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Speakers at the Commonwealth's World Ocean Day event

Commonwealth countries call for a “blue reset” in pandemic’s wake

8 June 2021

Commonwealth member countries are supporting a call to “reset and rebuild” equitable, resilient ocean economies in the wake of the devastating impacts caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

World Ocean Day event

On World Ocean Day, a panel of high-level representatives from across the Commonwealth focused on the widespread challenges facing many ocean-driven economies, particularly small states that rely heavily on tourism and fisheries as key sources of income.

They emphasised the unique opportunity to trigger a post-COVID recovery propelled by sustainable tourism and fishing industries, innovative financing for ocean protection, and leveraging the capacity of marine ecosystems to store vast amounts of carbon (known as ‘blue carbon’) as tradeable carbon credits for climate action.

President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih of the Maldives, in a keynote address delivered on his behalf by Minister of Environment, Climate Change and Technology, Aminath Shauna, said: “The oceans are our life support systems. Loss of and damage to our marine environments threaten the very existence of our way of life. We have shown we have the power to change the course of nature. Let us act now to steer a path that protects us all.”

Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland urged: “We must build back more sustainably from the pandemic, innovating and prioritising ocean health as the foundation for a thriving, sustainable blue economy which supports our communities while protecting nature. Decisions leaders take now - on policies, legal frameworks, financing or choice of infrastructure - can bring hope and deliver immediate positive impact in lives and for communities today, and bring enduring benefit for many years to come.”

Panellists included Minister of Maritime Affairs and the Blue Economy of Barbados Kirk D. M. Humphrey, Minister of Fisheries and Oceans Canada and the Canadian Coast Guard Bernadette Jordan, Minister for Pacific and the Environment of United Kingdom, Lord Zac Goldsmith, and CEO of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority in Australia Josh Thomas.

They highlighted various efforts being done at the national level to ensure gender equality in the ocean industries, the protection of coral reefs and development of marine protected areas, including the ‘30 by 30’ initiative co-led by the UK.

Barbados also announced its decision to join Seychelles as a co-champion for marine protected areas under the Commonwealth Blue Charter.

New funding from Bloomberg Philanthropies for ocean action

Prior to the event, Bloomberg Philanthropies – one of the world’s leading philanthropic organisations – announced a new phase of partnership with the Commonwealth Secretariat.

Through Bloomberg’s Vibrant Oceans Initiative, which brings together world-class partners to ensure ocean ecosystems survive and thrive despite the growing threat of climate change, the partnership will target training and capacity-building programmes to advance the work of the Commonwealth Blue Charter.

Patricia E. Harris, CEO, Bloomberg Philanthropies said: “The Blue Charter’s mission to protect the ocean and livelihoods it supports has only grown more critical during the pandemic. Through our Vibrant Oceans Initiative, Bloomberg Philanthropies is excited to build on our successful partnership with the Commonwealth – and help more member countries meet their sustainability goals as their economies recover.”

This announcement builds upon a multi-year agreement signed in 2018 between the Commonwealth Secretariat and Bloomberg Philanthropies to explore joint initiatives supporting international trade, innovation and sustainability. Since 2012, Bloomberg Philanthropies has contributed over $158 million to ocean conservation causes.

The event also included statements by United Nations Patron of the Oceans Lewis Pugh, and youth representative Josheena Naggea from Mauritius, currently a doctoral candidate at Stanford University, USA. 

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