A sustainable path to sustainable recovery for small island developing states lies in the ocean and building a robust blue economy – The European Sting – Critical News & Insights on European Politics, Economy, Foreign Affairs, Business & Technology

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Author: Shiri Krishna Gounder, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Economy, Government of Fiji


  • Dependent on tourism and trade, Small Island Developing States (SIDS) have been among the hardest hit in the world by the economic impact of COVID-19.
  • Fiji and other SIDS could rebound from the pandemic by building a sustainable blue economy that makes the most of their ocean geography.
  • The Blue Recovery Hubs initiative, of which Fiji is a key participant, will examine SIDS to identify sustainable ocean-based growth opportunities.

The COVID-19 pandemic has been, and remains in many parts of the world, a major health, social and economic crisis without modern precedent.

For the vast majority of people around the world, this has negatively affected freedoms, exacerbated hunger and poverty, and tested both political will and social and environmental resilience. The impacts of COVID-19 have reverberated around the world, but the most critical impacts have been felt in developing countries.

COVID-19 in Small Island Developing States

Small Island Developing States (SIDS), in particular, have suffered an unprecedented economic impact, with GDP contraction in 2020 estimated at 7.1% in SIDS, compared to 4.4% in other developing countries. SIDS have been heavily impacted by pandemic shutdowns and travel restrictions, as many are economically dependent on the tourism and fishing sectors.

In Fiji, for example, the tourism sector before the pandemic accounted for 38.9% of the country’s GDP. For an undiversified economy – like those seen in many SIDS – events like the pandemic highlight the precarious state of national economies. And it’s not just because of the loss of tourism.

Fiji’s fisheries are the country’s third largest export in terms of profit, but commercial channels to get tuna to consumer markets were limited as vessels became less reliable and commercial flights that carry commercial goods have almost completely ceased. Fiji’s economy contracted by 15.7% in the first year of COVID-19, largely due to these pandemic-related sectoral impacts.

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused significant damage and disruption, but it has also provided an opportunity to step back and consider how to move forward: adopting the same development paths that accumulate more risk – Or commit to building more sustainable paths of economic development, and continue as a stable basis for growth?

The ocean has untapped potential for sustainable development, as highlighted by research commissioned by the High Level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy – Ocean Panel – which showed that every dollar invested in the sustainable ocean economy will yield $5 over a 30-year period.

As Fiji now focuses on its recovery, it is looking to harness the ocean to drive a blue recovery and put in place the policies and economic structures necessary to ensure the sustainable management of our oceans. Through the Ocean Panel and other platforms, we are also trying to bring other countries in the same direction.

Fiji’s commitments to a sustainable ocean

Specifically, our commitment to a sustainable ocean is based on five key elements:

1. Our National Ocean Policy, which is a guide to establishing a sustainable blue economy by 2030. A sustainable blue economy depends on conserving and managing the ocean in a way that drives economic growth, ensures healthy marine ecosystems and supports coastal communities.

2. Our Climate Change Act, which declares a climate emergency and creates the legal basis to support Fiji’s Sustainable Development Goals, build a net zero economy by 2050 and achieve the National Ocean Policy.

3. A commitment, alongside the other 15 members of the Ocean Panel, to sustainably manage 100% of the ocean area within our national borders and to develop a sustainable ocean economy based on effective ecosystem management, sustainable marine production and equitable economic growth.

4. A moratorium on seabed mining at least until the end of 2030, to better understand the potentially irreparable consequences of such behavior.

5. Seek new partnerships, financing instruments and business models focused on sustainability that protect and adapt our ocean ecosystems.

Blue recovery hubs

One such partnership for the development of a blue economy is the Blue Recovery Hubs (BRH) – a joint initiative between the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Friends of Ocean Action and the Sustainable Development Impact Partnership of the World Economic Forum, of which Fiji is the first Hub.

The BRH initiative aims to help countries accelerate their economic recovery by improving the long-term sustainability of existing ocean economic sectors and generating new sustainable opportunities that can lead to economic diversification and act as an SDG multiplier in many areas. multiple economic and social domains.

As part of the BRH, a new report is being launched at the second UN Ocean Conference (June 27-July 1, Lisbon, Portugal), which provides a comprehensive assessment of our ocean economy before and during covid, “Towards a Blue Recovery in Fiji: COVID-19 Assessment Report.”

The findings of the assessment report identify a number of ocean sectors that offer opportunities for more resilient and sustainable development. As we work with the BRH
team towards the next phase, these opportunities will be explored in depth to understand the main limits to investment and the main opportunities to overcome obstacles to growth.

This collaboration provides a means to pursue the diversification and sustainable development of the ocean economy, achieving core National Ocean Policy goals and commitments as a member of the Ocean Panel.

As Fijians, we are fully committed to pursuing a blue recovery focused on securing the sustainable management of our precious ocean resources to achieve a sustainable blue recovery that serves our people as much as preserving a robust marine environment for generations to come.

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