There is “tremendous” opportunity in the blue economy, but Caribbean countries need to come together and work as one to maximise those benefits.
That was the assessment of Minister of Maritime Affairs and the Blue Economy, Kirk Humphrey, as he shared some of Barbados’ experiences in establishing a blue economy ministry during a virtual event hosted by Belize on the topic: What is the Blue Economy? Challenges and Opportunities.
Affirming his confidence in the benefits of a blue economy, the Minister said he was however “cautious” about how Caribbean countries could tap into those benefits since COVID-19 had demonstrated how much – needed materials and equipment required by big ocean states was being accessed by larger countries.
Similarly, Mr. Humphrey noted that in the areas beyond national jurisdiction, valuable resources were found and converted into medicine and different types of technology.
Lamenting there were no benefits for the Caribbean region, he said: “We need to be in that conversation. It is so close to us that we need to be able to share it too, so that what is found in the international waters need to be shared.”
He stressed that it was instances such as those that reinforced the need for the Caribbean to come together as one.
“Whatever resources we find in that space [the blue economy space] we defend it, and any opportunities that are found in that space we must share with our people. It must be about the people first,” Mr. Humphrey emphasised, noting there was only one Caribbean.
The Minister noted that was the driving force behind ongoing conversations with the United Nations on what is called the Boundaries Beyond National Jurisdiction, and to have a voice at the table to allow the country to continue advocating for what it stood for.
He added that Barbados had also spoken with all international agencies, and established relationships with some of them including the United Nations Development Programme, the Food and Agricultural Organization and the World Bank.
“We know we still need to have the technical expertise to help drive the Ministry that we currently don’t have. We know that we have to build the capacity in the Ministry as we gradually go along overtime, [and] also to bring innovative fresh thinking,” he outlined.
However, Mr. Humphrey stressed that the development framework was about everyone, and the “big ocean people” of the “big ocean states” wanted a seat at the table during international conferences.