Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Blue Economy Minister Hon. Andre Perez leads delegation at the 9th Our Ocean Conference in Greece


Belize’s Minister of Blue Economy Minister, Honourable Andre Perez, attended the 9th Our Ocean Conference in Athens, Greece, from April 15th through the 17th. At the high-level conference, Belize was highlighted as one of the few countries in the world, and the only one in the Caribbean, to ratify a United Nations (UN) treaty to protect the world’s oceans from overfishing and other human activities. The treaty is officially known as the Ocean Biodiversity Agreement under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. This law emphasizes the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversities in areas beyond national jurisdiction agreements.
The UN formally adopted the global agreement to conserve biodiversity in the high seas in 2023. It was discussed in the conference that it is a crucial tool to meet a target to protect 30% of the planet’s land and sea by 2030. So far, only four countries have ratified this treaty. These include Belize, Palau, Seychelles, and Chile. Meanwhile, 89 other countries have signed the treaty, expressing their intent to approve it at some point.
Perez represents one of the wealthiest constituents in the country when it comes to the Blue Economy: Caye Caulker and Ambergris Caye. This area, also known as Belize Rural South, is considered the country’s prime tourism and real estate destination, with vast regions supporting the fishing industry. As head of the Ministry of Blue Economy, including the Disaster Risk Management portfolio, Perez’s participation in the annual ocean conference was imperative. His Chief Executive Officer Kennedy Carrillo, and Director of Blue Economy, Felicia Cruz, accompanied Perez. Perez delivered an official statement on behalf of Belize at the high-level segment of the event. “As a global champion in marine conservation efforts, it is with high spirits that Belize supports the Ocean Conservation Pledge, which aligns perfectly with Belize’s very own conservation commitments,” he stated. As the head of the delegation, he engaged in meaningful discussions with other Ministers of Blue Economy, fisheries, and environment. Perez said the meetings were very fruitful, with Ministers from Madagascar, The Bahamas, Costa Rica, and Palau, among several other partners, looking at opportunities for possible collaboration. Perez also led his delegation in the Global Synergy Forum hosted by the Republic of China (Taiwan). According to Perez, the discussions provided opportunities for more Belize-Taiwan collaboration to continue building the pathway toward sustainable ocean management.
On the last day of the conference, Felicia Cruz, the director of Blue Economy, delivered closing remarks titled Climate Resilience and Adaptation. “The topic of developing climate resilience in ocean economies is of utmost importance due to the growing effects of climate change and vulnerabilities,” she said. “Although our countries are highly vulnerable to climate change, this challenge also presents significant opportunities. In actuality, the vast oceanic resources surrounding our nations hold the key to sustainable development and economic prosperity.” Cruz closed by saying that the meetings throughout the event highlighted the critical role of partnerships and adaptation financing in unlocking this potential joint effort to safeguard the oceans better.
At the end of this year’s Our Ocean Conference, Perez’s delegation noted that the Government of Belize and its partners remain firmly committed to supporting this crucial ocean conservation journey. They added that Belize stands ready to collaborate with all stakeholders to ensure that the ocean becomes a source of strength and prosperity for all nations depending on it.
The Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) was also represented at the event by Chief Executive Officer Narda Garcia and Director of the Blue Bonds and Finance Permanence Unit Beverly Wade. They participated in other forums where they engaged in global discussions on innovative financing for the conservation and sustainable use of oceans, with the Blue Bonds highlighted as a successful model for addressing the financial gap. Director Wade participated alongside representatives from the United States (US) State Department and Colombia on a high-level panel. The Scaling Innovative and Inclusive Finance Solutions for the Ocean and Communities panel included presentations on how blue carbon, debt conversions, and partnerships can help countries usher in a sustainable future.
The OPM team also engaged in discussions with other Caribbean partners. This included the delegation of the Honourable Matthew Samuda, Jamaica’s Minister of Economic Growth and Job Creation, responsible for Water, Environment, Climate Change, and the Blue and Green Economies. Other meetings involved partners working in Belize, such as The Nature Conservancy, World Wildlife Fund, World Conservation Society, Blue Finance, and the World Bank.
The Our Ocean Conference was first launched in 2014 under the initiative of the US Department of State and Secretary John Kerry. It sought to fill the then-existing gap in global ocean governance. The conference brings ocean leaders and stakeholders together to discuss and address the challenges oceans face. The gathering also demonstrates ocean conservation leadership on a path to a sustainable future.

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