New Caribbean centre for oceanography, blue economy welcomed

The Commonwealth Secretary-General has welcomed plans to establish a new Centre of Excellence in Oceanography and the Blue Economy at the University of West Indies Five Islands Campus in Antigua and Barbuda.

The Government of Antigua and Barbuda, which co-chairs the Commonwealth Blue Charter Action Group on Sustainable Blue Economy, the University of the West Indies and the Association of Commonwealth Universities agreed to work together towards this goal, with a memorandum of understanding signed today.

The Centre will aim to advance intellectual progress and strengthen institutional capacity in the areas of marine science and the blue economy for the Caribbean region.

Signed by Prime Minister Gaston Browne of Antigua and Barbuda, Vice-Chancellor of The University of the West Indies Hilary Beckles and Chair of the Association of Commonwealth Universities Ed Byrne, the MoU also allows the three parties to develop joint research, training and capacity-building programmes, as well as share academic and educational content.

Hailing the initiative, Secretary-General Patricia Scotland said: “The Government of Antigua and Barbuda is co-champion of the Action Group on Sustainable Blue Economy, and the bold initiative of developing a Centre of Excellence for Oceanography and the Blue Economy…will build in new ways on this commendable commitment.

“This new Centre of Excellence will be a fresh expression of our longstanding Commonwealth concern for the environment, including our ocean, and the clarion call to action made in the Langkawi Declaration on the Environment from the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting as long ago as 1989.”

She stressed the Commonwealth Secretariat’s “wholehearted support”, adding: “I welcome the new opportunities for Commonwealth cooperation which the Centre will open up and mobilise – particularly for our young people.”

As part of the Commonwealth Blue Charter, Antigua and Barbuda (alongside Kenya) co-champions member-driven actions that encourage better stewardship of the ocean’s ‘blue resources’ and marine environment.

Launched in 2018, the Commonwealth Blue Charter is a commitment by leaders of the organisation’s 54 member countries to actively collaborate on solving ocean-related challenges.

Antigua & Barbuda to co-champion blue economy action for the Commonwealth

The Caribbean island nation of Antigua and Barbuda has stepped forward to co-champion the Commonwealth Blue Charter Action Group on the sustainable blue economy, alongside the current champion country, Kenya.

As a new co-champion, Antigua and Barbuda will work with Kenya, as well as the other action group members, to cooperatively develop sustainable blue economy strategies across Commonwealth countries, covering more than a third of the world’s coastal waters.

Blue Economy

The aim of a ‘blue’ economy is to support the sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth and improved livelihoods, while protecting ocean health.

Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland said: “It is very encouraging that Antigua and Barbuda, a ‘large ocean state’, has stepped forward to co-champion the sustainable stewardship of our vast ‘blue wealth’. This welcome milestone demonstrates the commitment of Commonwealth countries to leveraging ocean resources wisely, sustainably and responsibly, while tackling unemployment, food insecurity and poverty.

“In this regard, the Commonwealth Blue Charter is one of the most effective platforms for countries to proactively collaborate across borders to tackle shared ocean challenges.”

Antigua and Barbuda’s Minister of the Blue Economy, Dean Jonas said: “We commend the Commonwealth on its development of the Blue Charter and in championing work on the sustainable blue economy.

“Antigua and Barbuda has long had a special relationship with the oceans.  We are, however, keen to understand more about the potential of our oceans as an economic growth area as well as balance this with protecting and promoting the health of our oceans. Antigua and Barbuda is committed to being an active member of this action group working alongside Kenya and all states who are members of this group.”

Prof. Micheni Japhet Ntiba, Principal Secretary for the State Department for Fisheries, Aquaculture and the Blue Economy in Kenya added: “Kenya is very pleased to be able to welcome Antigua and Barbuda as a co-Champion. Kenya has long recognised the necessity to work together to build strong and resilient blue economies.  We look forward to working with Antigua and Barbuda moving forward.”

Commonwealth Blue Charter

The Commonwealth Blue Charter is a commitment made by leaders of all 54 member countries to work together in tackling ocean challenges and fulfilling global commitments on ocean sustainability. It was endorsed at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in London, UK in April 2018.

Ten Action Groups, led by 14 countries, implement the Commonwealth Blue Charter, each focusing on a different ocean challenge, from marine pollution to climate change.

The Action Group on Sustainable Blue Economy encourages better stewardship of ocean resources through actions such as sharing strategies and best practices, promoting green and blue innovative technologies, and financial instruments such as blue bonds and blue carbon credits. The group also seeks to empower coastal communities economically, while building their resilience to future shocks.