The 12 Blue Economy ideals inside President Michel’s Mind

By Wanjohi Kabukuru
[Victoria, Seychelles]

Inside the mind of President James Michel of Seychelles [Image: State House Seychelles]

  1. “My belief is that the true potential of the Blue Economy will only be realised when its various sectors are separately examined. Thus the likes of shipping, fishing and aquaculture, tourism, sea-floor mining, sea floor mining…… ”
  2. “I am an optimist and I believe that things can only get better. As with any crusade there will be setbacks as well as moments of exultation but we are going in the right direction.  The Blue Economy will continue to evolve. It will gather further support along the way. It can engage us all. And so it should. The sea is our future.”
  3. “If we think of the Blue Economy as a whole it all looks rather daunting  but if we separate it into its various parts it becomes more manageable. This I believe is the way forward.”
  4. “We have not so far thought of using the sea as creatively as we have used the land. Yet the sea is far more extensive with so much of it still unknown. Who can imagine what is yet to be discovered.”
  5. “The sea has not so much been used as misused; it has too often been plundered for quick gains and treated as a dumping ground for land generated waste. The big difference now is that it must be used with sustainability always in mind.”
  6. “The Blue Economy will call for research into a wide range of activities; it will for a new generation of entrepreneurs and it will call for partnerships between governments and investors  from different parts of the world.”
  7.  “The idea of the Blue Economy formed first in my mind as a strategy for Seychelles. We are an island nation with very limited area of land but a vast extent of surrounding sea.”
  8. “Just as the Green Economy was previously introduced to the world agenda, we have set ourselves the parallel task of bringing forward the Blue Economy…Anyone who has dabbled with paints will know that the mixing of colours  will depend very largely on hues but, even allowing for that combining green and blue will lead to a lustrous finish. There is a depth in this combination that perhaps no other mixing can offer, evoking in one sweep images of emerald vegetation  and turquoise seas. Green and Blue can stand alone, but together they bring something new and special to the World. These surely are the colours of the future.”
  9. “My own country the Republic of Seychelles, is small in terms of population and land mass but we are surrounded by millions of square kilometres of sea; an archipelago in a remote stretch of the Indian Ocean. It is little wonder that for many years I have turned my thoughts not to the difficulties of such a remote location (as many have seen this in the past) but to the immense potential of the sea itself. As such this is why I have been at the forefront of developing  the idea of the Blue Economy and of spreading the word.”
  10. “We punch well above our weight. That is because we have a message that people want to hear. We speak from experience; we speak with urgency. The message is that the Blue Economy is of importance to us all.”
  11. “Perhaps one reason for the rapid adoption of the concept is that the Blue Economy embraces not one set of activities but many. It is also not confined to any one part of the world. There is something of interest to all nations, large and small, north and south.”
  12. “The economic case for the Blue Economy is compelling. It offers the potential for development across an area that is more than twice that of the world’s continents. The oceans are the world’s last frontier, with vast areas still to be explored and an enormous supply of resources yet to be harnessed.”

[The dozen excerpts are gleaned from President James Alix Michel’s latest book, Rethinking the Oceans: Towards the Blue Economy Published: Paragon House, of USA]

Published in Environment

President Michel now writes a book on Blue Economy

BOOK REVIEW: Rethinking the Oceans: Towards the Blue Economy
Author: James Alix Michel
Publisher: Paragon House (USA)
Reviewer: Wanjohi Kabukuru
218pages

[Mahe, Seychelles] Even though Seychelles President James Alix Michel has distinguished himself as the world’s most progressive proponent of the Blue Economy model few expected him to write a book on this new development paradigm. Yet that is exactly what he has done.

However for those who have keenly followed his presidency, this was not entirely surprising. In a record six years President Michel has released four books. In 2010 he unveiled his first book “A Man of the People”. This was closely followed by “Distant Horizons: My Reflections” in 2011 and the 2014 release of “Island Nation in a Global Sea: Making the New Seychelles.”

President James Michel’s fourth book “Rethinking the Oceans: Towards the Blue Economy” launched during the #WorldOceansDay June 8th 2016 [Image: State House Seychelles]

For his fourth book President Michel chose an apt day, the internationally celebrated World Oceans Day, as the occasion to give the world his thoughts on the Blue Economy. Rethinking The Oceans: Towards the Blue Economy is President Michel’s new book.  In his latest 218-pages easy-to-read book President Michel takes the readers and more so the world’s economic policy makers and shapers into an adventure-filled odyssey of “the deep blue sea” explaining why it is crucial to re-imagine our oceans as emerging economic frontiers.

