On Day 3 of the UNCTAD 15 Youth Forum, one session focussed on the Blue Economy, a matter of particular importance to small island developing states. The panel discussion was entitled, “What does an inclusive blue economy look like for youth?”
The engaging discussion was moderated by communications consultant Rhe-Ann Prescod. She posed questions to her panellists who were in the studio – Barbados’ Minister of Maritime Affairs and the Blue Economy, Kirk Humphrey; and disaster risk management consultant, Danielle Howell. Jacinta Gomez, Outreach and Project Director for Oceana in Belize, joined them in the virtual auditorium.
Minister Humphrey said that, “I think that we have to look very carefully now at what we are doing for mitigation. We have to look very carefully as well in the area of adaptation. One of the areas that we also need to focus on is financing.”
He said that Barbados was moving towards renewable energy, and had been having very large conversations about ocean-related renewable energy. The Ministry has been examining the setting up of wind farms, some of them will be offshore in the north and south of the island.
A central question was, “How do we create the enabling environment where young people can effectively participate in the growing prospects of the blue economy?”
Minister Humphrey explained that his Ministry had trained 100 young people in aquaponics, and had trained 1,000 young people to swim. He revealed too that the Ministry of Maritime Affairs and the Blue Economy was actively engaged in discussions to provide more young people with opportunities to work on ships in various capacities. He added that there were a number of jobs coming in biotechnology.
In his view, there is a need to “change how we educate people in order to take advantage of new opportunities.”
Ms. Howell agreed that hands-on experience was crucial in assisting students to learn, and felt that information on the Blue Economy should be introduced at the primary, secondary and tertiary levels. She encouraged young people to get that practical experience by becoming involved in the environmental work of non-governmental organizations, which are engaged in activities such as beach clean ups and turtle conservation.
She said that the Blue Economy was always there, even though it was not officially recognized as an entity, and would always be there, especially for island people.
In her contribution, Ms. Gomez said that Belize had followed the lead of Barbados, and had recently included a ministerial portfolio for the Blue Economy in the Cabinet. She shared some of her experiences working with the conservation community in Belize for Oceana, which describes itself as “an international organization focused solely on oceans, dedicated to achieving measurable change by conducting specific, science-based policy campaigns with fixed deadlines and articulated goals.”
She said that in terms of policy, one thing important aspect is “figuring out where the gaps are and then trying to get the financing to get the technical expertise to fill those gaps. So that our policies can be driven by data that the public also has access to.”
She emphasized that, “we need a healthy, living ocean to survive.” She urged people who live in landlocked countries and non-coastal communities to educate themselves on the importance of the ocean, and how they can contribute to its preservation.