New York, 6 June 2017/ ACP: Fiji’s leader Hon. Voreqe Bainimarama is firmly putting environmental protection over short-term economic gains, while calling on ACP states and the international community to also make the necessary changes to save the world’s seas and oceans.

Speaking at a high-level breakfast event organised by the ACP Secretariat in the margins of the ongoing UN Oceans Conference in New York this week, the Prime Minister of Fiji – which presides over both the Oceans Conference and the upcoming COP23 Climate Change Conference – underscored the bottom line integrated into all the country’s national development plans.

“In Fiji, no development takes place until we can be sure that it is environmentally sustainable. There is sometimes a price to pay in terms of short-term financial gain. But it is a price that we are prepared to pay,” stated Hon. Bainimarama.

It is a bold move, given that Fiji is one of the 37 ACP member countries classified as Small Island Developing States (SIDs).

These nations face persistent development challenges and unique vulnerabilities such as small size, narrow resource base, high levels of poverty and indebtedness, remoteness, and increased exposure to global environmental challenges.

However, Hon. Bainimarama also stressed that protecting the environment does not mean sacrificing development: “The key phrase is sustainable development. And embracing the ‘Blue Economy’ represents an opportunity to realise the great economic potential of the oceans as well as ensuring their long term sustainability.”

Unlocking the potential of the blue economy

The theme of the event, Unlocking the potential of the blue economy for the Sustainable Development of SIDS, allowed participants to share country level and regional experiences on the sustainable management and use of the coastal and marine resources in SIDS, in order to contribute to socio-economic development.

SIDS have a small land mass, but their vast territories include the Exclusive Economic Zone, which can be millions of square kilometres of sea stretching out from the island. These can be harnessed through Blue Economy opportunities in areas such as fisheries, aquaculture, tourism, deep sea mining, maritime transport, shipping and port development, biotechnology and renewable energy, amongst others.

Research shows that there is the potential to make millions, if not billions of dollars from oceans resources, which can contribute to socio economic development of ACP SIDS. For instance, a World Wildlife Fund recent study of the total Value of Ocean Ecosystem for Melanesia (South Western area of the Pacific region) was estimated at about USD$548 billion, estimating Fiji’s ocean Ecosystem as USD$68 billion.

But global collaboration is needed to ensure that coastal, marine and ocean resources are used and managed in a sustainable manner, while at the same time contributing to climate change adaptation and mitigation.

“While Pacific nations rightly identify ourselves as stewards of the ocean in our own part of the world, we cannot save our waters on our own. And nor can the nations of the Caribbean or coastal nations of Africa. A collective global effort is required,” stated Hon. Bainimarama.

The outcome report of the high level breakfast event will be used to publish a report as well as identify areas where possible support is needed for the development of the blue economy in ACP SIDS. Where possible, initiatives can be identified which can be replicated among ACP SIDS, and funded through the ACP SIDS Support Programme or the Intra-ACP GCCA+ programme.

– ACP Press

(Photos from top: Prime Minister of Fiji Hon. J.V. Bainimarama; Fiji PM meets with Ambassador of Kenyaand Chair of the ACP Sub-Committee on Sustainable DevelopmentH.E. Johnson Weru,Ambassador of Mauritius and Coordinator of the ACP SIDS ForumH.E. Haymandoyal Dillum and ACP Secretary General H.E. Dr. Patrick Gomes; ACP Secretary General welcomes participants to high level breakfast meeting on SIDS and the blue economy, hosted by the ACP Secretariat in the margins of the UN Ocean Conference.)

Read the full statement by the Prime Minister of Fiji

Invitation and programme

Welcome remarks by the Secretary-General H.E. Dr. Patrick I Gomes at the ACP side event at the UN Ocean Conference