Minister of Maritime Affairs and Blue Economy, Kirk Humphrey. (FP)

Barbados has issued a call for “big ocean states” to be treated separately, urgently and practically, and for a level playing field for official development assistance (ODA).

Minister of Maritime Affairs and the Blue Economy, Kirk Humphrey, made these calls as he addressed a plenary session during the virtual Eighth Annual World Ocean Summit hosted by the Economist Group today.

Citing a global financial crisis during the latter part of the first decade of the 21st century, the impacts of climate change and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the Minister said they compounded challenges being faced by Caribbean states, but “galvanised” the resolve to focus on sustainable development.

He noted that one way of achieving this development was through the blue economy, which required significant investment to achieve its full potential.

“These are our circumstances – limited fiscal space, debt build-up, slow implementation capacity and a lack of blue economy investment. This, combined with falling ODA, at a time when ODA is most necessary, compounds the enormous challenge ahead,” Minister Humphrey highlighted.

He added that even when ODA was made available, it did not necessarily target issues faced in the Caribbean region.

“The OECD September 2020 report on Sustainable Oceans for all: Harnessing the Benefits of Sustainable Ocean Economies for Developing Countries,states that only two per cent of all ODA is going to ocean-related issues,” he stated.

It was against this background that Mr. Humphrey called for a more balanced distribution of the limited resources.

However, he noted that for countries like Barbados, the conversation was no longer about being a small island developing state, but about “big ocean developing states”.

Outlining Barbados’ progress in the areas of aquaculture, energy, the banning of single-use petroleum-based plastics, fishing, tourism and shipping, Minister Humphrey said there was a need to partner with investors to build out a blue sustainable product.

“The challenge for this summit is to ensure that we can make that which is affordable.  How do we achieve that?  Is it in blended finance?  Is it in blue bonds, or blue levies, debt swaps, conservation trust funds or a mixture of these?

“What is clear is that we need the commitment of all of our partners to make this work. As difficult as it may be, it is necessary for this conversation to treat separately, urgently and practically to the affairs of big ocean states,” Mr. Humphrey maintained.

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