Let next week’s global ocean meeting live up to its billing

President Uhuru Kenyatta Blue Economy

President Uhuru Kenyatta speaks at the International Blue Economy Conference in Mozambique in 2019. The UN’s Ocean Conference 2022 is due for next week in Lisbon, Portugal.

Photo credit: File | PSCU

The UN’s Ocean Conference 2022 is due for next week in Lisbon, Portugal. The June 27-July 1 global meet is co-hosted by Kenya with the theme “Scaling up ocean action based on science and innovation for the implementation of Goal 14: Stocktaking, partnerships and solutions”.

The conference could not have come at a better time, given the necessity to bounce back after the unprecedented Covid-19 pandemic that continues to ravage humanity. Of necessity also, to Kenya and the EAC region, is that the conference not only in partial fulfilment of attainment of Sustainable Development Goal No 14,  on “Life below Water”, but similarly follows up on the inaugural Blue Economy meeting held in Nairobi in November 2018 under the ambit of Kenya, Canada and Japan.

Blue Economy refers to sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth, improved livelihoods and jobs while preserving the health of the ecosystem. It should, therefore, promote—in a cyclic nature—the healthy economics and well-being of oceans, seas and water masses.

For example, commercially, Kenya lies in the lucrative tuna belt with 150,000-300,000 tuna fish stretching close to 200,000 nautical miles. It has, perhaps, more than a fair share of close to $2.5 billion (Sh260 billion) of the western Indian Ocean economy with tourism capable of earning $1.5 billion annually.

Healthy marine environment

To its credit, the government is implementing strategies to harness the potential of seas to ensure a healthy marine environment and provide sustainable benefits for present and future generations.

The ocean is critical to combating climate change and reducing biodiversity loss. But here is where the rubber meets the road. Covering more than 70 per cent of the globe’s surface, it is seriously degraded. Should the current trend continue, there will be catastrophic consequences for the planet soon, hence the urgent need for a stronger global ocean agenda.

The forthcoming conference programme has a rich menu with key topics for discussion. They include youth and innovation; localising action for the ocean through a local and regional governments forum; a high-level symposium on water; and a sustainable Blue Economy Investment Forum.

End up on filing cabinets

This important conference need to be emphasised, given its imperative in addressing the threats to the ecology, health and governance of the ocean, among others. The resolutions should not just end up on filing cabinets, or even within the four corners of the Portuguese conference rooms.

Participants ought to synthesise the resolutions into actionable items, taking into account the interests and bearing of local communities. It is inevitable that more need to be done for the ocean’s posterity. The onus is, therefore, on the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Fisheries and Cooperatives and other related institutions, such as the Agriculture Transformation Office, and private and civil sector players, to strengthen implementation of SDG 14.

Mr Odiko is a communications consultant and practitioner. [email protected]


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