In September 2015, two significant announcements relating to ocean economy were made. The Indian  Ocean  Rim  Associations  (IORA)  hosted  the  first  IORA  Ministerial  Blue  Economy Conference titled  “Enhancing  Blue  Economy Cooperation  for Sustainable  Development  in  the IORA Region” in Mauritius and identified four priority areas (a) Fisheries & Aquaculture; (b) Renewable Ocean Energy; (c) Seaports & Shipping; and (d) Seabed Exploration & Minerals for development.  The  post  conference  declaration  urged  the  member  States  to  engage  in  the development of the above sectors and strengthen networking, exchange of experiences and best practices  for the  development  of  the  Blue  Economy in  the  region.  The  Declaration  also  made reference to the importance of the proposed UN led Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for the Blue Economy, especially for the conservation and sustainable use of the oceans, seas and marine resources for development.

Later  that  month,  the  UN  announced  the  new  Sustainable  Development  Goals  (SDGs) aimed to ‘end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure prosperity for all and address Climate Change’  through  integrated  and  indivisible  17  Goals  with  169  associated  targets.  Goal  14, titled  “Conserve  and  sustainably  use  the  oceans,  seas  and  marine  resources  for  sustainable development” lists 14 targets to be  achieved over the next 5, 10 and 15 years up to 2030. These can be placed into two distinct baskets i.e. health of the oceans and fisheries.   Goal 14 calls on States to reduce marine  pollution, address the impacts of ocean  acidification, conserve coastal and marine areas, and facilitate transfer of technology to improve ocean health and to enhance the contribution of marine biodiversity. As regards fisheries, it calls for regulated harvesting and to curb overfishing and illegal unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing. Further, efforts must be made to provide access to small-scale artisanal fishers to marine resources and markets.

A  close  reading  of  the  two  decelerations  and  the  related  documents  suggests  that  there  are  a number of convergences in the agendas of the IORA and the SDGs which promote collaboration and cooperation for a balanced and sustainable development of ocean resources while keeping a close watch on the  protection of coastal areas  and the marine  environment. The IORA  has  an expanded  view  on  the  development  of  ocean  resources  including  non-living  resources  and services such  as exploitation of offshore  energy and seabed  resources, development of  marine related  industries  such  as  shipping,  shipbuilding,  marine  tourism  and  other  environmentally sound activities for the socio-economic development of the people. Another important feature of the IORA announcement is the prominence given to women in the agenda by empowering them through  participation  in  micro,  small  and  medium  enterprises  for  ‘equitable  and  sustainable economic growth’.

The IORA and SDG also have a common view on the IUU fishing and call on States to address the issue through a stricter port control regime for inspections of vessels and to stop IUU catches landed at ports regardless of the flag they fly. It is useful to mention that IUU fishing is a major issue of concern and costs the global economy up to US $ 23 billion annually. As far as the Indian Ocean is concerned, nearly 18 per cent of the catch in the Western Indian Ocean and 32 per cent in the Eastern Indian Ocean falls under the IUU category.

Notwithstanding  the  convergences  and  the  forward  looking  approach  to  sustainable development  of  oceanic  resources,  the  IORA  needs  to  harmonize  its  agenda  with  that  of  the SDG. This could be achieved by taking at least three initiatives. First, all action oriented agendas require to be assigned timelines by which, the member States should achieve the IORA’s vision. This is important because States have endorsed the UN SDG Goals and targets and committed to achieve  these  over  the  next  15  years  and  work  “tirelessly  for  the  full  implementation  of  this Agenda by 2030”. Further, the States have agreed to the “central role in overseeing follow-up and review at the global level” by a “high-level political forum under the auspices of the General Assembly and the Economic and Social Council”.

Second,  Blue  Economy  is  science,  technology  and  finance  intensive  and  majority  of IORA  member  States  are  developing  countries  and  may be  constrained  to  achieve the  desired end-state.  IORA  could  explore  a  fund  for  Blue  Economy  through  international  and  regional financial institutions such as the IMF, ADB, and the more recent AIIB.

Finally, the SDGs “acknowledge the essential role of national parliaments through their enactment of legislation and adoption of budgets and their role in ensuring accountability for the effective  implementation  of  our  commitments”.  It  is  hoped  that  the  Indian  Ocean  countries would be able to seek endorsement of the IORA’s Blue Economy agendas from the respective State legislative, executive and judicial organs.


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