The small island countries of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) face serious development challenges, coupled with low growth, natural disasters, high debt, unsustainable approaches to resource management, and limited fiscal space in which to maneuver around these problems. OECS countries have not reduced poverty and unemployment rates to levels compatible with their per capita income levelsDespite recent improvements in the region’s unemployment rate, joblessness remains higher among youth, exceeding 30 percent in most countries. Furthermore, central elements for closing the poverty and unemployment gap (seafood production, tourism and recreation, shipping, and nature-based solutions to absorbing shocks from natural disasters) are undermined by unsustainable anthropogenic practices, including poorly planned coastal development and overexploitation of marine resources. To combat unsustainable practices, continue reaping the benefits of the ocean economy, and maximize returns to eradicate poverty and catalyze sustainable development, OECS countries must focus on adaptive, fully collaborative, integrated management approaches.
A series of blue economy initiatives support the sustainable, integrated management of coastal and marine assets so fundamental to the region’s economic growth. These include the following:
- Sustainable finance mechanisms, such as the Caribbean Biodiversity Fund (CBF) and associated National Protected Area Trust Funds (NPATF).
- The successfully completed Grenada—Blue Growth Coastal Master Plan (2016), the region’s first, paving the way for dialogue and replication across OECS countries.
- The Caribbean Regional Oceanscape Program, providing nonlending technical assistance for developing the blue economy; enhancing shared learning, capacity, and conceptualization of strategies, visions, and action; and fostering investment and innovation.
- The Caribbean Regional Oceanscape Project (2017), the successful first investment project addressing the OECS blue economy, providing aid for developing coastal and marine spatial plans across OECS countries, enhancing capacity, and raising awareness.
Driven by client demand, efforts by the World Bank on behalf of the Caribbean’s blue economy have delivered various concrete results, including the following:
- Safeguarding the protection of coastal and marine assets through sustainable financing and enhanced capacity: Sustainable finance plans were prepared for each participating OECS country and mechanisms were successfully adopted for generating additional resources. The primary outcome was the establishment of the Caribbean Biodiversity Fund (CBF), now fully operational, with a board, secretariat, asset manager, and work program. The CBF has built an endowment of US$32 million, generating investment income of US$2.4 million, surpassing its US$0.25 million target.
- Protecting the marine environment: The marine protected area network for participating OECS countries was strengthened through training and sensitization workshops, held between 2014 and 2016, on using drone technology to manage and monitor marine protected areas. One result was Antigua and Barbuda’s national policy on drone use in protected areas.
- Building overall support for the blue economy as a way to address the region’s poverty gap and unemployment challenges: Addressing the 38th Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Heads of State Meeting in July 2017, the Bank’s Vice President for Latin America and the Caribbean, Jorge Familiar, reiterated the importance of support for the blue economy. The multisectoral platform for engagement and new investments in the Caribbean set out in “Toward a Blue Economy: A Promise for Sustainable Growth in the Caribbean,” a Bank report published in 2016, guided the discussions.
- Grenada’s plans for integrated ocean governance and shared prosperity: In 2016, with the Bank’s technical support, Grenada became the first OECS member country to develop a vision for protecting its “blue space” and to map its road toward blue growth. Grenada’s Blue Growth Coastal Master Plan was designed to generate new jobs, foster alternative livelihoods, and expand the economy, all while preserving the natural environment. The pioneering work in Grenada has become a model for other OECS member countries to replicate and enhance.
- Supporting Caribbean country governments in their dialogue, vision, strategies, and solutions for the blue economy: The Caribbean Regional Oceanscape Program, the Bank’s regional programmatic instrument, and specific related projects facilitated use among the OECS countries of integrated, fully collaborative management approaches. Guided by “Toward a Blue Economy” and by pioneering spatial planning work done in Grenada, integrated coastal and marine spatial plans for individual OECS countries have been embraced as central to ensuring sustainable management and equitable distribution of projected growth. Taken together, the national plans support a regional vision and strategy for ocean governance with support across all OECS countries. In addition, a strategy for enhancing capacity at all levels and raising awareness among the region’s population will ensure proper execution and future support for the resulting spatial plans.
- The Sustainable Financing and Management of Eastern Caribbean Marine Ecosystems Project: Between June 2015 and project closing in December 2016, this project provided 375 Ministry of Finance and Ministry of Fisheries staff with face-to-face training and webinars that strengthened their knowledge of protected area management and the use of drones to monitor illegal construction on floodplains and in other protected areas. Survey results show that training on water improvement planning in Grenada, for example, encouraged stakeholders to engage with, support, and protect the nation’s marine protected areas.
Bank Group Contribution
The World Bank Group partnership with the OECS has been scaled up in recent years and now includes various forms of support for countries transitioning to a blue economy. The Bank has delivered two investment operations, and blue economy policy reforms are incorporated in the upcoming fiscal 2018 “Grenada—Blue Growth Development Policy Credit.” Along with financial assistance, the Bank has provided high-quality technical assistance and cutting-edge knowledge, as detailed above.
Bank partners in the region include the OECS Commission and its member states, which have supported these initiatives through both in-kind contributions and matching finance. The Global Environment Facility, another important contributor to blue economy initiatives in the region, supports projects such as the Caribbean Regional Oceanscape Project and learning and capacity development activities. The Caribbean Community has also been a great supporter and partner in endorsing the Bank’s report “Toward a Blue Economy.” Other partners include Virtual Educa, supporting capacity development activities, particularly those relating to innovation in ocean education, through both in-kind and financial contributions, and The Nature Conservancy, a strong supporter in the region providing in-kind technical expertise and developing analytical products for biodiversity conservation.
Other partnerships have been established with the GEF-funded Caribbean Large Marine Ecosystem Project implemented by the United Nations Development Programme to improve assessment of the status of the ecological systems and the region’s natural capital and to support policy recommendations for conservation. The Caribbean Challenge Initiative aims to support effective conservation and management of at least 20 percent of the marine and coastal environment by 2020, including sustainable financing mechanisms linked to the Caribbean Biodiversity Fund to cover long-term operating costs.
Cross-collaboration and knowledge sharing with the Climate Resilient Eastern Caribbean Marine Managed Areas Network Project, managed by the OECS Commission in partnership with The Nature Conservancy, aims to establish new marine managed areas while providing improved livelihood opportunities to the people living in the Eastern Caribbean.
In line with the Regional Partnership Strategy FY2015–2019 Framework, the Bank will continue its partnership with the OECS. The blue economy approach fits directly into the Bank’s overarching goals of eradicating extreme poverty and promoting shared prosperity by working toward longer-term objectives of food security, jobs for coastal populations, and resilience to climate variability among those dependent on marine resources, who are currently among the region’s poorest and most vulnerable. Supporting the blue economy aligns well with regional policies and priorities, particularly the Eastern Caribbean Regional Ocean Policy and the associated Strategic Plan, which provides the framework for enhanced coordination and management of ocean resources in the Eastern Caribbean, where OECS plays a key role in regional ocean governance.