Academic journal article Indian Foreign Affairs Journal

Harnessing the Blue Economy

Academic journal article Indian Foreign Affairs Journal

Harnessing the Blue Economy

Article excerpt

The oceans cover nearly 70 per cent of earth surface and possess enormous potential to support human activity. Nearly 90 per cent of trade by volume, and 70 per cent by value is transported over the seas. The oceans are rich in living and non-living resources: about 30 per cent of the supply of hydrocarbons sourced from the oceans and seas can generate wind, wave, tidal, thermal and biomass energy. Besides, it is also a major supply of food and an avenue of livelihoods: a number of industries such as fishery, tourism, ports, shipping, and ship building are dependent on it. At another level, nearly 60 per cent of the global population lives within 100 kilometres of the coast, and oceans contribute through resources and augment the services sector. The above indicators are a good example of the economic value of the seas whose potential has, in recent times, come to be labelled as the Blue Economy.

Gunter Pauli was the first to propound the idea of a Blue Economy in 2010, and published a book1 wherein he argued that the focus should shift from identifying the problems to finding solutions. In 2012, during the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD) in Rio de Janeiro (also called as 'Rio +20'), the participating countries agreed to advance the concept of the Green Economy for 'sustainable development and poverty eradication'. However, the island states questioned the relevance and applicability of the Green Economy, which led them to argue that 'the world's Oceans and Seas require more in depth attention and coordinated action'.2 Further, the UNDESA expert group meeting on Oceans, Seas and Sustainable Development, the work of the Global Ocean Commission, the Global Partnership for Oceans, and the UN five-year Action Agenda 2012-2016 had provided requisite prominence to the oceans and the seas.3 Meanwhile, the UN has expanded the mandate of the UNCLOS and begun to address sea spaces beyond national jurisdiction, and has also called for an 'intergovernmental conference aimed at drafting a legally binding treaty to conserve marine life and govern the mostly lawless high seas beyond national jurisdiction'.4

The concept of the Blue Economy is currently resonating among a number of countries across the world, and also finding reference in the national agenda for the post-2015 Development Agenda, in actions plans for the sustainable development of resources, climate change and environment discourses, and in plans for enhancing wellbeing, and poverty alleviation among the people through job creation. Several countries have announced national initiatives and action plans to promote the Blue Economy.

In 2012, the European Union announced its 'Blue Growth' strategy for sustainable development of marine and maritime sectors to contribute to the Europe 2020 strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth.5 A number of multilateral institutions such as the APEC, East Asia Summit (EAS), the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), and the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) have highlighted the Blue Economy, as well as encouraged multilateral approaches, identified and developed cooperative strategies and actions plans, and moved towards sustainable development of marine resources.6 However, China can be credited to be the forerunner in this, and has established Five-Year Development Plan for National Marine Economy which monitors the progress of various marine sectors. Significantly, China's State Council has published a White Paper on the subject.7

At the core of the Blue Economy lies the idea of 'optimization of natural marine resources within ecological limits', and the 'de-coupling of socioeconomic development from environmental degradation'.8 The Blue Economy involves a number of interdependent sectors, which harness the wealth of the seas for economic growth through sustainable development.

In this context, this essay makes a broad survey of the understanding and initiatives taken by the South Asian countries to promote the Blue Economy. …

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