managing Director, Thuso Group on Climate Change and Sport and Dr Emily Dick-Forde, Management Committee Member at The UWI Global Institute for Climate-Smart and Resilient Development on the UWI Flagship Initiative: Global Institute for Climate-Smart and Resilient Development (GISCRD).
Valerie Cliff, UNDP Resident Representative for Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean delivered closing remarks at the event. She summarised the outcome of the webinar by stating, “Our objective today was to demonstrate how collaboration and the linkages across research, academia, science, and collaboration with governments…can lead to the promotion of climate justice, climate action, steps for the blue economy, protection of our marine environment, and that evidence-based public policy decision making.”
As exogenous threats like Covid-19 continue to impact the region, it is vital that developmental efforts continue to reinforce the need for regional resilience, building forward better and bolstering livelihoods for traditionally vulnerable groups. UNDP Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean, in partnership with governments and stakeholders, remains dedicated to the advancement of inclusive and sustainable development throughout the region. This partnership is part of the work of UNDP Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean in its commitment to promoting economic diversification, job creation and resilience with the “Blue Economy for Green Islands” vision.