Small island developing States (SIDS) in the region must take better advantage of their vast ocean resources and blue economy to accelerate sustainable development, as significant socio-economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic are threatening to reverse years of development gains, warns a new report by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP).
The latest edition of the Asia-Pacific Countries with Special Needs Development Report, entitled Leveraging Ocean Resources for Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States, expresses concern that SIDS continue to struggle with providing productive employment for their people. To counter these challenges, the report puts forth policy recommendations to strengthen the fisheries and tourism sectors as vital drivers for progress towards sustainable development.
“Small island developing States can do more to embrace the blue economy to foster their sustainable development. Although fisheries and tourism are being significantly affected by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, they remain among the most important sectors for many SIDS in terms of their contribution to the economy and their importance for livelihoods,” said United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of ESCAP Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana.
Fisheries provide food and income to more than 200 million people in the Asia-Pacific region. The region also accounts for 84% of the global population employed in the sector and brings in much needed public revenue to SIDS. However, one of the challenges that these Governments face in managing fisheries more sustainably is the lack of factual, transparent and harmonized data. The report calls for a stronger push for investments in producing relevant data, especially given the current limited statistical capacities in SIDS.
Similarly, tourism is one of the most economically viable sectors for SIDS. In 2018, the total value of international tourist receipts across the region’s 14 SIDS was $5.4 billion, which is equivalent to 13% of their aggregated GDP. Among others, the report proposes for SIDS to promote green and blue tourism linked to local communities and local economies to address the challenges related to the sustainability of the tourism sector. It also suggests that green tax initiatives could be useful to increase revenues and address the risk of overexploitation.
Greater regional cooperation is also an important element for creating an enabling framework. Regional cooperation is especially important given the nature of fisheries as a common property resource and the remote locations of most Asia-Pacific SIDS, which results in tourists usually willing to visit several countries within one trip. The ESCAP report further calls for Asia-Pacific SIDS to scale up actions for oceans by acting together to leverage their natural assets and to gain collective bargaining power.
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