Launch of Sustainable Ocean for All: “Harnessing the Benefits of Sustainable Ocean Economies for Developing Countries”


Remarks by Angel Gurría

OECD Secretary-General

8 September 2020 - Paris, France

(As prepared for delivery)



Dear Prime Minister de Pina Correia e Silva, Ambassador Omamo, Ministers, Ambassadors, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen:

Welcome to today’s launch of the first report of the OECD’s Sustainable Ocean for All Initiative: “Harnessing the Benefits of Sustainable Ocean Economies for Developing Countries”. This initiative – launched in 2019 – builds on the OECD’s longstanding work on oceans, which has sought to support marine conservation and sustainable use, address plastics pollution, stop harmful fishing practices, and increase the resilience of coastal infrastructure, among many other issues.

People used to think that caring for our ocean was about saving some distant endangered species. But the speed and global reach of the COVID-19 pandemic reminds us that humans are not infallible. The ocean crisis risks harming our ecosystems, our food supply, our very existence. If we continue chasing economic growth in ways that destroy the environment, we will end up with trillions of dollars’ worth of damage to our planet and to its resources on which all life, including ours, ultimately depends.

A healthy ocean is fundamental to the well-being and prosperity of all humankind. Prior to the COVID 19 crisis, the OECD projected the ocean economy to double in size by 2030. The ocean produces half the Earth’s oxygen and absorbs more than 90% of heat from greenhouse gas emissions. It regulates the climate. It is a key source of food.

Marine and coastal ecosystems offer protection from natural disasters and hazards, pollution and flood control. The ocean has taken centre stage for many new economic activities, from offshore wind energy production to aquaculture and aquaponics, and the offshore extraction of minerals and oil.


Urgent policy action is needed

Systemic, transformational and urgent changes are needed to support the transition to a global, sustainable ocean economy. Policies and financing need to be proactive and bold to help align investments towards sustainability. This includes redirecting government support away from harmful economic activities in the ocean, such as fisheries subsidies that support unsustainable fishing practices, and taxing harmful activities.

Urgent action is required from all countries, and at all levels: local, national, regional and international. But not all countries are equally equipped to foster sustainable ocean economies. International co-operation is thus essential.


Developing countries should not be left behind

Ensuring that developing countries can harness the benefits of sustainable ocean economies is a top priority. This would equip 82% of the world’s population to benefit from more jobs, cleaner energy, better food security, and enhanced resilience. It would also help to improve ocean health globally, as developing countries are home to vast, untapped ocean resources.

If these resources are not used in a sustainable manner, we will all bear the costs. Development co operation thus has a critical role to play, through: enhancing developing countries’ access to policy advice; delivering financing and science for achieving sustainable ocean economies; and promoting a global ocean economy that enables all countries, especially the poorest and most vulnerable, to benefit.


Our latest report contains new evidence and data to support sustainable ocean economies

While the COVID-19 crisis is severely affecting key ocean-based sectors, such as tourism and shipping, with a halting effect on much of the global ocean economy, demands on marine resources for food, energy, minerals, leisure and other needs of a growing global population will only intensify over time. Improving long-term sustainability is thus more urgent than ever before.

Our report provides a wealth of new evidence and advice to help developing countries turn new and traditional ocean-based sectors into catalysts of inclusive, sustainable development, setting the baseline on:


  • the economic trends of ocean-based industries across developing countries, their contribution to value added and employment, and the relative weight of the ocean economy in the GDP of different developing countries;

  • the policy frameworks and economic instruments (e.g., taxes, fees and charges) needed to enhance the sustainability of ocean economies and ocean conservation; and

  • how development co-operation can help foster sustainable ocean economies. Our report provides the first-ever OECD figures of Official Development Assistance (ODA) for the sustainable ocean economy, along with a review of innovative financing instruments for sustainable ocean economies, developed with ODA support.

The findings from our report are a call for action to reverse current trends. For example, between 2013 and 2018 less than 1% of global ODA supported sustainable ocean-based economic activities and conservation. Globally, ODA increases for the ocean economy have been driven by investments to expand ocean-based industries – largely ports and maritime transport – without aiming to increase the sustainability of these sectors. These trends are worrying. We must take bold, decisive and urgent action! Our very lives depend on it.


Ladies and Gentlemen:

We know there is no time to waste in changing course. The OECD stands ready to do its part, in collaboration with all of you. Let’s work together to create a tidal wave of change and forge a sustainable global ocean economy that respects our ocean and benefits all people.

Thank you very much.



See also:

OECD work on Ocean



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