Keynote Address by President Faure, ACP Event, New York, 25th September 2018
Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,
It is an honour for me to address you on this important topical issue for the sustainable development of Small Island Developing States in the African, Caribbean and Pacific Grouping: Ocean Governance and Harnessing our Blue Economy.
When ACP Secretary-General Dr Patrick Gomes visited us in Seychelles a few months ago, he invited us to consider a suitable theme for this event. We thought this one would be relevant to our time, to the work of the ACP, and to the pioneering role Seychelles as a large ocean nation has been playing worldwide in the Blue Economy.
We find examples of how our countries are stepping up to implement Sustainable Development Goal 14 in every region of the ACP. We have all made our voices heard within the ACP Group which has been a champion in clinching the Paris Agreement on Climate Change and the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development, and in establishing a Fisheries Mechanism.
The ACP’s recent decision to dedicate millions of Euros of Intra-ACP funds to fisheries development will undoubtedly go a long way to ensure our countries receive support in implementing SDG 14.
Our oceans, seas and coastal areas are the largest ecosystems on the planet and remain vital to the livelihoods and food security of billions of people around the world, and to the economic prosperity of the 79 African, Caribbean and Pacific states.
For most of us in the ACP Group, our Exclusive Economic Zones are an essential resource base for our Blue Economy and far bigger in size than our land mass.
Seychelles is no different.
For over 200 years, we have benefitted from our ocean resources through the development of fisheries, international and domestic shipping for trade, our position as a global leader in marine conservation, and an expanding tourism industry.
Seychelles’ islands total a mere 455 square kilometres. However, with an exclusive economic zone 3,000 times bigger at 1.4 million square kilometres, our ocean is our pathway to prosperity. It is the space that we need to harness to support our economic base.
It turns us from a small island developing state into a large ocean nation.
Seychelles has always emphasised the significance of sustainable fisheries as we recognise the value of this vital pillar of our economy. We have always stressed the need for collaborative research with our partners to ensure there is sustainable management of fish stocks.
Why the Blue Economy?
Why are we turning towards the Blue Economy? Why are we championing the Blue Economy? Why is SDG 14 so essential for us? How does it add value to what we have already done?
Today, our ocean is facing challenges and constraints related to climate change, overfishing, non-regulated fishing, pollution, and piracy leading to maritime security issues, among many others.
Seychelles has, along with other Small Island Developing States, been at the forefront of the Blue Economy and ocean conversations in international fora since the Rio+20 conference on sustainable development in 2012.
The Blue Economy offers an alternative, economic and holistic approach to ocean governance. It allows us to take a comprehensive path towards managing our development in a sustainable manner by critically reviewing our decision-making thus far.
We must continue to answer some very crucial and urgent questions.
• How do we harness the potential of our ocean wealth in a sustainable and responsible way for the benefit of all our people?
• What do we want to achieve in a Blue Economy?
• What gains do we want to make that we are yet to achieve?
• How do we develop our economy further without overburdening the ocean ecosystem?
• How do we restrain some of our impacts on the seas without impeding on livelihoods, and?
• How do we repair some of the damage we have caused out of ignorance and lack of awareness?
Our ocean is central to our development and for generations to come. Our approach has been ambitious, but not without precaution.
Sustainable development demands equitable allocation of resources, as well as citizen participation in decision making. We ensure that Seychellois people are kept at the centre of development.
What then has Seychelles been doing to implement SDG 14?
Seychelles, through a strong delegation headed by our Vice-President, participated actively at the first UN ocean conference on the implementation of SDG 14 in New York last year where we made several commitments on behalf of the government.
We continued to push the agenda of the sustainable development of “life under water” when I attended the Our Oceans Conference in Malta last October and committed Seychelles to develop our first comprehensive maritime security strategy. This strategy is on the verge of being completed.
We started 2018 by launching a Blue Economy Strategic Policy Framework and Roadmap with the help of the Commonwealth Fund for Technical Cooperation, the CFTC. This makes us one of the first countries to define what it means by a Blue Economy.
The Roadmap sets our priorities for action and investment to 2030, in line with our Seychelles National Development Strategy (2035). I would like to thank the Commonwealth Secretariat for supporting our Blue Economy agenda and more specifically for providing us with technical assistance on the ground.
In February this year, Seychelles hosted with the World Bank a two-day Conference on Investing in Climate-Resilient Ocean Economies in Africa. We shared lessons learnt and focused on practical ways to raise finance to ensure the sustainable development of our blue economies.
Seychelles shared our own experience in innovative finance. Our “upper middle income” status which had in 2015 turned into a “high income” status forced us to look at other more sustainable avenues of financing.
