Commonwealth supports Caribbean blue economy ambitions

25 March 2022

A recent scoping mission to Antigua and Barbuda will advance plans to establish a Centre of Excellence for Oceanography and the Blue Economy (COBE) for the Caribbean region.

Dr Nicholas Hardman-Mountford, Head of Oceans and Natural Resources at the Commonwealth Secretariat, joined the Secretary-General of the Association of Commonwealth Universities (ACU) Dr Joanna Newman and others on a five-day visit to the country last month, as part of the COBE International Steering Committee (ISC).

The group met with key national and regional stakeholders to discuss potential partnerships and fundraising opportunities for the centre, which will be housed at the University of the West Indies’ (UWI) Five Islands Campus.

The initiative, a collaboration between the Government of Antigua and Barbuda, the University of the West Indies and the Association of Commonwealth Universities, is expected to boost marine science and blue economy research across the Caribbean.

Prime Minister Gaston Browne welcomed the visit, underlining his “firm and unwavering support” for the establishment of the centre.

“Given the fact that the nation of Antigua and Barbuda is such a vast ocean state and the growing interest in blue economy related subject areas, the establishment of the COBE is indeed very timely and advantageous,” he said.

The steering committee presented a report on the progress to set up the centre to Cabinet ministers. The delegation also toured the UWI Five Islands campus to view the infrastructure and spaces which will host the facility, and visited the country’s new port development, accompanied by Darwin Telemaque, Port Authority CEO.

Dr Hardman-Mountford said his involvement continued a track record of strong support by the Commonwealth Secretariat for ocean-based economies:

“Antigua and Barbuda is a leading nation in the region in defining its maritime boundaries and establishing strong ocean governance. The transition to a sustainable blue economy is the next step on this journey.

“As co-champion of the Commonwealth Blue Charter Action Group on the Sustainable Blue Economy, Antigua and Barbuda will be able to share valuable knowledge and experiences with fellow Commonwealth countries. Establishing the COBE in Antigua will provide a real boost in achieving this vision.”

Dr Joanna Newman, Secretary-General of the ACU, said: “We look forward to harnessing the potential of the ACU’s international network of 500 universities across the Commonwealth and developing the partnerships and collaborations which underpin research-led solutions to support a more sustainable future for the Caribbean region.”

As the oldest university network in the world, with many members from island states on the frontline of climate change, the ACU is uniquely placed to convene university partners from across the Commonwealth in support of this ambition.

A mapping exercise by the ACU to scope interest in this project in 2020 elicited responses from 70 individuals at member universities, with representation from every global region.

The Pro Vice Chancellor for Global Affairs at The University of the West Indies, Dr Stacy Richards-Kennedy, added: “The UWI is fully committed to building robust partnerships that will not only strengthen the foundation for the COBE, but also facilitate the execution of the roadmap to its full establishment. By working in concert, the ISC brings tremendous value and will support the achievement of the objectives of the Centre.”

Following the scoping mission, the ACU will be contacting interested universities to identify opportunities to get involved in the work of COBE.

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