April 25, 2023 — The Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), in collaboration with the World Maritime University (WMU), led by the WMU – Sasakawa Global Ocean Institute team based in Malmö Sweden, conducted a Marine Spatial Planning (MSP) Workshop in Saint Lucia from April 3-5, 2023. The workshop provided decision makers in OECS Member States with an overview of the theoretical concepts and practical approaches of coastal and Marine Spatial Planning (MSP) in the region.
The programme was developed based on a range of existing planning frameworks and practical experiences and comprised modules which underpin the elements of ecosystem-based planning and management. Sarah Mahadeo, Research Fellow with the WMU under the WMU Closing the Circle Programme funded by The Nippon Foundation and a workshop facilitator said: “The workshop focused on key planning principles, application of systems thinking, and the important role that members of the OECS Ocean Governance Team (OGT) have as Blue Leaders in advancing efforts in their countries for the transition to a Sustainable Blue Economy. MSP is an iterative process, therefore it is critical that institutional capacities be strengthened and maintained over time. The hope is that we can continue working with the region towards this goal.” –
Marine Spatial Planning is an important component of the overall framework for guiding the transition to a sustainable Blue Economy in the Eastern Caribbean. Through application of an ecosystem-based approach to ocean management, we can aim to promote principles of sustainability and equity, as well as drive economic development for diversification of our economies. With the aim of sustainably harnessing the potential of vast maritime jurisdictions, MSP can be a tool for increasing investor confidence by introducing transparency and predictability, which can act as a catalyst for investment in both traditional and emerging maritime sectors.
Dr. Aleke Stöfen-O'Brien, Assistant Professor at WMU, Principal Investigator (PI) for the Closing the Circle Programme and a workshop facilitator was pleased with its outcome and was optimistic about the future of the Caribbean’s Blue Economy. She stated, “the highlight was definitely the spirit and engagement of the participants. They entered the training with a spirit of curiosity and their knowledge is absolutely world class. I was impressed by the different solutions they suggested and the collaborative approaches they pursued. It was clear that MSP is seen as one of the integral milestones of achieving a sustainable blue economy in the region and that there is already so much knowledge available. We are looking forward to seeing actions and measures taken in response to the many ideas and solutions developed in the course of the training by the participants.”
The 3-day session concluded with the Blue Economy Roundtable at the Harbor Club hotel, where a Memorandum of Understanding was signed between the OECS and the World Maritime University. OECS Director General, Dr. Didacus Jules and President of the World Maritime University, Dr. Cleopatra Doumbia-Henry, were pleased to sign this agreement, which seeks to develop capacity in the region for the advancement of the OECS Blue Economy. Several OECS Ministers were present at the ceremony, including Hon. Jullan Defore, Minister of State in the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries, Blue and Green Economy in Dominica, Hon. Carlos James, Minister of Tourism, Civil Aviation, Sustainable Development and Culture in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Hon. Quincia Gumbs-Marie, Minister for Economic Development, Investment, Commerce, Information Technology and Natural Resources in Anguilla, and Hon. Shawn Edwards, Minister for Education, Sustainable Development, Innovation, Science, Technology and Vocational Training in Saint Lucia.
Developing the Blue Economy includes addressing the problem of plastic pollution, and the OECS has found a strategic partner in the Norwegian Government. “Norway looks to the OECS and its member states as strategic partners in promoting and managing a sustainable blue economy. Our ocean plays an essential – and too often an unrecognized – role in our lives,” stated Camilla Røssaak, Counsellor, Royal Norwegian Embassy in Havana, who addressed the Blue Economy Roundtable virtually.
Dr. Cleopatra Doumbia-Henry – a Dominican National – was thankful for the OECS partnership and their joint efforts to better the lives of people in the region. In her address, she stated: “In all of this, the OECS Secretariat has been a fantastic partner in organizing and in convening this very important event today. It reminds me of the beneficial impact that a meeting in person can create, and a common understanding and vision for the future and what it holds, not just for humanity but particularly for small island developing countries. It is well known that our small island states are barometers of our time and we are committed to continue to develop needs-based and forward-thinking solutions to these islands and beyond.”
The Marine Spatial Planning Workshop and Blue Economy Roundtable was supported by The Nippon Foundation of Japan as a deliverable of the Closing the Circle Programme, the Government of Norway through the ReMLit Project, and the EU-funded BioSPACE Project.
About the World Maritime University
The World Maritime University (WMU) was founded in 1983 by the International Maritime Organization (IMO), a specialized agency of the United Nations, as its premier centre of excellence for maritime postgraduate education, research, and capacity building. The University offers unique postgraduate educational programmes, undertakes wide-ranging research in maritime and ocean-related studies, and continues maritime capacity building in line with the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Learn more on https://www.wmu.se/
About the WMU-Sasakawa Global Ocean Institute
The WMU-Sasakawa Global Ocean Institute was inaugurated in May 2018 and is an independent focal point working at the interdisciplinary interface between science, industry, policy, ocean governance and law. Faculty, staff and students at the Institute undertake challenge-led and evidence-based research, as well as educational and capacity-building training, with a particular focus on the implementation of Goal 14, Life Below Water, as well as multiple interconnecting goals among others such as Goal 5 concerning Gender Equality, and Goal 13 on Climate Action under the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
For this purpose, the Institute efforts are contributing to international processes such as the development of an international legally binding instrument on marine biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction (BBNJ), the United Nations World Ocean Assessment as well as the United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021-2030) as an endorsed Ocean Decade Action. The work programme is focused on a broad range of initiatives including: Land-to-Ocean leadership; the empowerment of women in ocean science for the United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development; marine debris, sargassum and marine spatial planning in the Eastern Caribbean, as well as robotics and automation in an ocean and maritime industry context. These initiatives are supported by The Nippon Foundation of Japan, Sweden, Germany, Canada, the European Commission and the City of Malmö. Learn more about the Institute on https://www.wmu.se/goi
About the Closing the Circle Programme
The "Closing the Circle" Programme: Marine Debris, Sargassum and Marine Spatial Planning, is hosted at the WMU-Sasakawa Global Ocean Institute with the generous funding by The Nippon Foundation. The programme team consists of the Project Principal Investigators, a Research Fellow and 4 PhD candidates whose research on respective projects explore challenges and advance potential solutions to marine debris, sargassum threats and marine spatial planning (MSP) in Small Island Developing States (SIDS) with a particular focus on the Eastern Caribbean region. The Region is facing a mounting problem from vast beach strandings of the normally oceanic seaweed Sargassum. The combination of marine debris and Sargassum seaweed is resulting in an untold ecological impact and socioeconomic hardship for these SIDS that are highly dependent on tourism. Marine spatial planning (MSP) has emerged as a new approach to holistically plan and manage ocean space and resources.
Learn more about the Closing the Circle programme on https://closing-the-circle.wmu.se/