Blue Charter fellowships to drive research on ocean pollution

A new fellowship programme will support emerging scholars from Commonwealth countries to conduct world-class research on marine plastics.

With funding from the UK Government’s Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, the Association of Commonwealth Universities (ACU) is launching 35 new ‘Blue Charter Fellowships’, guided by the Commonwealth’s technical experts on oceans.

The programme takes its name from the Commonwealth Blue Charter, a collective commitment of the 53 member countries to preserve and nurture the world’s oceans, agreed by leaders at the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in April.

Joanna Newman, ACU Chief Executive and Secretary General, said: “Marine pollution – and the scourge of marine plastics in our oceans – is one of the most pressing issues our global community must confront. Universities are uniquely placed to help solve such challenges, and these Blue Charter Fellowships will enable new research and innovation to flourish through the exchange of people and ideas.”

Nick Hardman-Mountford, Head of Ocean and Natural Resources at the Commonwealth added: “The Commonwealth Blue Charter provides an action-orientated collaborative mechanism for countries to address ocean issues, and these fellowships will provide an exceptional opportunity for Commonwealth academic researchers to build their capacity and progress critical research that will feed into this process.”

Applications are open to research staff or PhD students at any of the ACU member institutions, which number more than 500 in at least 50 countries across the Commonwealth. Grants of up to £10,000 each will support fellows through two- to three-month placements at universities and industries in small island states, Canada, India, South Africa and the UK. The fellows will also receive support from specialist mentors with expertise in their area of research.

Research will focus on responses to marine pollution, such as preventing plastics from getting into the sea, developing alternatives to plastics, and potential innovations for cleaning up the seas.

The deadline for submissions is Wednesday 7 November. The fellowships will take place between 27 December 2018 and 31 March 2019.

The Blue Charter Fellowship programme helps fulfil the objectives of the Commonwealth Marine Plastics Research and Innovation Framework launched by the UK government in May.

Find out more information about the fellowship programme

Commonwealth urges policy changes to unleash blue economy

New research published today by the Commonwealth Secretariat calls for “fundamental changes” to the way the world’s oceans, seas and coastal areas are managed.

The research recommends countries embrace new marine-based sectors such as aquaculture, biotechnology and ocean-based renewable energy, while urging governments to improve the way they operate to ensure the survival of global fishing, maritime transport and coastal tourism.

Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland said: “As the world begins to face up to climate change and the vulnerability of small and developing countries to natural disasters and financial crises, it is critical that we recognise the lifeline offered by the oceans, which are a source of food security and economic prosperity.

“Challenges such as global warming, over-fishing and environmental mismanagement threaten a resource which, if managed sustainably, could be a source of immense opportunity. With this new research series, we are advancing the fundamental and practical changes in policy that we believe any government with maritime territory should pursue.”

Recommendations from the new five-volume Commonwealth Blue Economy Series include:

  • Establishing a marine renewable roadmap for offshore wind and tidal and wave energy in a way that builds indigenous skills and capitalises on local knowledge
  • Supporting the biotechnology sector with the sustainable harvesting of algae and marine microbes for pharmaceuticals and other industries
  • Improving the health of fisheries to avoid overexploitation, habitat damage, waste and pollution through a blue economy fisheries strategy
  • Supporting the aquaculture industry, including crustaceans and aquatic plants, by developing domestic markets as well as niche eco-labelled products

The Commonwealth Secretariat is a pioneer of the ‘blue economy’ concept which, derived from the so-called green economy, advocates for the sustainable exploitation of the natural capital emanating from the world’s oceans, seas and coastal areas.

The research series was created as a product of technical assistance provided by the Commonwealth Secretariat to the Government of Seychelles, which created a ‘Blue Economy Roadmap’ to support the growth of ocean-based industries.

“Change can only be realised through strong leadership,” says Commonwealth Deputy Secretary-General Deodat Maharaj, writing in the series foreword.  “Nowhere is this truer than for the ocean, a resource perceived to be everyone’s right but no one’s responsibility. Creating the political will to implement all elements of a blue economy strategy is a key theme in the assistance and advice the Commonwealth provides to countries.”

