The publication titled “We Are Large Ocean States”, chronicles the OECS journey in marine resource management reform from the early 1980s to present day. In 1986, the OECS Fisheries Desk was established. It was initially hosted by the Government of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and relocated to Saint Lucia in 1989 to become part of the OECS Natural Resources Management Unit (NRMU). In 1999, the NRMU, which later became the Environment and Sustainable Development Unit (ESDU), developed the St. George’s Declaration of Principles for Environmental Sustainability in the OECS, which was ratified by the OECS Heads of Government in April 2001.
By the turn of the 21st century, the OECS was ready to respond to the challenges of integrated ocean governance, bringing marine issues centre stage, and examining how mainstreaming ocean matters in national and regional policies can contribute to improved living conditions and livelihoods, as well as stronger regional integration and cooperation.
In 2013, the OECS Heads of Government endorsed the Eastern Caribbean Regional Ocean Policy (ECROP) and its associated strategic action plan (ECROP SAP), to guide the future use of the region’s marine waters and provide a basis for enhanced coordination and management of ocean resources within the Eastern Caribbean. In 2019 the ECROP was revised to align with the UN Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development – SDG 2030. In 2017, the OECS signed a Grant Agreement with the World Bank acting as the Implementing Agency of the Global Environment Facility (GEF) for the Caribbean Regional Oceanscape Project (CROP). The CROP is designed to contribute to the implementation of the ECROP and its associated Strategic Action Plan, by strengthening capacity for ocean governance, as well as coastal and marine spatial planning in the participating countries, to facilitate their transition to a Blue Economy.
Coming out of SDM 2020, OECS States have been challenged to make the paradigm shift from Small Island Developing States to Large Ocean States.
“Recognizing that our marine space is about 85 times larger than our land space and thus one of our greatest assets, we are now doing some of the fundamental work that will allow us to truly claim that space and contribute to maintaining our Caribbean Sea as a zone of peace. We no longer see ourselves constrained by the challenges typically associated with small island states, and so we can focus on and steer towards the opportunities that come with being Large Ocean States in a global setting.”
OECS Director General – Dr. Didacus Jules
The OECS acknowledges that effective ocean governance requires a major change in approaches and practices, and the region still has a long way to go before it is able, conceptually and practically, to bring the land and sea together into one single space. The ultimate vision is one where countries and territories of the region have land policies and planning frameworks that govern both terrestrial and marine spaces, and recognize the interconnectivity between the two, with environmental and social assessment procedures that apply to all developments in that single space, consistent with the Island Systems Management approach.
A fundamental principle is that like other sectors, development of the Blue Economy must be driven by the people of the OECS and ocean wealth must be explored in a sustainable manner, for the benefit of all.
Electronic copies of the publication are available to development partners, policy makers, academia, media partners, and key stakeholders across Member States via the OECS website www.oecs.org or the CROP Webpage oecs.org/crop