The first global conference on Sustainable Blue Economy co-hosted by Kenya, Canada and Japan, brought together over 18,000 delegates from 184 countries to promote responsible production and consumption of the world’s oceans, seas, rivers, lakes and other water resources. Led by Kenya’s president Uhuru Kenyatta, countries made their pledges and commitments of harnessing the potential of Blue Economy while conserving the environment
The President pledged to adopt appropriate policies, strategies and mechanisms to harness the blue economy that will create job opportunities; to tackle waste management and plastic pollution “head-on” to ensure responsible fishing and ensure safety and security in the high seas
“I am convinced that for the sake of the present and future generations, and for the continued viability of our ecosystems, we have to envision a different future and, therefore, a different model for the blue economy. I pledge to envision that future and do my part to promote it,” President Kenyatta said.
On its part, The Government of Canada and the private sector have pledged up to $153 million in an ocean Supercluster which will enable the development of innovative practices and cutting-edge technologies that will assist Canada in becoming a global leader in the knowledge-based ocean economy.
“This Ocean Supercluster will foster new partnerships with key stakeholders that will help accelerate innovation and commercialization and drive increased sustainable economic growth from our oceans” said the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, Jonathan Wilkinson.
The conference brought together Heads of State and Government, business leaders, civil society organizations, academics and scientists to look for ways of creating sustainable economic growth, promote healthy and clean waters, and build safe and resilient coastal communities. Discussions mainly centered on supporting the implementation of SDG 14 (Life below water: Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development) by calling to action the promotion of water resource base economies such as fishing, tourism, aquaculture, maritime transportation and renewable energy as a means to achieve economic social and environmental sustainability. It also sought ways of promoting the role of women in the blue economy by identifying barriers that prevent their growth in the sector while looking out for opportunities to further empower women and encourage their role in positions of leadership
The challenge of climate change, waste management, plastic pollution, the rising population and demand for goods and services as well as over fishing, were key areas that have to be tackled to ensure sustainability of the oceans and other water sources.
UNDP Assistant Administrator and Regional Director for Africa Ms. Ahunna Ezikonwa said countries stand to benefit from the full potential of the blue economy if the water resources are managed in a sustainable manner through effective ocean governance. UNDP is already advocating for this through small grant programs at the local level, the large marine ecosystem program at the regional level and global efforts on sustainable shipping in cooperation with International maritime organization
“For UNDP, the blue economy paradigm is a natural next step in the overall conceptualization and realization of sustainable human development. Blue economy mirrors our long-accepted definition of sustainable development as development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”
Residents of Nairobi also had an opportunity to be part of the discussions of the conference, when UNDP and the Kenya Film Classification Board (KFCB) in partnership with University of Nairobi and Nairobi County, set up a blue economy themed photography and film festival in the streets of Nairobi. Residents were treated to large life size photographs and films from different parts of the world depicting how countries are managing the oceans, sea, rivers, lakes and other water resources. The photographs and films were set up on busy Aga Khan walk, the City hall way, university of Nairobi and at the Nairobi Cinema, enabling residents who did not have access to the conference to gain knowledge and understanding of how other countries are utilizing their water resources and opportunities available to replicate the same in their country. Conference delegates were also not left out as they extended the interactions outside the Kenyatta International Conference Center, adding value to the conversations and information that was being shared.
UNDP and Kenya Film Classification Board had made a call for submissions to various entities including public and private sectors, Non-governmental and civil society organizations, and independent content producers, to share their photographs and films depicting different sectors of the blue economy. Over 300 photos and 50 films were submitted, going through a rigorous vetting process of ensuring quality and substance.
President Uhuru Kenyatta called on countries that have had successfully implemented the Blue Economy to support through financial resources, transfer of technology and innovations as well as capacity building. At the end of the conference a statement of intent on advancing the global Blue Economy was issued as a reference point on future action plans.