Published on Voices

A Coalition of the Working – That’s What the Oceans Need

Los océanos nos necesitan

​What is it about oceans? Ocean events seem to be getting bigger and broader in their participation. No matter whether the people in the room are representing government, seafood companies, private foundations, or conservation groups, they are unified by one thing: the need for serious action and soon.

​Things were really humming this week in San Francisco at The Economist’s World Oceans Summit. High-level speaker after speaker put the focus on the need for urgent action as climate change exacerbates the impacts that decades of overfishing, pollution, and habitat loss have been having on the world’s oceans.

I added the World Bank Group’s voice to the refrain. In oceans, as in other areas, we need to allow countries and companies and others who care to work together on solutions to specific issues. “Coalitions of the working” can step up to the demand from coastal and island countries for support to build the resilience of their coastlines and restore their ocean ecosystems to health.

Leadership is being provided by countries that are redefining their futures as “oceans states.” The growth, jobs, and resilience they seek can come from their blue economies and their coastal zones. From Portugal to Ireland to Mauritius, this refocusing changes mindsets in the public and private sectors.

At the global level, the good news is that we have the mechanism in place now to bridge what was once a divide between public, private, and civil society players – a mechanism that can help us exploit the alignment of interests. Through the Global Partnership for Oceans – which came into being at the first World Oceans Summit two years ago – countries can seek the financial and technical expertise they need to fix their ocean governance systems, enforce their laws effectively, and attract private investors looking for sustainable supply chains.

A platform is one thing, but it has to have the fighting power behind it to get to the scale that’s now needed in the ocean sphere. That’s why we are working on an Ocean Investment Roundtable – a complementary body of ocean investors – philanthropic, private, and non-government – that can align their financing and project muscle behind the country-led demand for action.

Everyone agrees that we have to work this way. No one organization or donor can ever achieve the scale on their own.

Working together strategically across the public, private, and multilateral can provide real progress. Look at Cartagena, Colombia. This is a city of just over 1 million people where, until recently, untreated raw sewage and other waste was fouling coastal waterways, sickening people, and turning away tourism. A public-private partnership – supported by a World Bank loan and many years of legal and regulatory reform – has resulted in a massive turnaround of the city’s pollution challenges. Close to 100 percent of all waste water in Cartagena is now being treated, and a reliable water supply is reaching households. Tourism is coming back, beaches are clean, and the economic benefits are flowing.

We can make the change that’s needed if we align all our efforts in a smart way. Get on board and join this coalition of the working!

Rachel Kyte
Group Vice President and Special Envoy, Climate Change


Rachel Kyte

Vice President and Special Envoy for Climate Change

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