‘Game changing’ Blue Charter to guide nations in sustainable ocean development

A Commonwealth proposal to create a Blue Charter of principles for sustainable ocean development has been greeted with the enthusiastic support of governments and partners at this week’s UN Ocean Conference.

Secretary-General Patricia Scotland put forward the initiative as a way of helping Commonwealth member governments to “ensure maritime industries are managed in a way that preserves and promotes ocean health”.

The Blue Charter would apply to ocean governance the 16 principles and values of the Commonwealth Charter, including environmental protection, good governance, justice and peace, human rights and gender equality, and recognition of the needs of vulnerable nations and young people.

“Sustainability and development through mutual support and towards shared goals are at the heart of all Commonwealth cooperation and connection, and the ocean is the truly matchless symbol and reality of our global togetherness,” said Secretary-General Scotland.

“The Blue Charter will help countries develop an integrated approach to the building of the blue economy, one which considers the value of often overlooked sectors such as artisanal fishing as well as the role of women and young people. It will help policy-makers to adopt a regenerative model of development and find common sense solutions to challenges such as marine pollution, illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing, and harmful trade subsidies,” she said.

The charter will help support countries to deliver the Sustainable Development Goals in particular Goal 14 to conserve and sustainably use the seas. To give it practical effect, a knowledge and innovation hub and series of best practice toolkits will be developed, complementing the existing support provided by the Commonwealth Secretariat to its 45 coastal member countries.

Welcoming the emphasis on maximising innovation and developing partnerships to promote the blue economy, Prime Minister of Fiji J.V. Bainimarama, the co-chair of the conference, said he supported the initiative. “We certainly look forward to the proposal on the development of the Blue Charter, a set of guiding principles for sustainable, fair and equitable economic development of our ocean space.”

“The wonderful thing about the Commonwealth is the strength and emphasis on sharing experiences and learning from each other,” he added.

.@FijiPM at #BlueCommonwealth event: ‘@PScotlandCSG hails from a #SIDS in the #Caribbean is a living embodiment of the leadership of #women

— The Commonwealth (@commonwealthsec) June 8, 2017

Vincent Meriton, Vice President of Seychelles and co-host of the Blue Commonwealth side event, led a round of applause for the Commonwealth as he highlighted the support provided to Seychelles in crafting its national blue economy roadmap. “Since we embarked on this journey in 2014 we have had the benefit of the support of the Commonwealth,” he said.

“Our blue economy roadmap is for the long-term. It sets out strategic priorities and establishes the necessary enabling environment to facilitate transformative change, good governance, private sector engagement, knowledge innovation, investment, monitoring and evaluation.

“Our goals are economic diversification, job opportunities, shared prosperity, food security and most importantly the protection and sustainable use of our marine and coastal environment. Our approach is ambitious. It is about a paradigm shift on how we manage and use our coastal and ocean resources and how we work together.”

Prime Minister of Grenada Keith Mitchell, one of the high level speakers at the Commonwealth side event, said he backed the Blue Charter proposal, noting that his country’s economy is increasingly reliant on coastal tourism. Factors beyond the control of many small island states including global trade shocks and climate change mean they are in need of support, he said.

Thanks #Commonwealth for hosting this most successful event

— Mukhisa Kituyi (@UNCTADKituyi) June 6, 2017

Semisi Fakahau, Minister of Fisheries, Tonga’s Minister of Fisheries, said, “The proposed idea of the Commonwealth Blue Charter is very timely and relevant and Tonga is very much interested in engaging in its development.” It should recognise the special vulnerabilities of small island developing states and the impact of climate change, he added.

Nicos Kouyialis, Cyprus’ Minister of Agriculture, Rural Development and Environment, backed the proposal saying, “The economies and wellbeing of our countries depend on the healthy marine environment. It is our obligation to protect our oceans and to promote blue growth and the blue economy.

“The benefit of this Blue Charter is that Commonwealth countries can have a common platform of cooperating, exchanging ideas and best practices and joining forces to take action to promote the blue economy and protect our oceans.”

Khurshed Alam, Secretary of Bangladesh’s Maritime Affairs Unit said: “The seas need to be exploited sustainably [for which countries] need capacity, technology and resources. This is where we think the Blue Charter will be a game changer for the Commonwealth and that’s why I congratulate the Secretary-General.”

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