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BRIEF February 10, 2022

The World Bank’s Blue Economy Program and PROBLUE: Supporting integrated and sustainable economic development in a healthy ocean


Photo credit: Rafal Cichawa/

What is PROBLUE?

PROBLUE is an Umbrella Multi-Donor Trust Fund (MDTF) administered by the World Bank, designed to help countries chart a course towards a Blue Economy approach. A Blue Economy refers to the sustainable and integrated development of oceanic sectors in a healthy ocean. PROBLUE supports the implementation of Sustainable Development Goal 14 (SDG 14, Life Under Water) and is fully aligned with the World Bank’s mission to end extreme poverty and boost shared prosperity on a livable planet. PROBLUE is part of the World Bank’s overall Blue Economy program, which takes a multi-pronged, coordinated approach to ensuring the protection and sustainable use of marine and coastal resources.

PROBLUE focuses on four key themes:

  • The sustainable management of fisheries and aquaculture
  • Addressing and preventing the threats posed to ocean health by marine pollution, including litter and plastics
  • Supporting the sustainable development of key oceanic sectors such as coastal tourism, maritime transport and offshore renewable energy
  • Helping governments build their capacity to manage their marine and coastal resources in an integrated fashion to deliver more and long-lasting benefits to countries and communities, including the development of nature-based solutions to climate change.

Why was PROBLUE established? 

The ocean is reaching a tipping point, under threat from many fronts, from overfishing and marine pollution to coastal erosion, all of which are exacerbated by climate change.  A healthy ocean provide jobs, food, drive economic growth and keep the planet cool, so a break from business as usual is required.

PROBLUE was established in response to client demand, and it helps us identify current trends and emerging threats to the ocean, and solutions for action.

Trust funds like PROBLUE can play a key role in raising awareness and promoting investment. Since its creation in 2018, PROBLUE has already supported more than 181 activities in 80 economies.

How much have development partners contributed to PROBLUE?

So far, our development partners have contributed just over USD200 million to PROBLUE.

Who are the donors for PROBLUE?

Norway was an early partner to PROBLUE, announcing their contribution at the 2018 World Bank Group and IMF Spring Meetings, followed by Sweden, Iceland, France and Germany.  Today, PROBLUE is supported by Australia, Canada, Denmark, the European Commission, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Norway, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States.

Who can apply for PROBLUE funding and how?

PROBLUE primarily works to support the World Bank’s client countries. To apply for PROBLUE support for a specific country, the relevant federal ministry works with the World Bank in that country. Together they identify and outline the work that will best contribute to sustainable and integrated development in a healthy ocean. A detailed proposal is submitted to PROBLUE for support on behalf of both parties. In other words, interested parties within the country, be they national, municipal or provincial government representatives, need to reach out to their federal ministry directly, who in turn will work with the World Bank to submit a  PROBLUE proposal. PROBLUE does not accept unsolicited proposals from representatives of the private sector, NGOs or academia.

How does PROBLUE fit into the World Bank’s overall work on the ocean?

The World Bank’s ocean portfolio exceeds USD8 billion in active projects, including in sustainable fisheries and aquaculture, integrated coastal and marine ecosystem management, circular economy and improved solid waste management of marine plastics, sustainable coastal tourism, maritime transport, and offshore renewable energy. Since it has engaged on a path towards a Blue Economy approach, much of the Bank’s portfolio is more focused on both sustainability and integration. The work supported by PROBLUE is focused on capturing potential synergies and managing the trade-offs across industries to better address the growing threats now confronting the ocean, and particularly those posed by climate change.  For the World Bank, a Blue Economy approach is one that strives to maximize the socio-economic benefits generated by oceanic activities, including food production and job creation.

Why is the Blue Economy concept important for sustainable development and economic growth?

The ocean protects biodiversity, provide jobs, food, drive economic growth, keep the planet cool, and absorb about 30% of global CO2 emissions.  At least 3-5% of global GDP is derived from the ocean—but their overall health is reaching a tipping point. Close to a third of fish stocks are overfished, climate change affects coastal and marine ecosystems, unbridled development in coastal zones is causing erosion, and marine pollution—particularly from land-based sources—is reaching such a proportion that its impact cannot be measured accurately. Business as usual has led us to this point and it will continue to have great negative environmental and social impacts, which are expected to disproportionally affect vulnerable groups of the population, particularly women and girls. This is reflected in Sustainable Development Goal (SDG 14), which calls to conserve and sustainably use the ocean, seas and marine resources for sustainable development.

What is the World Bank already doing on the ocean economy?

The World Bank’s overall ocean portfolio is worth over USD8 billion in active projects as of June 30, 2023.

This portfolio includes projects such as sustainable fisheries and aquaculture, integrated coastal and marine ecosystem management, circular economy and improved solid waste management of marine plastics, sustainable coastal tourism, maritime transport, and offshore renewable energy.

By setting a new course towards a Blue Economy approach, the World Bank aims to limit the impacts on ocean health of these economic sectors, and to ensure that they are developed in an integrated fashion.


Last Updated: May 15,2023