This started with a first-of-its-kind US$22-million Debt Swap for Ocean Conservation and Climate Adaptation with the support of the Paris Club and The Nature Conservancy, TNC.
Thanks to the debt swap, Seychelles is, as well as generating grant financing for sustainable ocean activities, developing a Marine Spatial Plan for our entire EEZ by 2020.
Already, 15% of our EEZ, some 210,000 square kilometres, equivalent to the size of Great Britain, has been protected. This meets the SDG 14 and Convention on Biological Diversity Aichi targets of conserving at least 10% of coastal and marine areas by 2020 two years early.
Another 15% of our EEZ will be protected by 2020, tripling the SDG and Aichi targets.
Our second blue finance initiative, also the first in the world, will be the Seychelles Sovereign Blue Bond of US$15 million. It was designed with the support of the World Bank, the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and the International Sustainability Unit of The Prince of Wales’s Charities.
A “blended finance” initiative, the bond will combine with the World Bank’s Third South-West Indian Ocean Fisheries Governance and Shared Growth Project, known as SWIOFish3, to add another US$10.5 million to fund our country’s transition to sustainable artisanal fisheries.
There will be blue grants for fisheries reform and concessionary blue loans to enable businesses to improve their value chains to reduce overcapacity and overfishing.
As you know, development cannot take place without the active participation of the private sector whose role is also evolving with the decline of public funding for sustainable development, and who are joining the array of emerging partners with alternative financing solutions.
The private sector is increasingly investing in sustainable projects and initiatives, not just because it is ethical, but also because it makes business sense and is the way of the future.
The private sector is investing in areas as diverse as innovation, technology, value adding and entrepreneurship which are all essential to implementing a Blue Economy agenda.
Seychelles is teaming up with new partners to further include our ocean in our climate pledge, otherwise known as our Nationally Determined Contribution or NDC, under the Paris Agreement.
We are championing the inclusion of blue carbon in our NDC to strengthen the resilience of our ocean space as a carbon sink, especially in those areas protected under the debt swap.
We are using science-based and participatory approaches in the development of the Marine Spatial Plan for Seychelles’ EEZ and demarcation of marine protected areas for a more inclusive and effective allocation of our ocean space.
Innovation and economic diversification are critical Blue Economy implementation strategies in our transition to a climate-smart sustainable future.
• Innovation not only in terms of technology but also in embracing new ideas, entrepreneurship and creative solutions for a sustainable blue growth.
• Economic diversification within our two wealth-creating sectors, tourism and fisheries, to provide more opportunities for job creation and investment through value chains, and in establishing an enabling environment for emerging areas such as renewable energy, oil and gas, or biotechnology.
We are investing in local research to establish how the Blue Economy can make sense in the lives of our people in tangible ways.
• Mothers will have new job opportunities through factors such as increased food security and water quality, and women will be able to enter more technological and male dominated fields.
• School dropouts may be lowered with more avenues opened in schools specialising in practical learning and trade skills.
• Seychelles’ industrial tuna fishery, one of the largest in the world, provides jobs not only in fishing, but also in processing, repair and maintenance of boats and nets, manufacturing and distribution, management services, as well as scientific research.
• We anticipate that women’s participation in the tuna industry will continue to increase in the near future mainly in processing, cold storage, port services and logistics, quality control and other related jobs.
• The industry has offered job opportunities to non-Seychellois also, from the EU, Africa and Asia.
Civil society is another crucial driver in environmental protection and management and combatting marine pollution. Community groups and NGOs are engaged in clean-up days, coral restoration and more broadly marine conservation and climate adaptation projects.
Our youth-led NGOs have been promoting and advancing sustainable development in Blue Economy initiatives from campaigning ‘No to Plastic Bags’ and other marine debris to wetland rehabilitation and advocating climate accountability.
There have been concrete efforts to create a cleaner Seychelles after a country-wide ban on single-use plastic items came into effect last year. Earlier this year, our cabinet of ministers approved a further ban on the importation of other plastic items.
This month, Seychelles became the first White Flag State outside Europe. White Flag Certified Safe Marine Areas (CSMAs) represent the world’s purest and cleanest water bodies that have been physically cleaned of plastic and other marine debris.
Launched in Monaco in 2012, Whiteflag International is a leading symbol representing clean, plastic-free zones for inhabitants and tourists, and marine life. The initiative has developed a financing system which allows contributions to countries that are implementing national laws and are committed to environmental protection in the tourism sector.
Following its award as a Certified Safe Marine Area (CSMA), Seychelles will now be eligible for financing to develop more sustainable tourism practices.
