Blue Economy initiative gathers steam as Prince of Wales meets with small island states
Group Photo of the leaders of the Commonwealth’s small island states with Prince Charles in Scotland. Seychelles Designated Minister Vincent Meriton is pictured standing first right in the third row (Seychelles Nation)
(Seychelles News Agency) - The sustainable development of the world’s ocean resources topped the agenda when the Prince of Wales met with the leaders of the Commonwealth’s small island states last week at Dumfries House in East Ayrshire, Scotland.
Seychelles was represented by Designated Minister Vincent Meriton, also the islands' Minister for Social Affairs, Community Development and Sports, who is currently in Glasgow to support Team Seychelles at the XX Commonwealth Games, which comes to a close this coming weekend.
Prime Minister Joseph Muscat of Malta and President Kailash Purryag of Mauritius were also present among the leaders who were brought together by Prince Charles, known by his title the Duke of Rothesay in Scotland, to discuss the challenges and opportunities they face as small island developing nations (SIDS), with an emphasis on building more sustainable and resilient SIDS economies.
Small islands, which represent around half of the Commonwealth’s membership, contribute the least to global warming, but are the most affected by the impacts of climate change, such as rising sea levels and ocean acidification.
“As the custodians of your oceans, you have the opportunity to provide a truly durable social, economic and environmental legacy to your people and to the wider global community, through developing your marine resources in a sustainable way,” Prince Charles told those assembled.
“Cooperation to develop sustainable, ocean-based economies fits with the development and values agenda that are both so central to the Commonwealth, as reflected in its charter.”
According to local newspaper, the Seychelles Nation, Meriton highlighted the leadership role played by the Seychelles in driving forward the blue economy concept, saying that sustainable ocean development was something already being put into practice by the Indian Ocean island nation.
“With an exclusive economic zone, comprising over one million square kilometres of ocean, it makes sense for Seychelles to turn to the ocean. We are aware of the perils and challenges of climate change and the need to build resilience of marine ecosystems. But we prefer to focus on the opportunities and what we can do to ensure the sustained development of our country,” said Minister Meriton said.
“Our goal is to empower our people to own a greater share of the blue economy so that we get more value-added products from our marine resources, while also ensuring their long-term viability. We are doing this by encouraging joint ventures but we need more foreign investment, experience and know-how,” he added.
Meriton also said that the Commonwealth was a “strong ally” that worked to bring together its small island states which are often isolated but still interconnected by the oceans.
A growing support base
According to the recently-released Africa Progress Report, entitled Grain, Fish, Money: Financing Africa’s Green and Blue Revolution, West Africa alone loses $1.3 billion annually from illegal, unregulated and unreported fisheries.
The ‘blue economy’ model for the management of the world’s oceans, which includes fisheries, climate change, hydrocarbons, maritime lanes and all other oceanic resources, was earlier this year put at the forefront of a debate led by the Seychelles’ Minister of Foreign Affairs, Jean-Paul Adam, at Chatham House, the Royal Institute of International Affairs in London.
The concept was also officially adopted by the 22nd Ordinary session of the African Union’s heads of state and government held in Addis Ababa this year.
According to the Chairperson of the African Union, Dr. Nkosazana Dhlamini-Zuma, who visited Seychelles in June last year to discuss the concept with President James Michel, the blue economy will form a major chapter in Agenda2063 which is the continent’s development blueprint for the next 50 years.