Takeaways from the Blue Economy Conference

Leaders must act on the resolutions made at the Blue Economy Conference. (PHOTO/PSCU)
Leaders must act on the resolutions made at the Blue Economy Conference. (PHOTO/PSCU)

The focus is slowly shifting to other issues of national interest after the Inaugural Sustainable Blue Economy Conference which was held at the KICC in Nairobi, and as much as this is expected, it remains one of the worst traits Kenyans and people globally portray, apathy during and after vital conferences, which makes leaders get away with lots of unfulfilled resolutions. However, that shouldn’t be the outlook, notwithstanding the fact that other conferences like the UNCTAD and TICAD have since been washed from our memories. We should pick vital pointers and pledges from the conference, which will weigh not only the success of discussions but also the benefits we as a country have received, instead of quickly forgetting the challenges ever existed at all. Water plays an important role in our existence, and this fact was highlighted fully before and during the Blue Economy Conference. The media was awash with facts like the ocean supplies 15% of the protein humanity needs, it helps to slow climate change, it’s the source for millions of jobs, a major source of the world oil and gas resources among other facts.

For many countries globally, the blue economy contributes largely to the nations’ development targets and Kenya isn’t left behind. Issues up for discussion in this conference included marine cooperation, harnessing the maritime resources for development and improvement of lives, preserving our water bodies in the face of climate change and pollution. On Wednesday during the closing address, President Uhuru Kenyatta said the discussions held from Monday to the penultimate day in different fora had led to pledges from leaders, who came from more than 180 nations, including Heads of State. The President said they’ve agreed and will be committed to harnessing the full potential of the oceans, seas, lakes and rivers to expand opportunities for all, to create great prosperity for the respective countries and to fight poverty. “We’ve identified strategies to expand economies, and create shared prosperity through ocean-based industries,” he said. The ocean is a transit for businesses and given that it serves as a highway for around 90% of internationally traded goods it should be harnessed properly to ensure benefits are evident.

President Kenyatta also highlighted the issue of unregulated and illegal fishing, which may divide allegiances between nations and cause unnecessary tension. It’s a global problem, heightened by the fact that fishermen may easily cross territorial waters as easy as they wish in some places. He said they’ll set to ensure more effective control of illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing, which he added represents a major threat to the marine ecosystem, “It hinders the recovery of overfished stocks and can push fisheries to a point of collapse thereby reducing biodiversity in some important ecosystems.”

President Kenyatta said they had also agreed to strengthen political leadership and international cooperation, and that they’ve committed to work collaboratively on data analysis, information and intelligence sharing to curb the threats to marine resources. East Africa has faced the threat of pirates for a while, and international cooperation in sharing intelligence information concerning safety on the ocean will come in handy. He further said the leaders agreed to put in place solid environmental standards-water and plastic pollution comes to mind-and strengthening programmes to support poorer countries manage and recover from climate-related catastrophes. The bulk of the problems facing our water can be dealt with if environmental management is fully addressed. Talk about plastic pollution, unregulated dumping of waste in rivers, and oceans and even neglect of the water bodies like lakes which has led to deteriorating condition, a clear example being the water hyacinth conundrum at Lake Victoria. One more issue, climate change to some is a hoax, but a hoax can’t be so if it’s strangling weather patterns and leading to severe cases of drought, dropping sea levels, increased temperatures in the long term etc. And the ocean plays a major role in reducing climate change by absorbing 30% of Carbon Dioxide emissions and 90% of the excess heat trapped by greenhouse gases. However, the ocean also carries the effects of climate change, alongside rivers, lakes and seas, and more should be done to deal with climate change, starting from the mainland heading to the ocean, not vice versa. After it’s all said and done, we hope leaders will work to enact the resolutions in the various nations and facilitate public education on the blue economy, because it’s potential is unending.