Blue Economy gathers momentum at Commonwealth Small Island States meeting
Designated Minister Vincent Meriton on Thursday attended the Commonwealth Small Island States meeting held in the margins of the Commonwealth Games taking place in Glasgow, Scotland.
The meeting was hosted by His Royal Highness Prince Charles, Duke of Rothesay, at Dumfries House in East Ayrshire.
Small Island States are a defining feature and a key strength of the Commonwealth, as recognised in the Charter of the Commonwealth signed by Her Majesty last year. By the same token, Commonwealth countries make up a significant proportion of the United Nations Small Island Developing States (Sids) community.
The Commonwealth recognises that this group of countries faces both unique challenges, for example, the disproportionate impact of climate change on their economies, and unique opportunities associated with the sustainable development of their large ocean space.
This year, the International Year of Small Island Developing States, celebrates the contribution and leadership role they play in addressing some of the world’s most pressing issues. It is to be noted that in September of this year, the UN Conference on Small Island Developing States will be held in Samoa.
It is within this context and given the importance of the next eighteen months for the negotiation of both a new ‘post-2015’ sustainable development agenda and a robust deal on climate change, that His Royal Highness Prince Charles convened this gathering to serve as an opportunity for dialogue on the challenges and opportunities shared by Commonwealth small island states, with particular reference to the building of sustainable and resilient ‘island’ economies.
Minister Meriton, who was in Glasgow to attend the XX Commonwealth Games, was accompanied at the Sids meeting by the Seychelles high commissioner in London, Marie-Pierre Lloyd.
The heads of delegations present were invited to share their views on the challenges and opportunities facing small island states.The main points highlighted in the interventions are climate change as one of the main challenges facing small island states, particularly the declining ocean health as one major threat to the sustainability of their economies; reliance upon a narrow range of resources makes small island states particularly vulnerable; Sids have unique opportunities in the development of the blue economy, associated with the sustainable development of their oceans; the balance between sustainable management of resources and economic growth needs to be carefully and judiciously managed; the need for innovative financingrequired for the development of sustainable blue economy.
In his deliberations Minister Meriton elaborated on Seychelles’ blue economy concept and the country’s leadership role in calling for a more inclusive global development agenda which emphasises the economic potential of the seas.
He said Seychelles was walking the talk where sustainable environment management is concerned.
“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,” Minister Meriton said.
He pointed out it was towards this end that the country has been investing in training, infrastructure and incentives, in order to draw maximum benefits from our ocean.
“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,” the minister said.
Seychelles, he said, welcomes the efforts of the Commonwealth in providing a platform for the small islands nations to promote their common interests and in playing a key role in defining how we sustainably manage our oceans.
“We may be separated by enormous distances but those same oceans that isolate us from each other also connect us all in a fundamental way. Our interests are not dissimilar. But we have to work together and use every opportunity, like this one today, to create awareness on the issues that affect us. We have a strong ally in the Commonwealth, which under its new Charter has explicitly defined its key role as a defender of small and vulnerable states, in particular Small Island Developing States,” Minister Meriton said.
The Duke of Rothesay, HRH Prince Charles, told those assembled, “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.
“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.”
At the end of the meeting, Minister Meriton met His Highness, Prince Charles who has expressed his satisfaction with Seychelles’ strong commitment towards environment protection and was equally interested in the country’s leadership role in promoting the blue economy concept.
SOURCE: Ministry of Social Affairs, Community Development, Youth, Sport and Culture