Keynote Address by President James Alix Michel at the Second Blue Economy Summit – “One Ocean, One Future”, Abu Dhabi, 19 January 2016
Your Excellency Dr Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson, President of the Republic of Iceland,
Your Excellency Mr Tommy Remengesau, President of the Republic of Palau,
Dr Sultan Bin Ahmed Sultan Al Jaber, Minister of State and Special Envoy for Energy and Climate Change of the United Arab Emirates,
Dr Vladimir Ryabinin, Executive Secretary of the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO
Ladies and gentlemen,
The great English poet, John Donne, said: “No man is an island, entire of itself. Every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main”. We islanders are keenly aware of this – in fact, all too aware of this – and none less so than our two very special guests and participants at this conference.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Please join me in applauding the President of Iceland, Dr Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson, and the President of Palau, Mr Tommy Remengesau. Thank you kindly, gentlemen, for being with us.
I would like to express my deepest gratitude to the Government of the United Arab Emirates, represented here by Dr Al Jaber, for having kindly accepted to co-organise and co-host this conference, for the second time, within the framework of the Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week. We take great pride in this partnership which will confer added visibility to our conference on the Blue Economy.
On a more personal note, I would like to make special mention of the support and contribution of Abu Dhabi to the development efforts of Seychelles, not least in the field of renewable and clean energy. His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed bin Sultan al Nahyan, Ruler of Abu Dhabi and President of the UAE, and His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, have, over many years, been steadfast – and selflessly so – in their support of my country. I acknowledge, on behalf of the government and people of Seychelles, their boundless generosity with deep gratitude.
Last but not least, I would like to thank Dr Ryabinin of the IOC for joining us in partnership in co-hosting today’s event.
My thanks also go out to you all for being with us here today. Your presence denotes your firm belief in the Blue Economy concept as the way forward to sustainable development.
Ladies and gentlemen,
From a relatively unknown paradigm a few years ago, the concept of the “Blue Economy” has become a fixture of the international agenda on sustainable development. It is not possible to address sustainable development unless we are also addressing the Blue Economy. Today, no discourse relating to Small Island Developing States and littoral states, to ocean governance, to management and exploitation of marine resources, is possible without mention of the “Blue Economy”.
The Blue Economy is now firmly established on the international agenda.
That is why we are here today. We are also here today, above all, because we seek the best for our people, the best socioeconomic options we can provide within the context of preserving our planet and the ecosystems that support us.
Today we stand on the threshold of a new age of global cooperation for sustainable development, environmental stewardship, equity and human rights.
In September of last year the UN General Assembly adopted Resolution 70/1 entitled: “Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development”. The 17 sustainable development goals and their 169 targets set out to eradicate poverty, realise the human rights of all and to protect the planet from degradation through sustainable management of natural resources and urgent action on climate change.
The year 2015 culminated in the historic Paris Agreement where the nations of the world came together and pledged to transition the very basis of their economic development in order to limit the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2oC above pre-industrial levels and to endeavour to limit that increase to 1.5oC. The Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement put in place the framework to enable a global development paradigm shift founded on human rights for all, sound management of our natural resources and a revitalised global partnership for sustainable development.
My Government believes that the Blue Economy concept and approach is a key tool in this endeavour.
Since 2012, Seychelles has been working with its partners around the world to better define the scope of the Blue Economy, both nationally and internationally. We have articulated and propagated this concept. From the Rio Summit on Sustainable Development in 2012; to the special conference on the Blue Economy that we co-hosted in Abu Dhabi in January 2014, to the Samoa summit on Small Island Developing States in September 2014.
Ladies and gentlemen,
This summit marks one of the first international platforms for discussion following COP 21 and the adoption of the SDGs.
It is an ideal opportunity to discuss practical ways to implement our shared aspirations. Oceans cover 72% of the surface of our blue planet and constitute more than 95% of the biosphere. Advancing technologies are opening new frontiers of marine resource development, from bio-prospecting to the mining of seabed mineral resources. The sea also offers vast potential for renewable “blue energy” production from wind, wave, tidal, thermal and biomass sources. Oceans are clearly, therefore, fundamental to humanity’s hopes for sustainable development and realisation of the Paris Agreement’s objectives.
Transitioning to a Blue Economy and away from the “business as usual” model of marine exploitation will require research, international cooperation and strong political will, as long term gains are often only achievable through shorter term pain. Political vision and principle is required, coupled with innovation. It requires innovation in science and engineering in the marine domain but also innovation in administration, strategic planning and finance.
For example, in Seychelles, assisted by international partners, we are pioneering novel means of leveraging new and additional funds to support the realisation of a sustainable Blue Economy. Our latest initiative is the proposed issue of ten-year sovereign “blue” bonds guaranteed by Government and supported by international financial institutions, with the proceeds being specifically designated for the implementation of a new transformative management plan for our national demersal fisheries.
For most island nations, sustainable fisheries are the starting point for our Blue Economy aspirations.
In Seychelles our transition to the Blue Economy is about empowering our local fisheries industry through the adoption of sustainable practices to create better value addition. We believe that supporting our local entrepreneurs is at the heart of the blue economy agenda. Because sustainability is not possible without strong local ownership.
Today, with our co-hosts, the Government of Abu Dhabi and the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO, we hope to take the next steps in the elaboration of the Blue Economy concept by discussing and exchanging views on how best we can implement Sustainable Development Goal 14: “Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development” and the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.
Ladies and gentlemen,
The potential of the oceans to meet sustainable development needs and mitigate climate change is enormous; but only if they can be maintained in, or restored to, a healthy and productive state. To that end it is vital that we make clear the distinction between the Blue Economy approach and the existing unsustainable model of ocean governance too often focused on extractive industries, with limited empowerment of coastal and island populations.
The global challenges are immense but so are the opportunities. These opportunities however must be grasped now before the natural capital of our planet is degraded beyond repair and the prospects of future generations forever curtailed. Today, we have the chance to make another contribution to the realisation of those opportunities by refining and raising the international profile of, and momentum behind, the mainstreaming of the Blue Economy Approach as a key tool for local, national, international and global environmental management.
I thank you for your participation and wish you all a constructive and productive day.
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