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Maldives forges partnerships for ocean protection

Agreements were signed with Parley for the Oceans and Blue Prosperity Coalition.



The Maldives government has entered into partnerships with global environmental groups to help protect the country’s ocean territory.

Memoranda of Understanding were signed with Parley for the Ocean and the Blue Prosperity Coalition on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York last week. In his maiden address, President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih announced an ambitious goal of phasing out single-use plastics by 2023.

On Wednesday, the Maldives became the first country to join ‘Future Island Nation’ by Parley, an organisation dedicated to fighting marine plastic pollution. Under the programme, the Maldives committed to nationwide implementation of the Parley AIR Strategy (Avoid, Intercept, Redesign) and to collaborate on a 10-year action plan to expand recycling infrastructure and carry out cleanups and community education initiatives.

“Together, we will tackle plastic pollution, harness alternative, clean energy sources, and protect Maldivian waters from illegal fishing,” President Solih said.

“We’re honoured to call the Maldives the first ‘Future Island Nation’, because we see this magic country as a symbol of change and a canvas for the new,” said Cyrill Gutsch, founder and CEO of Parley for the Oceans. “Together we are now not only combatting marine plastic pollution, but piloting solutions for climate change and illegal fishing,” he added.

“Ocean pollution not only threatens to compromise the two major industries that form the bedrock of the Maldives’ economy, tourism and fisheries, but threatens to decimate the coral reefs that form our very islands. To us, this is an existential crisis. If the ocean dies, we die,” President Solih said at a function held sat the Cooper Hewitt Museum to announce the partnership with Parley.

“I especially wish to highlight Parley’s efforts around reducing ocean plastic. I first met Cyrill in the Maldives some eight months ago, and his views on plastic are quite eye-opening. Plastic is a design failure. It is a material, with a lifespan far exceeding its utility.”

An estimated five trillion pieces of plastic are floating in the oceans, which are broken down and ingested by marine life, he noted. Studies show that there will be more plastic than fish by 2050.

Parley’s collaboration with the Maldives started in late 2016 with a pilot project to intercept plastic, which is shipped abroad for recycling and making design-wear. Since then, baling sites have been set up in island communities and more than 70 schools. Last year, Parley opened the country’s first recycling centre and innovation lab in the capital Malé.

The Maldives was declared the “base and epicentre” for Parley’s next chapter with the group calling for a ‘Material Revolution’ to replace all harmful materials and products.

The organisation is building a permanent collaboration space dubbed Parley Station One on the island of Kondey Mathee Laabadhoo in the southern Gaafu Alifu Atoll to serve as a base for the global eco-innovation initiative. The island would become “a unique destination and collaboration space for creators, leaders and thinkers – connecting art, design, science, technology and business in an eco-innovation driver for a new, blue economy,” according to Parley.

– Blue Economy –

An MoU was signed with the Blue Prosperity Coalition, a global network of ocean experts, to devise a six-year programme “to ensure the long-term sustainability of all Maldivian waters and thriving marine environment—inclusive of territorial seas, archipelagic seas and the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ),” according to the president’s office.

As part of the programme, the government plans to “declare at least 20 per cent of Maldives’ waters as protected areas; promote regional engagement for strengthening Maldives’ position in managing shared Indian Ocean tuna stocks; develop a programme focused on advancing blue economy activities; ensure sustainable ocean management and support compliance and enforcement in its waters; and, improve public and private sustainable finance mechanisms for ocean management.”

The programme would also “promote the advancement of Maldivian ocean science and stewardship through research, education, capacity building and outreach, including collaborating with and providing support to local scientists and civil society.”

In his remarks at the MoU signing event at the Bloomberg Global Business Forum, Solih suggested that economic growth could be achieved “in harmony with ocean friendly practices” and called for “comprehensive scientific research and analysis” to understand such practices.

“For us, protecting the Ocean’s health is an issue linked to our national security. That is why we were so receptive when members of the Blue Prosperity Coalition met with us earlier this year, to discuss implementing collaborative marine scientific research in the Maldives, to help our country better implement measures for sustainable ocean governance,” he said.

The agreement was signed by Foreign Minister Abdulla Shahid and Ted Waitt, chairman of the Waitt Foundation, on behalf of Blue Prosperity Coalition.

– ‘Climate Smart Resilient Islands’ –

Speaking at the Climate Action Summit on Monday, the president called on other Small Island Developing States (SIDS) to replicate a model proposed by the Maldives for a post-carbon economy.

“Our ‘Climate Smart Resilient Islands’ plan comprises deliverable targets around 11 key areas, including designation of environmentally protected areas, installation of new technology, establishing inter-island connectivity, safeguarding food and water security, promoting green tourism, ensuring climate-resilient infrastructure, transitioning to renewable energy, and sustainable waste management, among others,” Solih explained.

“This plan outlines my vision for the Maldivian people; the pledges are realistic and achievable, and prioritize building a sustainable society in harmony with our fragile ecosystem; we intend to conserve eco-rich areas, phase-out single use plastics, rapidly transit to renewable energy in the transportation and tourism sectors.

“We have committed ourselves to a timeline with each target, and we fully intend to implement these while according full consideration to intergenerational partnership, gender equality and the role of youth.”

He expressed regret over the failure to deliver US$100 million of financing pledged for developing states by 2020 and called for better access to finance for vulnerable communities.

“We come to these forums and reiterate the same points: that climate change is the defining issue of the 21st century; that a failure to address it will endanger the planet’s health and the lives of every generation that follow us; that the science is irrefutable,” he said.

“We hope that the moral force of our argument is strong enough, to finally compel the global community to take effective action. Because we cannot compromise on our survival.”