It is significant to note that since 2012 President Michel lost no single opportunity whenever he stood at the international podiums to advance his ideas on the “Blue Economy”. This strategy was quickly delegated to the Indian Ocean’s island nation’s then foreign minister Jean Paul Adam who made it the centre piece of Seychelles international diplomatic engagement. After ensuring the Blue Economy was well etched into the global agenda, President Michel took a bold step by establishing the Ministry of Finance Trade and Blue Economy. This was a world’s first full-fledged Blue Economy governmental department with ministerial clout and headed by Adam, the man who spent most of his international outreach to explain the Blue Economy to the world. To give the Blue Economy the critical intellectual muscle it needs a Blue Economy Research Institute (BERI) has also been established. Several other countries have followed Seychelles example.

In the beginning the Blue Economy was anchored as one of Seychelles’ strong planks in its foreign policy. Today Seychelles has gone ahead to prove to the world of the importance of the Blue Economy by mooring it to its domestic policy in readiness for a “Blue Economy” boom.

President Michel expounding on the Blue Economy on #WorldOceansDay as he launched his fourth book [Image: State House, Seychelles]

The “Blue Economy” has been a pet subject that President Michel has unflinchingly spoken about at every opportunity in international forums since 2012.  In the beginning President Michel appeared to be the odd one out and he too confesses openly that he was “ridiculed” as he kept on messaging the “Blue Economy” at every opportunity he got in the international arena. Indeed it is easy to assume that in the book President Michel has condensed his thoughts within the 2012-2016 timelines when he championed the Blue Economy subject. But this is not the case. A flip through the book and one is taken back in time when President Michel served as finance minister all through to the global financial crisis of 2008. Key socio-economic, geo-political and strategic lessons learnt throughout this period are some of the key pillars that have shaped the Blue Economy concept.

Add to these the 2014 and 2016 deliberations of the first and second international Blue Economy Summit co-hosted together with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in Abu Dhabi and the winning of hearts and minds during the United Nation’s International Year of Small Island Developing States summit held in Appia, Samoa. It is on these international platforms that Seychelles crossed the Rubicon and buttressed the Blue Economy ideal among the global community of nations.

The book is rich in data and makes a compelling case for the world to reassess its dealings with the oceans. President Michel unpacks what the Blue Economy entails, how it came about and makes it easier for cross-generational readers to pick an interest in the book. “Perhaps one reason for the rapid adoption of the concept is that the Blue Economy embraces not one set of activities but many. It is also not confined to any one part of the world. There is something of interest to all nations, large and small, north and south.” President Michel says.

He goes further and unbundles the Blue Economy bringing out core issues of fisheries, coastal tourism, ocean floor mining, maritime transport, oil and gas exploration, marine conservation, aquaculture, maritime security, marine protected areas among other oceanic concerns that coagulate into Blue Economy. He goes ahead to note that if critically assessed the Blue Economy can create high value jobs, diversify economies, ensure food security and promote sustainable management and conservation of marine resources.
The book makes a strong case on issues of sustainability of the Blue Economy and even brings out the immense capital and unlimited opportunities that the Blue Economy has been generating in the past even before the concept propounded by Seychelles became vogue.

According to President Michel (pictured) the Blue Economy is complementary of the existing Green Economy [Image: State House, Seychelles]

In advancing this economic concept Michel mentions Australia whose Maritime industries contributed a whooping AUS$42bn into the Canberra economy in 2010. By 2025 the contribution of the maritime sector into the Australian economy is estimated to rise to AUS$100bn.  President Michel goes ahead and mentions the European Union where the Blue economy represents 5.4 million jobs and generates gross added value of  €500bn annually.
According to Michel the Blue Economy is complementary of the existing Green Economy.

“I liked the fact that people were already familiar with the Green Economy; in that respect the Blue Economy would logically become its counterpart. One for the land and the other for the sea.” Michel writes in his book as he seeks to explain the meaning of the Blue Economy. “The meaning of the Blue Economy will become clearer the more that it is used, but for me a working definition is that it is about sustainable use of the sea to meet human needs. To be successful the concept must embrace environmental as well as economic interests.”

