The third Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) conference concluded in Dhaka yesterday with a call for a balanced approach between development of blue economy and utilisation of ocean resources with a view to enhancing their value, generating employment, securing marine economy and healthy marine ecosystem.
“Blue economy recognises that the ocean economy is dependent on the health of coastal and marine ecosystems and IORA member states need to protect these ecosystems,” reads the Dhaka Declaration.
Recognising blue economy as a means to attaining sustainable development, it says the member states will put adequate focus on wellbeing and livelihood of people through engagements among countries and stakeholders to secure sustained outcomes of all ocean-centric enterprises.
It emphasised on generating scientific knowledge, developing marine skills, establishing academic and research institutions, strengthening governance and legal framework, transferring various marine technologies and collaboration at national and regional levels for sustainable management of ocean resources.
Terming blue economy enormous potential for development in IORA region, it says the member states will collaborate each other in the areas of aquaculture, hydrography, seabed mineral exploration, coastal shipping, eco-tourism and renewal ocean energy to achieve holistic and ecologically sustainable development of the region.
It calls for promoting partnership among and between stakeholders – within and across countries and oceans to facilitate greater flow of expertise and finance for closing capacity gaps and freedom of navigation.
“Member states should underscore access to available, contemporary and critical data and knowledge from the developing world, particularly the coastal and island developing nations,” reads the declaration.
Over the growing threat of climate change, it says the member states will strengthen cooperation to protect, conserve and preserve the marine environment. It also emphasised on greater engagement of private sector across all areas of the blue economy.
Speaking at a press briefing after the conference, Secretary Khurshid Alam of the Marine Affairs Unit of the foreign ministry said Bangladesh will explore all the potential of blue economy through having required knowledge, expertise and logistics.
“We have made some progress in formulation of a policy but are lagging behind in creating human resources. We do not know about all the marine resources properly,” he told reporters, admitting that the country is lagging behind in tapping the opportunity.
Saying that IORA was helping in two projects in Bangladesh, he said the organisation will continue the assistance so that Bangladesh can explore the ocean resources.
Khurshid said blue economy has huge potential but the private sector is not coming to invest on it.
He said 90 percent of Bangladesh’s $80 billion trade take place through ocean in which the country pays about $5 billion as transport cost. “We can easily reduce the cost if we had a good number of ships.”
Replying to a question, he said the value of Bangladesh ocean economy is about $9.6 billion.
Addressing the briefing, IORA Secretary General Dr Nomvuyo N Nokwe said the organisation promotes peace in the Indian Ocean region for equal growth of all member countries.
She said IORA is a multi-national organisation that has a consensus within the member states of not entering in any controversial issues.
Asked how can IORA maintain peace when a number of countries are fighting to establish their influence over the Indian Ocean, Nokwe said, “We can have peace without fighting and you come to the consensus about it with fellow neighbours.”
There were four working sessions of the IORA conference where representatives of member states discussed different aspects of blue economy. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina inaugurated the conference as chief guest.