The Economist World Ocean Summit, 3 March 2021


Remarks by Angel Gurría,

Secretary-General, OECD

Paris, 3 March 2021
Transcript of video message

Dear Friends,

It is an honour to address this World Ocean Summit. This is a critical moment: countries have a unique opportunity to build back better, and redefine the relationship between our economies and nature.

The ocean has taken centre stage for many new economic activities, driven by the needs of the growing global population and technological innovations. Traditional ocean-based sectors, such as fisheries and tourism, continue to make key contributions to global food systems and coastal community welfare, and serve as the economic backbone of many developing countries.

But today, the economic, social and environmental benefits we draw from the ocean are at risk. Our oceans – almost two-thirds of our planet – are under threat. Mounting pressures – including overfishing, pollution, plastics and climate change – are expected to intensify from sea-use change and the continued over-exploitation of marine resources.

The COVID-19 crisis is severely affecting key ocean-based sectors and casting growing uncertainties on the global ocean economy. The OECD estimates that, in 2020, international tourism dropped by 80% due to the pandemic. The fall in international tourism receipts in January-June 2020 alone is estimated at USD 460 billion, more than three times the loss during the 2008-09 financial crisis.

We urgently need new economic models that conserve ocean resources, prioritise sustainability, and accelerate progress towards the SDGs.

New analysis from our “Sustainable Ocean for All Initiative” shows that while the ocean is central to global welfare and prosperity, developing countries rely upon the ocean for jobs and their GDP more than richer countries.
In lower middle income countries, for example, ocean economy sectors account for 11% of GDP, compared to less than 2% in high-income countries. Tourism alone accounts for more than 20% of GDP in some Small Island Developing States.

The OECD’s work also suggests that, while international development co operation efforts to support sustainable ocean economies are increasing, Official Development Assistance (ODA) to promote sustainable ocean economies only accounts for less than 1% of global ODA. This is unsustainably low.

Our “Sustainable Ocean for All Initiative” is working to reverse these trends. Let me briefly highlight some of the most important activities:

First, increasing country-level policy advice to developing countries, including through the establishment of Blue Recovery Hubs. These Hubs focus on enhancing the long term sustainability of existing ocean economy sectors while generating new, sustainable opportunities for economic diversification and resilience.

Second, strengthening the effectiveness of development co-operation efforts by developing definitions and guidelines on effective development co operation, as well as monitoring development finance flows for sustainable ocean economies.

Third, re-orienting private finance towards the sustainable use and conservation of the ocean. For instance, we are participating in the Initiative about Sustainable Blue Economy Finance Principles and supporting the International Guidelines for Sustainable Ocean Investments.

And fourth, enhancing regional co-operation, policy coherence and sustainable financing solutions, including to address and prevent marine plastics pollution. Around 8 million tons of plastic enter the ocean every year, which is estimated to cost society up to 2,500 billion dollars a year in lost ecosystem services and USD 13 billion a year in losses to tourism and fisheries.

Protecting our ocean is not only an issue for developing countries. All OECD countries need to step up their efforts to transition to more sustainable ocean economies.

The OECD is further developing many ocean related work-strands. For example, we are: working with fisheries’ authorities in OECD and Key Partner economies to identify best practices for sustainable fisheries management and track their progress; we are tracking the use of environmentally relevant economic instruments in a marine context through our Policy Instruments for the Environment (PINE) database; and we are focusing on ocean industries foresight and economic measurements, mapping innovation networks and developing new indicators of science, technology and innovation in the ocean economy.

Dear Friends,

Our greatest intergenerational responsibility is the preservation and protection of our planet. Thus, the OECD is supporting our Members, led by France, to launch a new whole-of-house initiative, the International Programme for Action on Climate (IPAC), while continuing our work against environmental degradation and biodiversity loss.

The ocean is paramount in our efforts to meet this challenge head on. So let’s work together to create a tidal wave of change for the good of our oceans, for our planet, and for our future. The OECD stands ready to do its part.

Thank you.


Related Documents


Annual report
OECD: The vision for the next decade
2022 Strategic Orientations