The book urges island and coastal states to embrace the “Blue Economy” and explore the potentials of the seas most of which remains unknown.
While the book will greatly appeal to the intellectually inclined and economic policy makers, environmental diplomats and those in the realms of public policy it is actually packaged for the general readers. The usage of common everyday language, less jargon and pointing out new career pathways appears to have been the deliberate intention of the author and Paragon House who published the book to demystify the subject and attract young readers.

Published in Economy

IORA promotes Marine Aquaculture in the Indian Ocean

By Marc Razafindsionana
[Antananarivo, Madagascar] The development of marine aquaculture within the Indian Ocean region remains a key component of the regional inter-governmental organisation, the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA). Early this month IORA whose stature and influence has been growing in the recent past restated its commitment to the development of the Marine Aquaculture at a specialised forum held in the Madagascan capital, Antananarivo.

Marine aquaculture happens to be one of IORA’s major sectors as it sustains millions of livelihoods in coastal areas within the Indian Ocean. In the last five years the 21 member states that make up IORA have continued to enhance their cooperation in developing their marine aquaculture sector. In 2014 the IORA meeting in Perth, Australia adopted the Blue Economy as a priority for employment creation and sustainability pathway. Multiple studies conducted by various research institutions and think-tanks on marine aquaculture in the Indian Ocean indicate existing and untapped immense opportunities which have led IORA to prioritise marine aquaculture within the larger Blue Economy pillar.

It is in this light that the Antananarivo meeting was organised. While the meeting was a specialised IORA Trainer’s Training Programme on Marine Aquaculture and sought to advance marine aquaculture knowledge through the sharing of best practices it fitted within the larger Blue Economy framework. 14 IORA member states and one dialogue partner attended the meeting which was organised by the Madagascar government and IORA.

Participants during the IORA workshop in Antananarivo, Madagascar. (Image: IORA)

Understanding the best management practices of aquaculture in the Indian Ocean region and the different steps involved in aquaculture system including production cycle, hatchery production, feeding, monitoring, maintaining good water quality, harvesting, processing and storage and identifying and handling of common diseases were components discussed during the seven sessions of the two-day training programmes.

Firdaus Dahlan, Director of the IORA Secretariat noted in his opening speech that “the Blue Economy, including fisheries management and aquaculture, represents significant opportunities for extending the socio-economic development of the rim countries of the Indian Ocean in an inclusive manner”. Citing the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), Firdaus indicated that the world aquaculture production continued to grow in 2013, reaching 97.2 million tonnes with an estimated value of USD157 billion.

IORA plans to enhance marine aquaculture in the Indian Ocean region

The intervention of a number of regional experts from the aquaculture sector and the key recommendations of the event included the compilation of information on best practices related to sustainable marine aquaculture activities in the Indian Ocean Rim region. The promotion of capacity building programmes to enhance knowledge and skills in the hatcheries and aquaculture systems together with food safety and quality of aquaculture products to ensure that product quality meets regional and international standards was highlighted. Research and technology development on sustainable aquaculture feed production and the strengthening of collaboration with existing research institutions and the roles of private sectors to enhance technology transfer for assessing and monitoring water quality in aquaculture systems also featured. Other issues addressed included the strengthening of research for better understanding, identification and handling of common disease outbreaks in aquaculture systems as well as the promotion of cooperation with existing regional organisation and other relevant stakeholders for better management and assessment of environmental impacts on marine resources came up for discussions at the conference.

Other than tying the aquaculture conference to the Blue Economy pathway it also coincided with the recent launch of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which define the global development agenda for the next 15 years. Directly intersecting with the aquaculture conference is Goal 14 which targets the conservation and sustainable use of the oceans, seas and marine resources for development, through fisheries management and aquaculture to sustain long-term prosperity for all the coastal community.
According to a communique issued by IORA the training was part of IORA`s Blue Economy agenda. "Being part of IORA’s Blue Economy agenda, this training programme was organised under the IORA Sustainable Development Programme (ISDP) to advance participation of less developed countries through peer-to-peer learning, capacity building, and sharing of best practices." The communique notes.

Tilahy D.Andrianarantsoa, the General Secretary of the Madagascan Ministry of Halieutic Resources and Fishery says the aquaculture sector is still growing and the key issues that need to be addressed included "lack of access to finance, markets, skills and expertise as well as technology."

