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Commonwealth explores protecting and developing the ocean economy

17 April 2012
Over twenty Commonwealth countries gather to discuss sustainable marine resource development

Delegates from more than twenty Commonwealth countries are exploring how to merge the economic development and environmental management of marine resources at a Commonwealth Secretariat workshop.

The Commonwealth Maritime Boundaries and Ocean Governance Forum from 17 to 19 April 2012 is being held at the Secretariat’s headquarters in Marlborough House, London, UK.

Commonwealth Secretary-General Kamalesh Sharma addressed the delegates at the start of the conference, which is being held under the theme ‘Benefiting from the Ocean Economy’.

Mr Sharma said developing marine resources would increase sustainability and reduce vulnerability in both economic and human development terms for member states by nurturing diversification of their economy and establishing international equity.

Maritime boundaries are established between states by international treaties and agreements.

They provide a basis for the exercise by states of sovereign rights and jurisdiction over areas of ocean space, thereby securing exclusive access to the potentially lucrative natural resources of the seabed.

Since the 2009 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, the Secretariat has provided legal, scientific and technical assistance to 15 member countries to enable them to complete and lodge submissions, and also engage in maritime boundary negotiations

He also stressed the need for such development to be conducted in a manner that respects the biodiversity and delicate balance of marine life.

“As human impacts on the marine environment increase in measure and complexity the capacity and resilience of the oceans to withstand combined pressures is being dangerously overstretched,” he said.

“Comprehensive, well-integrated ocean governance frameworks, based on ecosystem-based management, are essential if countries are to effectively develop their marine resources while ensuring long-term sustainability.”


Oceans support many essential aspects of the global economy and are a source of the food and mineral resources that sustain life and livelihoods.

The forum will help to extend participation by member states in the Secretariat’s recently established ‘Oceans Governance’ programme, which aims to complement the work on maritime boundaries by advising member states on how to position themselves to benefit from marine resources by better managing ocean space.

It also takes place in the context of continuing Commonwealth efforts to support the reshaping of economies so that they are better equipped to withstand economic stress and other setbacks.

Commonwealth countries in attendance are: Antigua and Barbuda, The Bahamas, Bangladesh, Belize, Cameroon, Dominica, The Gambia, Grenada,  Jamaica, Kiribati, Maldives, Mauritius, Namibia, Nauru, St Kitts and Nevis, St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Samoa, Seychelles, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, Tuvalu and Vanuatu.