Theme: Harnessing the Blue Economy to Increase Economic Benefits for SIDS and LDCs

I would like to warmly welcome all of you and thank you for finding time to participate at our side event on harnessing the blue economy to increase economic benefits for SIDS and LDCs. I wish also, at the very outset, thank our partners, the Government of Seychelles and the Caribbean Regional Fisheries Mechanism, for their invaluable support in co-organizing this event. The ACP Secretariat is only too happy to join forces to host this event.

As Delegations gather for this unique UN Ocean conference on implementation of SDG 14, there is reason to believe that the year 2017 promises to be an important year for the oceans. With the inclusion of a stand-alone goal for oceans, Sustainable Development Goal 14, we see new impetus at the international efforts to address the current opportunities and challenges that the oceans present.

This side event seeks to facilitate the exchange of views on the ongoing blue growth initiatives, share best practices to augment efforts towards the achievement of SDG 14 Target 7 ambitions to increase economic benefits from the blue economy for SIDS and Least developing coastal states. This can also contribute towards efforts to rally support for ongoing efforts to support the blue economy initiatives.

As you may be aware, 37 of the 57 Small Island Developing States (SIDS) that the world counts as listed by the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA), are Member States of the ACP Group. Similarly, 27 of the 32 coastal Least Developed Countries (LDCs) are also member states of the ACP Group.

This is why the ACP is here today. Precisely because we take a keen interest in promoting the blue economy as an approach to meet the socio-economic needs of our member states, particularly, the SIDS and LDCs. The over 31.5 million Km2 of maritime space under the jurisdiction of ACP coastal and island states holds the promise for their socio-economic wellbeing and presents opportunities for food security, livelihoods and employment.

ACP Island and coastal countries are taking concrete actions to develop the blue economy as an important pillar for new growth for the national economies, particularly for Small Island Developing states (SIDS). Depending with the specific country context, location and availability of natural resources, the sectors which offer the greatest opportunity for blue growth in ACP countries include coastal fisheries, aquaculture, and coastal tourism.

However, the efforts for SIDS and LDCS to fully unlock and accelerate blue growth would be constrained by gaps in critical enablers such trade and investments, technological advances and innovation across the broad spectrum of these ocean based economic activities.

At the same time, countries are confronted by serious decline in ocean health. Marine pollution, overfishing and IUU fishing pose a serious threat to the sustainability of the ocean resources. Additionally, the impacts of climate change noticeably aggravate the situation, by raising sea levels, escalating ocean acidification, and bleaching coral reefs, all of which cause serious harm to marine ecosystems and coastal areas.

In this regard, investing in blue growth should go hand in hand with addressing human induced threats to the ocean and its natural assets.

Strengthened cooperation and partnerships can be an effective way to not only address these environmental challenges, but also assist in bridging the existing gaps in innovation, financing, technical capacity development to help spur blue growth for the coastal and SIDS.

Therefore, the ACP Group is keen to further cooperation and build partnerships to address critical issues to support the sustainable management of oceans and create the necessary conditions for blue growth in a way that benefits national economies and local communities.

I look forward to our discussions with the hope these discussions can continue in future through other fora in order to make the vision of the blue economy a reality for LDCs and SIDS

I Thank you all.

Patrick I. Gomes
ACP Secretary General