Published in Environment

The Blue Economy and its opportunities for Western Indian Ocean states

BY WANJOHI KABUKUR
[Lamu, Kenya] In the last five years offshore discoveries of hydrocarbons in Mozambique, Tanzania and Kenya have completely altered the perspectives of the Western Indian Ocean.

Huge investments and multi national interests associated with offshore resources are spreading their tentacles in this hitherto “undiscovered” region. The sea stretch from Mozambique to Djibouti and covering the island nations of Mauritius, Madagascar, Seychelles and Comoros is the zone referred to as western Indian Ocean rim.

A new school of thought is now emerging. Sometimes in 2007 Seychelles President James Michel spoke about the ‘blue economy’ and this message seems to have become the centerpiece of Victoria’s foreign policy.

Cousin Island Special Reserve in Seychelles. “We need to pin the blue economy down.” [Image Courtesy: Nature Seychelles]

During the African Union’s golden Jubilee summit in mid June 2013 held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, President Michel pushed for a relook of oceans as one of the economic levers in Africa’s development agenda. “We cannot speak of transforming African ownership of the economy unless we are prepared to seriously look at our oceans.” President Michel said. “The opportunities inherent in our seas belong to us and we must create frameworks to develop this potential. We must make our oceans safe. And we must be able to manage our oceans. To do this we must be prepared to give more attention to the ‘blue economy.’”

This was a historic milestone for the continental body. It was the first time in AU’s entire 50 year history that oceans featured prominently in the scope of sectors identified to transform the continent’s economic fortunes. The ‘blue economy’ is now being viewed as a priority.
Dr Nirmal Shah who heads the environmental NGO Nature Seychelles and a leading maritime conservation advocate in the Western Indian Ocean wants the blue economy talk to be more than a catch word.

“We need to know what the blue economy is. Is the blue economy a brand just like sustainable development or just a catch phrase?” Dr Shah poses. “We need to pin the blue economy down.”

At the Roche Caiman headquarters of the Nature Seychelles Shah argues that the ‘blue economy’ should not be another phrase to sway the masses. “We know what the blue economy is not. It is not business as usual. It is not the current fishing patterns and practices. It is not distant fishing fleets from Europe coming to our waters. It cannot be a new brand for the old.”

According to Shah who manages the Cousin Island Special Reserve in the Seychelles archipelago the Blue Economy “must be a new brand for the new economy that benefits locals as well as the world at large.”

The 2015 statistics released by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) show that some 30 million people in the Western Indian Ocean (WIO) coastal communities and island nations are dependent on the coastal environment for their livelihoods, goods and services. The Western Indian Ocean rim is composed of the island nations and long coastal states of Comoros, Kenya, Madagascar, Mauritius, Mozambique, Seychelles and Tanzania.

In UNEP’s estimation the economic value of ecosystem goods and services in WIO is currently pegged at $25bn annually with fisheries and tourism being the two direct economic contributors in the region. According to UNEP’s estimates this littoral bloc attracts 20m tourists annually bringing in $6 billion into the combined regional economy. The UN environmental agency further reckons that these seven littoral countries have a collective population of slightly over 135 million people. Add to these the significance of the Western Indian Ocean as a commercial lane and the blue economy begins to make cents.

“The Indian ocean maritime route is among the most important global gateways.” Dr Carlos Lopes the Executive Secretary of the Addis Ababa-based United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) explains. “The Indian ocean serves major trade routes from Australia, much of Asia, Middle East, Atlantic and the Mozambique Channel as well as connecting to European markets.”

According to Lopes the importance of the Indian Ocean is critical with the reality that it is a “major oil shipment sea highway.” Indeed according to the US Energy Information Administration (EIA) the region is an oil transshipment “choke-point”

“There are a lot of opportunities in the sea and the blue economy is a key part of sustainability.” [Image: IOO]

The UN economic think-tank for the continent which Lopes heads recently released a dossier The 2013 Tracking Social and Economic Progress which found out that beyond its global role the Indian Ocean is a “strategic asset for promoting trade and development for Indian Ocean states.”

Seychelles Finance, Trade and the Blue Economy minister Jean-Paul Adam explains that the ocean is yet to be fully tapped to benefit the continent. “For us the blue economy is about creating new economic liberation for African countries and companies.” Adam says. “There are a lot of opportunities in the sea and the blue economy is a key part of sustainability.”

