Inclusivity and Innovation In Ocean Governance Take Center Stage at the Marine Regions Forum

On the second day of the Marine Regions Forum, stakeholders gathered to explore innovative ways to strengthen regional governance. 

In-depth discussions on co-designing sustainable ocean management and articulating marine spatial planning initiatives for co-creation of regional visions were the focus of workshop sessions centred on fostering a sustainable blue economy. The sessions focused on harnessing co-design to shape sustainable ocean development in the Western Indian Ocean (WIO) region. 

From science to policy and society: Co-designing sustainable blue economic development in the framework of the ocean decade 

Several noteworthy messages emerged from the discussions:

  • Holistic Ocean Planning: Vladimir Ryabinin, representing IOC-UNESCO, highlighted the need for comprehensive and sustainable ocean planning to fulfil Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) related to the ocean. He underscored the necessity of investing in ocean science to drive such planning.
  • Support for Ocean Decade: Sven Stoebener highlighted commitments to the Ocean Decade and support for regional governance and innovative financing in the WIO region.
  • Keynote Reflections: Kerry Sink focused on the importance of co-design, inclusivity, equitable partnerships, and transparent knowledge sharing. These principles connect science, policy, and society for early problem identification and long-term efficiency.
  • Case Studies: George Rushinigisha, TAFIRI, and Vatosoa Rakotondrazafy, IUCN, presented practical examples that showcased the significance of stakeholder engagement and community-led conservation in improving small scale fisheries sustainability and fisheries management.
  • Panel Discussion Insights: The panel discussion yielded key takeaways, including the utility of co-design in fostering inclusivity, standardising methodologies, embracing diversity, and investing in participatory processes.

Marine Spatial Planning Initiatives in the Western Indian Ocean

A separate session focused on Marine Spatial Planning (MSP); key insights from this session included:

  • Tim Andrew of the Nairobi Convention Secretariat discussed the role of the MSP working group in enhancing MSP in the WIO region, leading to the development of the WIO-Symphony Tool.
  • Harrison Ong’anda, KMFRI, explained the importance of government support, community involvement, and continuous improvement and monitoring of MSP plans.
  • Arthur Tuda, WIOMSA Executive Director, elaborated on the significance of ecosystems as the bedrock of the Blue Economy and their integration into Marine Spatial Planning.
  • Jacqueline Uku, KMFRI, highlighted the role of Marine Spatial Planning (MSP) in advancing Africa’s Blue Economy Strategy. 
  • Abdoulaye Diagana, Abidjan Convention/UNEP and Stephen Patrick Kirkman Department of Forestry, Fisheries, and the Environment in South Africa, also highlighted collaborative efforts in Marine Spatial Planning (MSP) at regional levels.

Key messages from the discussions underscored the importance of aligning MSP with the African Union’s vision for a prosperous Blue Economy, emphasising its role as a science-based cornerstone for sustainable economic growth, societal well-being, and environmental stewardship.

The compelling workshops were followed by a vibrant plenary panel session that featured diverse perspectives from science, policy, and the private sector. 

Inclusivity and innovation in ocean governance

Valerie Hickey from the World Bank emphasised the importance of engaging micro and small-scale enterprises in blue economy initiatives. Citing Marine Spatial Planning (MSP) as a useful tool for sustainable ocean use, she also highlighted the need to consider the entire supply chain in leveraging investments for blue and green economies .

Lorna Veronica Inniss, IOCARIBE UNESCO, shared on the role of young people in marine conservation and proposed a legal basis for grassroots work, advocating for the inclusion of small-scale fishers and youth in decision-making processes. Samantha Petersen, WWF, also stressed the importance of involving coastal communities in coastal resource management and finance for better engagement. 

Expressing a passion for small-scale fishery communities, Vatosoa Rakotondrazafy, IUCN, recommended investing in these communities and creating networks for strengthening the Blue Economy. Jacqueline Uku, from KMFRI, further elaborated on the integration of ocean literacy into marine spatial planning and called for better inclusion, monetization, and financing of innovation, as well as involving the private sector in discussions.

The day’s discussions wrapped up with key takeaways centred on: strategies for engaging the younger generation in Blue Economy and marine sciences; implementing enabling legislation to involve all stakeholders; addressing the need for accelerated action in response to the triple planetary crisis; and integrating the private sector and local small and-medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) into stakeholder dialogues.

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