unctad.org | Blue Economy Summit
Statement by Mr. Mukhisa Kituyi, Secretary-General of UNCTAD
Blue Economy Summit
Abu Dhabi (UAE)
20 Jan 2014


Your Excellency, Mr. Jean-Paul Adam, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Seychelles,
Distinguished Participants,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a great pleasure for me to address this Blue Economy Summit, which is particularly timely in light of the on-going efforts to define a comprehensive post-2015 Development Agenda.

The concept of the "Blue Economy" serves to complement that of the "Green Economy" by rightly highlighting the environmental challenges facing the world's oceans, which - after all - account for two thirds of the surface of our blue planet. As crucial providers of food, biodiversity, carbon sequestration, and energy, oceans are true global commons, whose degradation would have disastrous consequences for all of mankind.

Of course, coastal countries and small island developing states (SIDS) are most affected, as their economies depend most directly on the oceans, be it through fisheries, tourism or exploitation of marine resources. UNCTAD empirical work has shown that SIDS are at least 30% more vulnerable to adverse external shocks than non-SIDS. The threats they are facing from overfishing, marine pollution, and climate change are proof that environmental sustainability and economic development are not conflicting goals, but rather necessary complements. Ultimately, all our economies depend on a sustainable stewardship of our natural resources, be they blue or green.

Allow me therefore to use my intervention here to briefly highlight three aspects of the Blue Economy that are of particular relevance to my organization, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development.

The first of these are fisheries subsidies. Marine fisheries are crucial for the livelihoods and economies of coastal communities, and a key element of global food security. In SIDS, fisheries account for more than 10% of GDP, and for some 7 percent of their total exports.

However, at least 32 per cent of the global fish stocks are estimated to be overexploited, depleted or recovering from depletion and a further 50 per cent are fully exploited. Therefore, to safeguard future supply, far greater efforts are needed to regulate global fishing activities, and to phase out fishing subsides. Such subsidies result in significant overcapacity, meaning that there are too many fishing boats chasing the same volume of fish. The European Union alone is estimated to have spent 12.9 billion euros in fisheries subsidies since 2000, and the capacity of the EU fleet is 2 to 3 times above the sustainable level in a number of fisheries. But overcapacity and overfishing is by no means only a European phenomenon.

Overall, the World Bank has estimated that overfishing and pollution are reducing the potential yield of marine resources by an estimated $50 billion per year - equivalent to more than half the value of the global seafood trade. And with better management, global fisheries wealth could increase from $120 billion to $900 billion.

In order to address this problem, the negotiations on fisheries subsidies in the WTO should be a priority in the Post-Bali work programme. Interests of SIDS in preserving benefits from bilateral fishing arrangements should also be taken on board.

A second issue I would like to flag is sustainable tourism. Today, tourism is a vital sector in many SIDS, accounting for around 30% of total employment and up to 50% of GDP. The outlook is positive: in 2012, international tourist arrivals exceeded one billion for the first time. And according to the UN World Tourism Organization, one in every two tourists visits a coastal area. Thus, the proximity to the ocean offers economic significant potential.

However, this potential is threatened by climate change and marine pollution. At the same time, the tourism itself has to become more environmentally sustainable, if it is to continue to grow. For this reason, UNCTAD is supporting SIDS and other developing countries in developing eco-tourism, and in deriving greater economic benefit from the sustainable use of their natural resources.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is clear that the transition to a Blue Economy, which will ensure the sustainability of our marine resources and make them a viable tool for development, will require action at multiple levels. There must be global efforts to halt climate change, and to better regulate fisheries and the exploitation of marine resources. We must also extend marine protected areas and reduce pollution. All of these should become integral parts of our post-2015 Development Agenda.

But we must also assist those whose fate is most directly linked to that of our oceans, and this brings me to my third and final point, namely the need for international support measures for SIDS. UNCTAD has advocated for the formal recognition of the structural vulnerabilities of SIDS for many decades. It is true that many SIDS are also LDCs, and as such are already benefiting from support measures. But these measures are not targeted at the specific needs arising from island-status. Yet, targeted measures could address many of the aspects of the Blue Economy, such as fisheries, tourism, and transport infrastructure, and would make a crucial difference for these countries.

Given the workable number of genuine SIDS (only 29 according to UNCTAD), and the limited number of measures an agenda for SIDS treatment would involve, we consider the plea for SIDS status as being a very reasonable demand on the international community.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am confident that our deliberations at this Summit, as well as the forthcoming Third International Conference on SIDS in Samoa, can help to identify concrete and practical measures that can translate the vision of a Blue Economy into reality.

Thank you very much.


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