Participants pause for a group photo after the SBEC launch

Government officials and other dignitaries pose for a group photo after the SBEC book launch.
Photo: Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Kenya.

The event brought together representatives from several country permanent missions in New York and envoys, including Ambassador Peter Thomson, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for the Ocean. Other participants included UNESCO-IOC and UNEP representatives, the African Union Commission, the UN Global Compact, various multilateral, private sector, NGO and philanthropic organizations, as well as leading global research and knowledge communities.

The signature objective for the event is the official book launch of Science, Research and Innovation for Harnessing the Blue Economy, which covers the Science and Research Symposium segment of the 2018 Sustainable Blue Economy Conference (SBEC) that was hosted by the Government of Kenya. The legacy publication is a collaborative initiative between the Government of Kenya and the Stockholm Environment Institute and it represents the critical developments that have taken place since the 2018 conference. The 156-page book highlights a broad range of red-letter topics canvassed by the knowledge community, including the place of science and research in the blue economy, the sustainable use of minerals and energy resources, including deep sea mining, climate change and the blue economy, sustainable shipping, maritime transport and management of coastal zones, as well as the governance and security of the blue economy. It also highlights a barrage of new initiatives triggered by SBEC 2018 and intended to advance the promise of the blue economy globally.

Speaking at the launch event, Amb. Thomson congratulated the Government of Kenya for ensuring the publication of the book, noting that it was “a timely contribution to the repertoire of knowledge, scientific information and innovations that have the potential to influence on-the-ground actions across the world that are necessary to inform SDG 14 and all other SDGs that have a water and ocean dimension.” He added that it remains impossible “to have a healthy planet without a healthy ocean and that a sustainable blue economy is humanity’s only hope for a future that can be bequeathed to the next generation.”

For his part, Dr Vladimir Ryabinin, Executive Secretary of the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO described the launch as “a timely happening in the first year of the United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021-2030)”. He added that there is no doubt that the scientific knowledge and innovations showcased at the 2018 Sustainable Blue Economy Conference, which are captured in the book, will be relevant to actions by governments, scientists, civil society and the private sector as they generate “the science we need for the ocean we want”.

“Scientific discourse must be at the centre of interventions aimed at reversing global environmental change which has profound social and human dimensions,” said Dr Ryabinin, adding that the organization is committed to promoting intergovernmental cooperation in order to generate knowledge about the nature and resources of the ocean and coastal areas and to apply that knowledge to the management, sustainable development, marine environment protection and decision-making processes within its Member States.

The side event in New York also builds on momentum for the 2022 United Nations Conference to Support the Implementation of Sustainable Development Goal 14 scheduled to be co-hosted by Kenya and Portugal in Lisbon in 2022. The decision to host the high-level event in New York is also momentous, as it marks the first year of the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development with the goal “to generate the scientific knowledge and underpinning infrastructure and partnerships needed for sustainable development of the ocean”.

The Nairobi Statement of Shared Intent on Advancing the Blue Economy , the political outcome of SBEC 2018, acknowledged that science and research are crucial for policy development and implementation, and called for an interdisciplinary approach to science and research that includes biophysical science, law and policy, human geography, and accounting and finance, which are all required in generating state-of-the-art evidence-based knowledge and information to inform policy- and decision making.

“The publication of this book underlines my very strong conviction that scientific knowledge and the unceasing quest for it is the cornerstone of every human advancement,” said Amb. Macharia Kamau, Principal Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Government of the Republic of Kenya, who wrote the preface of the newly launched book. He added that he looks forward to an even more robust engagement of African scientists and knowledge and technology communities in the quest for a sustainable blue economy.

The book notes that a key challenge to advancing the promise of blue economy in developing countries, especially in small island development states and Africa in general, is the lack of scientific capacity. The Global Ocean Science Report concluded that major disparities exist in the capacity around the world to undertake marine scientific research. Through its global strategy for the Ocean and Biodiversity, SEI focuses on bridging science and policy through the quartet identified as sources of marine pollution: coastal resilience and adaptation, governance of the blue economy, commodity-driven land-use change and biodiversity loss.

“Our work with climate adaptation in coasts and islands is informing governments around the world on integrating aspects related for example to cascading risks, vulnerabilities and justice into spatial planning and environmental policy”

— Prof. Måns Nilsson, Executive Director of SEI

Working to strengthen capacity in developing countries, SEI’s regional presence in Asia, Africa and Latin America enables it to develop partnerships and closer working relationships with national governments and regional multilateral institutions. As part of actions to strengthen science for environment and climate diplomacy, SEI Africa collaborates with the Government of Kenya in several other areas, including the lead-up to both the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) in Glasgow and the 2022 UN Ocean Conference.

“While major disparities exist in capacities around the world to undertake blue economy scientific research necessary for proper management of human activities, our success to this end lies in our ability to build partnerships and strengthen synergies,” noted Dr Francis Owino, principal secretary responsible for the Blue Economy of the Government of Kenya.

“As part of our commitment to build the scientific knowledge base for informed policy action on blue economy in Africa, supporting the Government of Kenya to publish this book was a natural step for SEI. We are delighted to have made the dream of the book become a reality and are extremely proud of this partnership”

— Dr Philip Osano, SEI Africa Centre Director

Dr Osano was also a member of the book’s editorial committee that coordinated the compilation and editorial work on the book under Chief Editor Prof. George Outa, an SEI-affiliated researcher on environment and climate diplomacy.