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Commonwealth Pacific report to shift paradigm on ocean governance

8 June 2017

A Commonwealth study on ocean governance in the Pacific offers ways to sustainably capitalise on the economic treasures of the ocean, the Commonwealth Secretary-General will tell delegates at the UN’s Ocean Conference today.

Secretary-General Patricia Scotland will discuss the findings of the study which urges governments and their development partners to shift the ocean governance paradigm from ‘explore and exploit’ to ‘sustain and be sustained by’.

The research is part of a larger report, ‘A Sustainable Future for Small States: Pacific 2050’, which examines whether current development strategies are setting the Pacific islands on a path towards sustainable development by 2050. In addition to ocean governance, the report covers political governance, aid and development effectiveness and coordination, non-communicable diseases, information and communications technology, climate change and migration, and energy.

“This is a seminal report for governments, not just in the Pacific but across the globe, particularly those who are facing the daunting challenges that come with being a small, developing state,” said the Secretary-General. “In each of the thematic areas the report examines possible trajectories to 2050, identifies gaps in the current policy responses and offers practical recommendations.”

She continued: “The Ocean governance chapter is particularly important for the Pacific islands and territories, which has jurisdiction over 28 million square kilometres - 8 per cent of the globe’s ocean. Our recommendations, we hope, will help decision makers approach policies with a 'whole island' and 'whole ocean' mind-set. 

"This means having an integrated strategy for ocean governance, where ocean resources are not considered in isolation but as part of a larger ecosystem; and taking into account, the fact that the way we manage land resources has an impact on our oceans and vice versa.”

The study also recommends a “communities of interest” approach which encourages countries to form alliances based on their specific needs and commonalities.

“A good example of the communities of interest model is the Parties to the Nauru Agreement, which controls the world’s largest sustainable tuna industry, where the fish is caught in nets using the purse seine technique. Agreeing on a limited number of fishing days for the year helps the eight governments involved to manage the tuna resources sustainably and, at the same time, reap economic benefits”, added the Secretary General. 

“Ultimately, the message is that it is not a one size fits all approach, and our research digs deep to uncover the gaps in current policies and to offer solutions to help steer countries on a sustainable development pathway.”

The Pacific 2050 report follows the Commonwealth’s ‘Achieving a Resilient Future for Small States: Caribbean 2050' study. Launched last year at the Commonwealth Global Biennial Conference on Small States, the study examines the future prospects of Caribbean small states.

The full Pacific 2050 report will be launched in the region later this year. Read the study on ocean governance here.