New Centre of Excellence for Oceanography and the Blue Economy launched at SIDS4

31 May 2024
sids4 oceans

The Centre of Excellence for Oceanography and the Blue Economy (COBE), a collaboration between the Government of Antigua and Barbuda, the University of the West Indies, the Commonwealth Secretariat and the Association of Commonwealth Universities, was launched yesterday at the 4th Small Islands Developing States (SIDS4) conference in St John’s, Antigua.

As large ocean states, many SIDS across the Caribbean and elsewhere are seeking to harness the vast economic potential of their marine environment and maritime sectors whilst preserving and protecting the ocean’s resources and ecosystems. This transition to a ‘blue economy’ is providing a sustainable basis for economic diversity and will support economic and sustainable development in the nation and region.

The newly launched Centre of Excellence aims to support this agenda by developing regional research and innovation expertise and strengthening institutional capacity in the areas related to marine science and the blue economy. Anticipated activities include education and vocational training and trans-disciplinary research on areas such as marine renewable energy, coral reef restoration, and maritime policy and law.

The COBE is a key pillar in the Government of Antigua and Barbuda’s commitment to transition to a sustainable blue economy and will play a vital role in the wider regional multilateral agendas; boosting cooperation regionally and globally to find solutions to challenges which transcend maritime boundaries. 

Honourable Minister Samantha Marshall, Minister of State with responsibility for social transformation and the blue economy said:

"As SIDS continue to be disproportionately affected by the negative impacts of climate change, it is imperative that we develop homegrown solutions for the sustainable management of our marine resources.

For decades, we have neglected the ocean aspect of governance, only focusing on terrestrial governance. The first step to effectively utilizing our marine space is finding out what it entails in order to develop an effective ocean governance framework."

The COBE will be located at the University of West Indies Five Islands Campus in Antigua and will serve as a regional centre, drawing on the existing research strengths within the University of the West Indies, as well as from the Association of Commonwealth Universities’ (ACU) wider academic network.

Dr Branson Belle, UWI’s newly appointed Director of the COBE said:

“I am immensely proud to be returning to my home nation of Antigua and Barbuda to head up this exciting initiative. COBE has significant potential as a mechanism for harnessing education and research to support the region’s efforts to transition to a sustainable Blue Economy, and will enable us to learn from each other and collaborate towards addressing our shared ocean challenges in the Caribbean and beyond”.

As one of the largest university networks in the world, with many members from island states on the frontline of climate change, the ACU is uniquely placed to convene university partners from across the Commonwealth in support of this ambition. Partnerships will range from student and staff exchange to collaborative research bids.

ACU’s Director of External Affairs Beth Button said;

International collaboration in education and research can be catalysts for supporting practical action and progress on a sustainable blue economy.

We are pleased to be working with our diverse network of more than 400 member universities in over 40 Commonwealth countries to support the aims of COBE and look forward to facilitating the partnerships and collaborations which will enable transformative impact, sustained capacity, and a more sustainable future for the Caribbean and Commonwealth."

The ACU serves alongside international partner organisations including the Commonwealth Secretariat, the Commonwealth Enterprise and Investment Council (CWEIC), and the Centre for the Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (CEFAS) on an International Steering Committee (ISC), providing strategic guidance to support the establishment of COBE.

Dr Nicholas Hardman-Mountford, Commonwealth Secretariat Head of Oceans and Natural Resources said: 

“As champions for a sustainable blue economy for the Commonwealth Blue Charter, Antigua and Barbuda’s leadership is exemplified through the groundbreaking opportunity of COBE to build capacity in sustainable ocean industries across the region. The Commonwealth Secretariat is proud to be able to support this exciting initiative.”

Media contact

  • Rena Gashumba  Communications Adviser, Communications Division, Commonwealth Secretariat
  • T: +44 7483 919 968  |  E-mail