Most of the economic discussions in the Eastern African region are rarely centred on the importance of the Indian Ocean as an economic facilitator. This is however beginning to change. Last year Seychelles and Abu Dhabi co-hosted the Blue Economy summit in Abu Dhabi. Mauritius followed suit under the auspices of the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) bloc which brings 20 littoral nations by hosting another “Blue Economy” summit.

Erastus Mwencha, the African Union Commission’s deputy chairperson has also called for a rethink of Africa’s oceans. “Africa being a big island there is a need to have better understanding of all activities in its adjoining oceans and seas and think seriously how to maximize the limitless opportunities laying therein.”

According to Lopes the Western Indian Ocean states must seize the opportunities granted by their pivotal locations to the ocean. The International Maritime Organisation (IMO) which is the specialized agency of the UN on safety and security of shipping and prevention of marine pollution by ships notes that 90% of global commerce is seaborne. This is largely due to transportation costs advantages as compared to other transportation modes. “WIO states can anticipate deepening their benefit from the all important Indian Ocean sea lanes by aligning their strategies with global and regional hard facts.” Lopes says. “First regionally such factors as maritime infrastructure, quality and administrative efficiency, maritime security, and concerted effort at developing the maritime economy are key areas of interest.”

Another factor that has hampered intra-regional trade within WIO is the determinant of maritime lanes and associated shipping lanes. Adam brings this into perspective. “What we have seen recently is that there is an increased demand for our fish from countries like Kenya.” Adam say. “But it costs us more to export to Kenya than to Europe. This is because the shipping links that the cargo vessels use are north and south, not east and west. We have a shipping problem. To export to Kenya the vessel has to go to Dubai then Kenya.”

Jean Paul Adam, Seychelles Finance, Trade and Blue Economy Minister (left) and Nirmal Shah, CEO of Nature Seychelles [Images: IOO]

The Victoria government is keen to win over its neighbours who share the Indian Ocean common border urging them to start mainstreaming the sea by incorporating their exclusive economic zones (EEZ) in their respective economies.

Indeed for years the major interest that has touched on the ocean has largely been narrowed to complaints regarding persistent and costly delays at the ports of Mombasa and Dar es Salaam in Kenya and Tanzania respectively.  This has been the bane of the business communities in the regional economic bloc East African Community (EAC). Inefficiencies, weak controls, congestion, delays and other bureaucratic bottlenecks plague these regional ports denying them the much needed commercial attractive edge and revenues. A keener look however reveals that the missing link to these ports has been disinterest and general lack of emphasis by policy makers on maritime affairs. To this end Lopes concurs with the continent’s private sector that most African ports are still uncompetitive. “In terms of infrastructure quality Africa’s ports at large are least competitive, and no single port in Africa ranks in the top 70 most productive ports in the world.”

In the last six years Tanzania and Kenya have made huge strides in expanding their existing ports to handle more traffic. At the same time both nations are now investing heavily in the construction of new ports in Lamu and Mwambani in Kenya and Tanzania respectively. Dr. Lopes says that without such investments in critical infrastructural developments Africa’s transformative agenda will be hampered. He also cautions that even with the clamour for new sea ports and corridors strict international environmental and social safeguards must be adhered to.  “The expansion of sea ports and other transport corridors within the continent and the Small Island Developing States will enhance their active participation in global trade as sellers and buyers of goods and services.”

But the blue economy is not restricted to fisheries, sun-kissed sandy beaches for tourists, efficient ports and maritime sea lanes alone.
The ocean has in the recent past become a new economic frontier. The lucrative and capital intensive extractive industry sector players have now turned their attention into the sea. Thanks to known reserves of oil, gas, polymetallic sulphides and nodules.

Deep sea mining marks the new frontier for extractive industries [Image: ISOPE]

On Port Royal Street in downtown Kingston in Jamaica is where the world’s next frontier of extractive industries is being framed. On this street is where the International Seabed Authority (ISA) the autonomous international agency tasked with administering  the mineral resources found in the deep sea is deciding the future of the deep seas by approving licenses for exploration of cobalt-rich ferromanganese crusts. These crusts contain platinum, nickel, titanium, molybdenum and other rare earth metals.

A communiqué issued by ISA notes that  as of July 1st 2015 it had  “approved a total of twenty-seven Plans of Work and had entered into 15-year contracts for exploration with twenty-two contractors. Fourteen of those contracts were for exploration for polymetallic nodules, five contracts for exploration for polymetallic sulphides and three contracts for exploration for cobalt-rich crusts. Five contracts remained to be signed – one for sulphides, three for nodules and one for crusts.”

