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NOVEMBER 5, 2019


On behalf of my delegation from the Caribbean nation of Antigua and Barbuda, I express our thanks to the Government of China for inviting us to participate in a series of very important workshops on Marine Management and Blue Economic Development in the context of the Belt and Road Initiative which was developed by the Government and People of China. Antigua and Barbuda and the People’s Republic of China has a long history of friendly diplomatic bilateral relations and it is our hope that through these meetings, we will find even greater opportunities for collaboration well into the future.

This meeting on Marine Spatial Planning is an important one for us to consider not only in Antigua and Barbuda but also in the wider Caribbean islands since we are surrounded with as much, if not more, sea space than the land space we occupy. Over the years, our island nations have been focusing on physical planning and development policies for the land space; but until recently we have been taking our marine resources for granted. This approach has not prepared us for the large number of entities who are interested in harnessing the valuable marine resources which exist. As a result, our island nations are now seeing a rise in conflicts between those whose interests are mainly economical, others who firmly believe that the space should be preserved untouched for environmental reasons and others, often governments, who have a mandate to manage the development so that benefits can be derived for the people they serve. Marine Spatial Planning is therefore important to minimize these conflicts and to provide policies and guidelines for sustainable national development.

According to the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) of UNESCO, marine spatial planning is a public process of analyzing and allocating the spatial and temporal distribution of human activities in marine areas to achieve ecological, economic, and social objectives that usually have been specified through a political process. While marine spatial

planning will not solve all of our problems, it is a practical way to create and establish a more rational use of marine space and the interactions among its users, to balance demands for development with the need to protect the environment, and to deliver social and economic outcomes in an open and planned way.

In Antigua and Barbuda, we have begun the process in a small way. We have identified a few protected marine areas which we believe are fragile and if disturbed will result in major ecological disaster. Our government also requires environmental impact assessments prior to granting approvals to major projects, particularly those impacting our marine environment. Our challenge has however been at the negotiating and supervisory levels since we are unable to fund the necessary technical expertise required to properly staff our small fisheries unit, which has been charged with this responsibility. The result has been unintentional delays in processing applications and timely monitoring the implementation of projects to ensure that they are being done in keeping with sustainable methodologies and the approvals granted. It is our hope that at meetings such as these series of workshops, we can work together to find ways to share best practices and expertise to address existing and predicted challenges. While we as a nation value our marine resources, we are also cognizant of the fact that unless we manage them well, we could lose them quickly. We must take action now or we could have negative national security, food security and environmental fall out.

These challenges are some of the reasons why Antigua and Barbuda will be hosting a Blue Economy Conference in 2020. The event is designed to bring together Ministers, policymakers and technicians responsible for oceans, fisheries and shipping from Caribbean countries to explore opportunities for collaboration to pursue sustainable solutions.

This meeting in China today is therefore a timely one and will provide important input into the planning processes for our regional conference. Who knows, after this meeting, we may see the need to open the conference to other stakeholders such as development control planners, investors, hotel owners, fisher folk and community organizations who live and work near the coastlines, so that they can share their perspectives and in turn understand the shared responsibilities we all have in ensuring the proper use of our environment. I look forward to our deliberations at our meeting today and hope that we will build life-long beneficial professional partnerships and gain valuable ideas which will enable us to have a successful 2020 Caribbean Conference.

Once again, I express our profound thanks to the Government and People of China for hosting this conference. I am confident that we will have productive outcomes.

Thank you all very much.