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Towards a sustainable blue economy

Published: 
Wednesday, September 12, 2018
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High Commissioner for Canada Carla Hogan Rufelds, centre, at the Carenage Fish Market last Saturday. Photo by:Tamika Amora

High Commissioner

for Canada T&T

The brilliant blue of the Caribbean Sea shimmers as it surrounds T&T and the over 7,000 islands of the Caribbean region. It is a blue that immerses us in its beauty, its bounty, its resilience, its fragility. As the oceans continue to sustain us, we begin a journey to transition toward a sustainable blue economy—a commitment to harness the potential of our oceans, seas, lakes, and rivers for economic growth, while ensuring conservation for future generations.

Canada is honoured to be co-hosting the Sustainable Blue Economy Conference with Kenya in November 2018. Working with Kenya and other global stakeholders, we are ensuring the conference is a vital step in helping the world transition to a blue economy that is prosperous, inclusive, and sustainable.

As part of this commitment, Canada’s Ambassador for the Sustainable Blue Economy Conference, William Crosbie, will visit T&T on 12-13 September, followed by Guyana, Jamaica, and Belize. This visit highlights Canada’s support and focus on the Caribbean and underscores the truly international scope of the conference.

As Trinbagonians know, Canada’s ties to the water run deep in our identity as a nation. Canada has the longest coastline in the world—over 200,000 kms. We border three oceans and we have one of the largest stores of freshwater in the world. The health and sustainability of our oceans and waters couldn’t be more important.

The same is true for T&T and the Caribbean. As Small Island States (or as recently coined to me—Big Ocean States), the Caribbean blue economy is as multi-faceted as the conference themes themselves: food security; management of marine life & conservation; people, communities & societies; transportation & global connectivity; employment, job creation & poverty eradication; cities, tourism & culture; energy resources & sustainable development; climate action, agriculture & pollution-free oceans; and, maritime security & enforcement. A huge cross-section of issues—all integral to T&T and the Caribbean!

Canada is co-hosting this conference to help reposition the blue economy in the mainstream of economic planning—not in the margins. The world has rallied around the enormous pressures facing our oceans, from plastic pollution to the significant impacts of climate change. At the same time, there is international recognition that we must do more to develop our waters in an inclusive and sustainable manner to create jobs and combat poverty and hunger—for the benefit of all. This conference addresses both sides of the coin—recognizing that healthy waters and economic development are not mutually exclusive but go hand in hand.

It takes many players to transition to a blue economy—it can’t be done by government alone. As such, Ambassador Crosbie will meet with the Ministry of Planning and Development, the Ministry of Agriculture, Land and Fisheries, representatives of the Tobago House of Assembly, the Institute of Marine Affairs, other Heads of Missions from the Caribbean and beyond, and leaders from T&T’s civil society, business, academia, and regional institutions community. He will discuss expectations around the conference, seek input on concrete outcomes, engage with Caribbean experts, and encourage active participation and support for the conference.

To be successful, a blue economy must be inclusive. We know that supporting the leadership and empowerment of women, youth and indigenous peoples as agents of positive change, will enable us to achieve the full benefits of the blue economy. This conference will strive to amplify the voices of women and girls, especially women from least developed countries and Small Island Developing States.

Innovators and entrepreneurs will also have an important role to play to ensure that economic development is also a win for society and the environment.

Transitioning to new economic models and development systems for the blue economy requires diverse and widespread engagement. Canada is contributing US$2 million to enable participation from Small Island Developing States and least developed countries, in addition to US$1 million in in-kind support.

This conference is about action and advancing the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Sustainable Development Goals. Participants will not just talk about the blue economy but will learn how to build one. Canada stands side by side with T&T and the rest of the Caribbean on the journey—the transition to a blue economy that is prosperous, inclusive, and sustainable.

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