With Caribbean Islands traditionally viewed as playgrounds of the rich and famous, due to pristine beaches and crystal blue oceans, regional Governments, with the support of the United Nations, are exploring ways to maximize the Blue Economy to promote economic recovery and growth.
For a region of more marine space than land territory, that is characterized by undiversified economies, limited fiscal space, rising unemployment, and burgeoning debt, the pursuit of economic diversification through Blue Growth, is a natural step in the right direction.
"As vulnerable Caribbean Small Island Developing States (SIDS) continue to grapple with multiple shocks and emerging threats, including climate change and the Triple Crisis of food, fuel, and finance, through the Harnessing Blue Economy Finance for SIDS Recovery and Sustainable Development Joint Programme, we are helping countries to enhance livelihoods and promote economic growth,” says UN Resident Coordinator for Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean, Didier Trebucq.
Under the Resident Coordinator’s leadership, and through the collective efforts of participant UN Agencies, UNDP, the lead Agency, FAO and UNEP, the Joint SDG Fund-supported programme has laid the foundation for creating an enabling environment for financing the Blue in Barbados, Grenada and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.
Despite challenges stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic, hurricanes, and the eruption of the La Soufriere volcano, phase I of this 2-year initiative made tangible strides aimed at placing pilot countries on the path towards a sustainable financing and policy framework.
Unearthing the hindrances to Blue Economy
Financing The first step towards financing this integral driver for resilient economic recovery and growth in the Eastern Caribbean is to beer understand it. In this regard, key constraints, policy and regulatory gaps, and institutional shortcomings to Blue Economy development were identified, through baseline research and sector diagnostics, and recommendations were made for addressing these gaps at the stakeholder as well as institutional levels.
With staggering debt-service obligations rendering Governments unable to invest in Blue Growth, and local financial institutions perceiving Blue Economy investment opportunities to be risky, the UN also presented recommendations to support the delivery of Blue Economy initiatives. These included greater incentive-based private sector investment, Public-private partnerships, and venture capital financing, an underdeveloped aspect in the region, as an alternative to conventional funding methods.
Engagements and training targeting diverse stakeholder groups also contributed to increased awareness and comprehension of the potential of the Blue Economy and highlighted the importance of technical assistance to support project design, capacity building, and mobilisation of international funding for Blue Economy development. Reports produced under the project also underscored the need for multisectoral coordination mechanisms to help implementation of the Blue Economy at the local and regional levels.
The JP also supported the development of tools and mechanisms to identify and monitor potential Blue Economy opportunities. Development Finance Assessments (DFA) were also conducted for all three participant countries, to support the creation of an Integrated National Financing Framework (INFF) aligned to the SDGs and national priories. Efforts were also made to define a potential project pipeline for the Blue Economy and recommendations were made for specific financing mechanisms to facilitate resilient growth.
Developing the Fisheries and Aquaculture Sectors
Another major output of the Blue Finance joint programme was the development of a Public and private sector Blue Economy Finance Strategy for the fisheries and aquaculture sector for Barbados, Grenada, St Vincent and the Grenadines.
When speaking of Blue Economy growth, the development of the fisheries and aquaculture sectors of small island developing states (SIDS) must be a part of the conversion, given the potential for significant impact.
With Caribbean countries boasting high fish consumption rates, the fisheries and aquaculture sectors of SIDS are under increased pressure to maintain the supply of fisheries products, while being challenged by the increasing prevalence of severe weather phenomena and environmental decline. These shocks adversely impact the industry either by liming revenue generation or discouraging investment in this vital sector, thus increasing the vulnerabilities of those most at risk of being left behind.
Solutions aimed at long-term sustainable development, offered under this strategy, include nature-based solutions, specifically improving the capacity of marine and coastal environments to deliver ecosystem services, the improved management of ecosystems that underpin the fisheries and aquaculture sectors, industry support, and improved market access and regulation and coordination of shared resource use.
Finance and financing mechanisms remain key, and should include policy mechanisms that improve available finance, payment for ecosystem services (PES) schemes, natural capital as publicly traded equities, debt swaps, blue and other sovereign bonds, and advancements in financial technology. All of these seek to increase available capital and encourage investment both from local and international sources, to facilitate cross-sectoral development.
This project has highlighted the fact that an enabling environment that simultaneously prioritizes sustainability and the protection of the environments that underpin the fisheries and aquaculture sectors, is critical to encourage growth in these sectors, with benefits that redound to the entire blue economy. The establishment of sustainable blue economy finance principles, integrating fisheries and aquaculture into the wider blue economy, the increased use of available development tools and reporting structures, and the facilitation of public-private partnerships all need to be prioritized to ensure the greatest potential for successful sustainable development.
Against the backdrop of the adage that ‘no man is an island’, the JP also supported the establishment and expansion of partnerships with a wide cross-section of stakeholders, including the private sector, academia, and development partners, to promote transformative change regarding the funding of the SDGs. These partnerships have helped to harness UN capacity, resources, and assets to elevate and scale up SDG financing initiatives in the countries while also boosting collaboration, knowledge exchange, and alignment with more prominent UNCT partnership approaches.
The Joint SDG Fund's joint programmes are under the prestige leadership of the Resident Coordinator Office and implementing United Nations Agencies. With sincere appreciation for the contributions from the European Union and Governments of Denmark, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Monaco, The Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Republic of Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and our private sector funding partners, for a transformative movement towards achieving the SDGs by 2030.