Champion countries leading the implementation of the Commonwealth Blue Charter are gathering in Ottawa, Canada this week to take stock of Commonwealth ocean action over the past five years, and outline a robust plan of action for the future.
The Commonwealth Blue Charter is an agreement by 56 nations to work together to protect the ocean and promote its good governance and sustainable development. Since its launch in 2018, endorsed by Commonwealth heads of government, 16 champion countries have stepped forward to lead 10 action groups comprised of like-minded member states who work collaboratively to tackle crucial ocean issues.
This week’s ‘All Champions Meeting’ (27 to 30 March) aims to review progress and key lessons learned in the implementation of the Blue Charter, in view of global ocean commitments and the Sustainable Development Goals.
Participants will also discuss relevant actions to take in the lead up to the forthcoming Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in 2024 in Samoa, where ocean issues are expected to be a prominent focus.
Welcoming delegates via video stream, Commonwealth Secretary-General, the Rt Hon Patricia Scotland KC, stated:
“The ocean is the most incredible, precious, life-giving natural wonder in our world – but it is over-exploited, under-funded and insufficiently protected. The situation is serious. But thanks to your efforts through the Blue Charter, the Commonwealth is taking decisive, specific, joined-up, cooperative steps to protect our blue home.”
For 49 out of 56 Commonwealth member countries that have a coastline, protecting the ocean is a national priority. To date, 43 Commonwealth countries have taken steps to reduce avoidable single-use plastic waste, at least eight countries have protected more than 40 percent of their coral reefs, while 6.6 million square kilometres of ocean has been protected across the Commonwealth.
The Commonwealth Secretariat has also helped to advance action through special initiatives, such as the creation of a project incubator to cultivate and scale-up projects that protect the marine environment while also tackling climate change. The first call for proposals was completed in early 2023.
The Secretariat also developed an online database to raise awareness and help countries access more than US$170 million of international funding available for ocean-related projects.
In addition, important Blue Charter partnerships with leading agencies such as the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) and the Ocean Risk and Resilience Action Alliance (ORRAA) have delivered valuable technical assistance to a number of countries, helping governments assess blue economy readiness as well as climate vulnerability and risks.
Catalyst for global action
Head of Oceans and Natural Resources at the Commonwealth Secretariat, Dr Nicholas Hardman-Mountford said:
“The Commonwealth Blue Charter is truly a catalyst for global ocean action and its unique model allows countries to demonstrate their commitments to the ocean in holistic, collaborative and concrete ways. We are pleased that momentum for action is increasing, but enhanced international support, including ocean finance, is required by countries to really make a difference.”
Champion countries represented at this week’s All Champs meeting include:
- Antigua and Barbuda (co-champion for Sustainable Blue Economy Action Group, alongside Kenya)
- Australia, Belize and Mauritius (co-champions for Coral Reef Protection and Restoration Action Group)
- Barbados and Seychelles (co-champions for Marine Protected Areas)
- Canada (Ocean Observation)
- Cyprus (Sustainable Aquaculture)
- Fiji (Ocean and Climate Change)
- Kiribati and Maldives (co-champions for Sustainable Coastal Fisheries)
- New Zealand (Ocean Acidification); Sri Lanka (Mangrove Ecosystems and Livelihoods)
- United Kingdom (co-champions the Commonwealth Clean Ocean Alliance - marine plastic pollution - alongside Vanuatu).
- Josephine Latu-Sanft Senior Communications Officer, Communications Division, Commonwealth Secretariat
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