Of all these deep sea exploration licenses’ three are in the Indian Ocean. China Ocean Mineral Resources Rsearch and Development Association (COMRA) and the governments of India, South Korea and Germany have Indian Ocean deep sea exploration rights. These countries have have already been awarded 15-year exploration licenses’ which gives them exclusive rights to explore areas of up to 150,000 square kilometres. Under ISA regulations in the first eight years of the contract half of this area will be relinquished.

The Blue Economy opens vast opportunities for both coastal and island states. [Image: Bahari Resources]

COMRA’s block is in the South western Indian Ocean ridge in the Madagascar Plateau and South Korea’s block is in the mid Indian ridge between the Mascarene plateau and the contentious Chagos plateau. India has been granted a polymetallic nodule exploration licence near Chagos which Mauritius has laid claims too from the British. Chagos as it is known among the Indian Ocean Creole speakers is referred to as Diego Garcia by the US which has leased it from the British. The official name according to UK is British Indian Ocean Territory.

Not a single African entity or nation has any deep sea mining right which is considered to be a high risk and high cost venture with a simple deep sea mining venture estimated to cost some $1.6bn. How did Africa miss out on what has variously been described dramatically as “scramble for the oceans?”

Dr. Lopes, explains why Africa is still missing out on this new extractives frontier. “Although 44 African countries are members of the ISA only nine were present at the 19th Session.” Lopes says. “And more important, no African company bid for the exploration contracts. The main reason for this appears to be the fact that there are no African exploration companies with deep seabed exploration technologies as well as deep pockets to sustain such activities.”

The events of the recent past as Victoria’s lobbying efforts signify a new push aimed at creating a critical mass geared towards active involvement in sea commerce. In the narrative of ‘Africa rising’, the oceans are yet another opportunity for the continent to boost their economies.

Adam concludes with a point of poignancy on the opportunities open for Africa through seas. “The sea is not a space for exploitation, it is space for development. The blue economy is about trade routes, connectivity, environmental protection, tourism, natural resources and the entire ocean view.”

Published in Economy

“OUR OCEAN IS THE ENGINE OF OUR LIVING PLANET” – Global Ocean Commission

In light of the UN General Assembly’s decision to convene a High-Level UN Conference on Seas and Oceans in June 2017 the Indian Ocean Observatory (IOO) had an exclusive interview with Remi Parmentier, Deputy Executive Secretary of the Global Ocean Commission. Parmentier explains why oceans matter to everyone and brings to the fore the opportunities for Africa. His insights are a captive read and a point of reference to the emerging Blue Economy discourse

Remi Parmentier, Deputy Executive Secretary of the Global Ocean Commission. [Image:De Agueda/Varda Group]

IOO: The UN General Assembly has decided to convene a high level UN Conference on Seas and Oceans in June 2017 to support the implementation of Sustainable Development Goal 14: Conserve and Sustainably Use the Oceans, Seas and Marine Resources for Sustainable Development. What does this decision mean for our oceans and seas?

Remi: Because ocean governance within the UN is so fragmented, with many different bodies responsible for only parts of the SDG14 agenda, it was thought that it was a good idea to create a forum to promote SDG14’s implementation holistically. Some have used the expression “orphan SDG” for SDG14; well now it looks like the UN General Assembly has adopted it to make sure it does not get lost.  



Fiji: The host of the high level UN Conference on Seas and Oceans in June 2017 [Image: GOC/RP Rights Reserved]

IOO: The conference will be held in Fiji from 5 to 9 June, 2017. In 2014 the Third UN International Conference on Small Islands Developing States was held in Samoa. These are crucial developments experienced in the last decade. Can we conclude then that there is a global shift whereby oceans and seas are finding their way into international policy discourse?

Remi: Indeed, as awareness is growing, action is taking a new pace, and not just with the two conferences you mention. The “Our Ocean” conferences in Washington DC (June 2014) and Valparaiso, Chile (October 2015) are good examples and there will be two more of those in 2016 and 2017 in Washington and Brussels respectively. The Economist magazine is also organizing an event they call “Ocean Summit” every couple of years. And – most importantly – the UN General Assembly also last year has decided to launch negotiations for a new implementing agreement for the sustainable use and conservation of marine biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea – a proposal the Global Ocean Commission, among others, had called for.

