Oceans Governance Linked To Region???s Survival

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Minister of the Environment, Water Resources and Drainage, Dr. Denis Lowe (FP)????

Oceans governance has been linked to the very survival of individuals in developing countries, as well as to small vulnerable economies such as ours.

Environment Minister, Dr. Denis Lowe, told a recent Ministerial Roundtable for Ministers of Science in Paris, France that it was as a result of "this quest for survival" that the call for integrated oceans governance must be taken from "just rhetoric to concerted, sustained action at the national, regional and international levels".

The roundtable themed: ???Building Stewardship for the Ocean: The Contribution of UNESCO to Responsible Ocean Governance’ formed part of the 35th Session of the General Conference of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO).

Minister Lowe told the meeting that at a time when governments were seeking agreements on actions that would halt, or at the very minimum, decelerate the spread of impacts of global climate change, the deliberations on oceans, which was the main regulator of climate, took on "unprecedented significance".

Noting that for Barbados "it was important to be effective at the national level first," Dr. Lowe observed: "We have worked to build an effective integrated system of oceans governance, built on a solid scientific base from its very inception. We recognised that the inevitable challenge of small geographic size did not allow us the luxury of a second chance if we failed to make good decisions using sound scientific principles."

To this end, Minister Lowe told the session, several useful lessons were learnt en route to the "mature marine governance framework" for which this country was known, including the need for a sustainable national programme.

"Integrated oceans governance must be accomplished at the national level before looking outward to the regional and international platforms. No matter what our size, economic status or vulnerability, a sustained, national commitment to healthy marine management is an imperative," he underlined.

He also underscored the need for investment in marine science for decision-making.

Citing the need for a unified effort among member states to achieve collective goals for the oceans, Minister Lowe noted that at the regional level, Barbados had led the charge, along with members of the Association of Caribbean States, to designate the Caribbean Sea as a special area in the context of Sustainable Development, with the United Nations General Assembly.

He stressed, however, that "effective governance of the Caribbean Sea can only be achieved if every country that borders that great sea is involved".

With regard to current international obligations, Dr. Lowe told the high-level session, that it was impossible for small states to service all of their regional and global oceans-related agreements, while accruing maximum benefits to their countries.

"We would urge that UN programmes be streamlined and, perhaps, in the future, be coalesced into a UN-oceans programme that addresses various aspects of science and management," he suggested.

Noting that they would not wish to be remembered as the generation of policy-makers who were expert at making international policy on oceans, but failed to deliver on their objectives, Minister Lowe stressed that the time had come to implement the many existing agreements that had been negotiated.

"We need to utilise the vast stores of expertise within universities across the world to work with us to implement these provisions. As oceans slowly acidify, fisheries are decimated, coral reefs become bleached and diseased, and our beaches erode; we need swift governance reforms," he stressed.

cgaskin@barbados.gov.bb

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