22 Feb 2017 - Small Island Developing States (SIDS) are thinking differently, especially when it comes to the ocean. Their self-characterization as Large Ocean States is more than symbolic, more than just words. It represents a re-think on opportunities and challenges for small island states. At the UN Ocean Conference in June in New York, we will all need to embrace this new mind-set.
SIDS have often been characterized by their constraints – smallness (in land area at least), distance from markets, fragile ecosystems, narrow economies and vulnerability to natural disasters. And now they stand on the frontlines of sea-level rise and the consequences of a warming climate. That is a deficit-based model.
As large ocean states, the focus shifts to a strengths-based approach. SIDS are custodians of 15 of the 50 largest Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ). Tuvalu’s EEZ is 27,000 times larger than its land area. SIDS represent almost 20 percent of the UN membership – if we are going to leave no one behind we need to think innovatively on development solutions tailored to the smallest countries, with some of the largest ocean estates.
The Ocean Conference will be the time to continue to move this opportunity-centred thinking into action. And one opportunity is – ‘think blue’ strategy. SIDS know the importance of establishing an equilibrium between economic and social progress and environmental sustainability. That is where the concept of blue economy comes in. The blue economy simultaneously promotes economic growth, environmental sustainability, social inclusion and the strengthening of ocean ecosystems.
This is recognized in SDG 14. Target 14.7 challenges us to “By 2030, increase the economic benefits to SIDS and least developed countries (LDCs) from the sustainable use of marine resources, including through sustainable management of fisheries, aquaculture and tourism.”
The Ocean Conference, first and foremost, is about Action. It is about making tangible progress, through commitments, local, national, regional and global, to collectively progress the agreed targets under Sustainable Development Goal (SDG14) – Life Under Water. SIDS are determined to make sure that the importance of their voice to the oceans agenda is heard and to play their part in building a blue economy for their peoples and planet.