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Wed, 06 March 2019

The World Ocean Summit 2019, Abu Dhabi

Remarks by James A Michel

Former President of the Republic of Seychelles


Ladies and Gentlemen

You will have been informed of the sad circumstances which prevent me from being here in person today. Absent in person but with you very much in spirit. There is no cause about which I feel more passionate than the subject of this conference and so I am grateful for this opportunity to offer a few remarks.

In the short time available I will make three practical observations on the ocean, based on what we have already learnt in our quest to make the land of our precious planet more sustainable. In this respect, blue follows green; now we need the two to advance together.

First, we must plan the use of the ocean. We should build on the experience of land-use planning to create a similar process for the sea. It is almost inconceivable that most of the world’s seas are still something of a ‘free for all’. As well as the high seas, many of the areas under national jurisdiction remain little more than lines on a map . We must now zone sections for different uses and support the UN’s work to bring the high seas under control.

In my own small island state of Seychelles we are presently preparing a plan to match our ocean responsibilities. It is time for all countries to do this and to create a maritime planning system with a new generation of ocean planners.

Second, we need to work with businesses and communities. This is another lesson from land-use planning. Governments are good at guiding and encouraging. But (as I am sure this conference will show) it is businesses which will see the opportunities to innovate and invest. And it is communities which can give energy and local know-how to make plans work. The best plans are not imposed from above but they grow from within. Plans are nourished by people. Success can only be achieved through ownership!

Finally, we need some quick wins. Simply talking will not save the ocean. People now accept land-use planning because it can offer examples like national parks and sustainable neighbourhoods. I believe that at sea the real eye-catcher is marine protected areas. These can really make a dramatic difference and my own small nation is committed to making its own contribution. Marine protected areas are not difficult to establish so long as there is political will. If the world as a whole can reach the target of 30% protection we will have marked a famous victory. We still have a long way to go but we can do it.

Ladies and Gentlemen, time and distance have limited what I can say and who I could have met at this important conference. But I would love to expand on these points and to share more of my experience. So please do not hesitate to contact me through the James Michel Foundation in Seychelles if you would like to collaborate or otherwise engage in this vital debate. The Foundation is also represented here by the Vice-Chair and CEO, who will be pleased to start the discussion.

I am grateful to the organizers of this timely conference and I thank you for your attention.

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