IOO. Briefly enumerate on the benefits of oceans and seas in light of the landmark UN June 2017 conference decision?

Remi: With SDG14, the international community committed to seven targets, some of which with a bottom date of 2020 for completion. 2020, that’s less than five years, so there’s no time to waste. For example, according to SDG14.6, the elimination of harmful fisheries subsidies should take place by no later than 2020, yet when it held its ministerial conference in Nairobi in December 2015 the World Trade Organization maintained business as usual. We cannot afford to miss the boat again, and this is why hopes are placed in the Fiji 2017 UN Ocean conference. The fragile ocean cannot afford business as usual.

IOO. What is the place of Africa in this maritime discourse?

Remi: The livelihoods of millions of African people are affected by continued illegal, unreported and unreported (IUU) fishing operations along the coasts of Africa. One important measure the Global Ocean Commission has identified is the ratification of the FAO Ports State Measures Agreement, or PSMA, which was adopted in 2009 but hasn’t entered into force yet. For it to enter into force it needs 25 ratifications and today six countries are still missing. More African countries joining would be to their benefit. IUU fishing is also fed by subsidies rich countries provide to their respective long distance and high seas fishing fleets; Africa should have a bigger say because it is also a global equity concern.

Our ocean is the engine of our living planet. It’s our most valuable asset, and it’s shrinking”. Remi Parmentier [Image: IOO]


IOO. There has been a new clamour for the Blue Economy. Can you break down what the "Blue Economy" is for the benefit of a lay person?

Remi: Economy is about maintaining and fructifying assets. And our ocean is the engine of our living planet. It’s our most valuable asset, and it’s shrinking.

IOO. In the overall discussions on oceans and seas landlocked countries feelleft out. Are they included in this conference and what can be done tomake them feel part of global oceans discourse?

Remi: The Fiji 2017 conference is open to all UN member States without exception, and to all concerned stakeholders. Whether you live on the top of the Himalayas or along the coastline of India, everyone without exception relies on the ocean: every second breath of air you breathe comes from the Ocean.

IOO. Pollution, piracy, over-fishing and maritime border conflicts are someof the key concerns within our seas. How is the Global Ocean Commission handling these issues?

Remi: In June 2014 the Global Ocean Commission released its report “From Decline to Recovery: A Rescue Package for the Global Ocean” (http://www.globaloceancommission.org/wp-content/uploads/GOC_Report_20_6.FINAL_.spreads.pdf) which contained eight key proposals to address these issues. Eighteen months later, we are now about to publish a progress report. It will say what has happened and what has not happened in this last year and a half, and provide a Vision for the Future of the Ocean. It will be available in mid-February on our website www.globaloceancommission.org

Follow Remi & GOC
@RemiParmentier
@GIceanC
 

Published in Insight

Seychelles reforms its marine sectors to capitalize on Blue Economy

By Nirmal Shah
The marine related sectors of Seychelles such as fisheries and marine tourism, despite being financially successful for their specific operators may be under-performing in terms of delivering national benefits. Experts say there is probably a wide gap between the potential and actual net financial benefits from these sectors. Improvements in governance are seen as necessary to mop up financial leakages and to reduce environmental and resource degradation.

Published in Economy

Blue Economy wins in President Michel’s cabinet reshuffle

By Malik Hossain
[Praslin, Seychelles] Seychelles President James Michel reshuffled his cabinet early this week and elevated his “Blue Economy” concept into a state portfolio. In far reaching changes that completely altered the shape of the Island nation’s cabinet, civil service and state run corporations President Michel acknowledged the regional and international triumphs accrued by his “Blue Economy” model.

Published in Environment

Africa’s place in the “blue economy”: Quick lessons unpacked from Small Island Developing States

By Hossain Malik and Wanjohi Kabukuru
[IOO, Marrakech, Morocco] In March 2013 heavy flash floods hit the Indian Ocean island nations of Mauritius wrecking havoc in the capital Port Louis. It was a stark reminder of the effects of climate variability to African island and coastal states. Mauritius was not the first. In 2006 heavy and destructive cyclones followed by storms hit Comoros and Sao Tome and Principe destroying boats, coastal infrastructure.