Transparency can also be a powerful tool for sustainable development. The principles of transparency, accountability and good governance are essential enablers of the implementation of the Blue Economy and ensuring sustainability in outcomes.
We have been engaged at the global level with the Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative (EITI) and more recently the Fisheries Transparency Initiative (FITI).
These global mechanisms are essential as they set standards for publicly providing information in these sectors. This good practice allows for creating a level playing field and addressing cross-sector issues.
As my African colleagues are aware, the African Union has also firmly placed the Blue Economy on its development agenda.
In line with the African Maritime Strategy, Seychelles lead by example last April when we hosted the first-ever African Ship-owners Summit in collaboration with the Seychelles Petroleum Company (SEYPEC), the African Ship-owners Association (ASA) and the African Union.
The aim was to seek ways to develop greater African ownership of the shipping trade with Africa. As a result, the African Shipping Line is in the process of being domesticated in Seychelles which in March 2019 it will host the first African Investment Forum on Shipping.
We also continue our advocacy more broadly internationally. Today, oceans, climate and sustainable development are firmly on the global agenda, and we should seize every opportunity to keep the momentum going.
I joined other world leaders at the Commonwealth Heads of State and Government Meeting in April, where we adopted a Commonwealth Blue Charter and laid emphasis on ensuring that lessons in implementing the Blue Economy are shared for the common good.
In June, I joined Prime Minister Trudeau in Ottawa to speak on the sustainability of oceans and seas on the margins of the G7.
I took the opportunity of the G7, a gathering of the world’s richest developed countries and leading multilateral partners, to once again call for a SIDS-specific resilience index that takes into consideration our unique vulnerabilities to external shocks, be they climate change or economic.
Try as we might, the new sources of finance will not be enough to meet our sustainable development and climate action obligations under the 2030 Agenda, the Paris Agreement and the SAMOA Pathway for SIDS.
After the Our Ocean Conference in Bali in October, Kenya will in November host the International Conference on the Blue Economy.
While our Vice-President will be in Bali, I will lead a strong delegation to Nairobi as we continue to advocate for the Blue Economy and share with and learn from the international community with the aim of advancing SDG 14.
What are the next steps?
Seychelles’ Blue Economy integrated approach to ocean-based sustainable development brings together the three pillars of sustainability: economic, environmental and social, informally known under corporate sustainability as “people, planet and profits”.
Our strategic priorities for action and investment will remain focused on the creation of sustainable wealth, sharing prosperity, securing healthy and productive oceans and strengthening the environment.
The ocean brings countless opportunities but with it comes an enormous responsibility on all its users.
Resilience is gained through the sustainable management of vulnerable marine and coastal ecosystems while addressing ocean climate action.
We should stay committed to face the challenges and continue to lead in the quest to harness further and valorise the potential of our common seas.
Through a coordinated effort and a proper cross-sectoral governance system, we should adopt lessons learnt to ensure that our oceans, seas and coastlines continue to provide the ACP Group with possibilities to unlock the full potential of the Blue Economy.
In short, implementing good ocean governance is about adopting a holistic approach to achieve climate-smart sustainable development, with our ocean as the driver of our present and future prosperity.
With the opening of the intergovernmental conference on the conservation and sustainable use of the marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction, more simply known as the BBNJ or High Seas negotiations, Seychelles aims to play an active role despite our limited resources.
This is in line with the need for us to be inclusive, comprehensive and holistic in our approach to SDG 14. For no matter how much we invest in a clean, safe and healthy EEZ, if the High Seas just beyond it continue to be treated as no man’s land, our efforts will be futile.
What happens on the High Seas ultimately crosses over into our EEZs.
What role have international partners played?
My message is that while Seychelles has demonstrated leadership, like many island developing countries and small states in general, we could not have achieved such results alone. Partnerships are key.
With the assistance of international partners we have been able to benefit from innovative projects and share knowledge on bright spots and best practices. Through innovative finance initiatives, we have been able to leverage private investment to support the Blue Economy agenda.
We have active and dynamic bilateral and multilateral partnerships - partnerships for research, maritime security, renewable energy and more.
Partnerships with countries in our region, such as the Joint Management Area of the extended continental shelf with Mauritius which comprises approximately 400,000 square kilometres of the Indian Ocean Mascarene Plateau and which, incidentally, we shall launch another chapter of here in May 2019.
Indeed, partnerships are key. No country can do it alone, and I take the opportunity to thank all our partners, some of whom are represented here, for the valuable collaboration from the start of our journey.
I thank you all for your attention and wish you fruitful deliberations.