Published in Economy

Seychelles’ new diplomatic charm offensive gains traction

By Malik Hossain and Wanjohi Kabukuru
[IOO, Victoria, Seychelles] Sometimes in 2007 Seychelles President James Michel spoke about the ‘blue economy’. At the time few took notice of what this was all about. To many this was simply a fad in the same fashion as the trending “green economy”. But events in the last three years illustrate what appears to be the centerpiece of Victoria’s foreign policy.

The 2012 successful hosting of the Madagascar political deadlock between President’s Andry Rajoelina and Marc Ravalomanana in the now famous “Desroches Island Talks” in the South African Development Cooperation (SADC) sanctioned peace negotiations seems to have given Seychelles a new impetus on the world stage. While the two Desroches meetings facilitated the stabilization of Madagascar and peaceful transfer of power in Antananarivo, it redefined Seychelles’ bargaining chips and acumen.  
 


President Michel in the middle of Rajoelina (on his left) and Ravalomanana seated on his right at the Desroches Island Talks in 2012 [
Press Office of the Presidency, Seychelles]

Addressing the African Union’s (AU) golden Jubilee summit in mid May 2013 President Michel pushed for a relook of oceans as one of the economic levers in Africa’s development agenda. “We cannot speak of transforming African ownership of the economy unless we are prepared to seriously look at our oceans.” President Michel said. “The opportunities inherent in our seas belong to us and we must create frameworks to develop this potential. We must make our oceans safe. And we must be able to manage our oceans. To do this we must be prepared to give more attention to the blue economy.”

 
President Michel with Pope Benedict XVI [Photo Courtesy of Press Office of the Holy See]

This is when the message began to seep out on the real significance that Seychelles was pushing. The success of the Indian Ocean island nation’s lobbying saw the AU taking an unprecedented step by including oceans in the scope of thematic sectors identified to transform the continent’s future economic fortunes as defined in AU’s Agenda 2063. The ‘blue economy’ is now being viewed as a priority and Victoria is not relenting in its diplomatic offensive seeking to build a critical mass among governments, civil societies and the public.
Seychelles foreign affairs minister Jean-Paul Adam breaks down the oceanic state’s new diplomatic charm offensive. “For us the blue economy is about creating new economic liberation for African countries and companies.” Adam says. “There are a lot of opportunities in the sea and the blue economy is a key part of sustainability.”
 

Jean Paul Adam, Seychelles foreign affairs minister


The Victoria government is keen to win over its western Indian Ocean neighbours with an aim of mainstreaming the sea by incorporating their respective exclusive economic zones (EEZ) in their economies. Illegal, unreported and unregulated fisheries, toxic dumping, pollution, sea level rise, climate change and ocean acidification are all issues that Seychelles sees as threats to a viable blue economy.

Dr Nirmal Shah who heads the environmental non-governmental organisation Nature Seychelles and a leading maritime conservation advocate in the western Indian Ocean wants the blue economy talk to be enhanced and to be more than a catch word.
“We need to know what the blue economy is. Is the blue economy a brand just like sustainable development or just a catch phrase?” Dr Shah poses. “We need to pin the blue economy down.”

The blue economy is not restricted to fisheries, sun-kissed sandy beaches for tourists, efficient ports and maritime sea lanes alone. It looks at the sea with what appears to be a holistic view.
“We know what the blue economy is not. It is not business as usual. It is not the current fishing patterns and practices. It is not distant fishing fleets from Europe coming to our waters. It cannot be a new brand for the old.” Shah contends.  “It must be a new brand for the new economy that benefits locals as well as the world at large.”

The blue economy message is much broader according to Victoria’s definition both as an environmental belt and economic enabler. Known reserves of oil, gas, polymetallic sulphides, nodules and marine genetic resources are all included in the conversation.
In January this year Seychelles and the United Arab Emirates jointly co-hosted the Blue Economy summit in Abu Dhabi. At the meeting Michel described the empowerment of coastal communities, their engagement and inclusion as the hallmarks defining the effective implementation of the blue economy.

At the US-Africa summit held in August in Washington; the Samoa UN Conference on Small Island Developing States held in early September and the latest UN climate change summit in Washington, Michel’s blue economy message remained constant calling for an ocean based development paradigm. Though classified as a small island state Seychelles’ blue economy diplomatic charm is turning out to be an idea whose novelty and timing are gaining currency among the global community of nations.
 
“The sea is space for development.” Adams explains “The blue economy is about trade routes, connectivity, environmental protection, tourism, natural resources and the entire ocean view.”

Published in Diplomacy