Opening remarks by Ingrid van Wees, ADB Vice-President for Finance and Risk Management, at the World Oceans Day Webinar: Gender and Resilience in Coastal Communities, 8 June 2021


Ladies and gentlemen, it is a pleasure to be with you today to celebrate World Oceans Day together and provide the opening remarks for this important webinar in partnership with The Nature Conservancy (TNC).

The theme of World Oceans Day is Life and Livelihoods and we take this opportunity to highlight the need for creating sustainable ocean livelihoods, particularly for women, whose contributions have not yet been fully recognized nor counted in the past as key actors in fisheries and related livelihoods.

I would like to emphasize that coastal communities are critical to the ocean economy. About 40% of the world’s population currently lives in coastal zones, which are defined as the area within 100 km off the coast. Excluding Papua New Guinea, 90% of Pacific Islanders live within 5 km off the coast.1 And the proportion of population living in coastal zones is expanding.

Coastal communities play a key role in supporting the ocean economy, including all forms of coastal and marine management, its governance, as well as a range of social and cultural values. They are vital contributors to conservation, to marine risk responses, and climate mitigation and adaptation.

Gender equality

“While coastal communities are key to healthy blue economies, gender equality is key to healthy coastal communities.”

All over the globe, women participate in small-scale fishing activities mostly along the shoreline either on foot or from small vessels in coastal waters. Their participation in fishing activities is estimated to be the highest in the Pacific region followed by East Asia.2

The relevance of the blue economy for women and their coastal communities is underlined by women harvesting for home consumption, which is considered part of the subsistence sub-sector; and by women selling a portion of their catch and sharing the incomes with their families. Furthermore, sustainable ocean livelihoods can support women coping with and recover from stresses and shocks while valuing and working within the limits of natural resources.

Despite growing attention for women and gender in fisheries, gender considerations continue to be under-emphasized in fisheries policies and management worldwide.

Women are still largely invisible by a lack of proper representation despite being a major part of the workforce. At ADB, we are committed to support gender equality through gender-inclusive project designs in at least 75% of sovereign and non-sovereign operations by 2030, and this makes supporting women’s participation in ocean livelihoods and coastal management a priority for us.

To create an enabling ecosystem for sustainable livelihoods and development, we need to enhance financial literacy and provide access to affordable finance for women and their coastal communities.

At ADB, we assist by developing technical assistance that builds capacity around business planning and raises awareness on innovative technology solutions for women and communities.
We are also working with sub-regions and countries to establish multi-stakeholder funds that include local and national governments, multilateral development banks, and the private sector to provide technical assistance and finance in the form of concessional loans, grants, and equity.

The means are used to support and build capacity at a community level, through an inclusive approach that includes women community leaders and government decision makers.


Today, we will hear about community efforts to build “sustainable and resilient livelihood” from the International Union for Conservation of Nature. We will also hear from TNC and ADB that are working for women by creating jobs, supporting local economies, and protecting the environment.
I believe that the success of our post-COVID-19 future is dependent on the quality of cooperation among all partners to develop, implement, and finance the right solutions for a green, blue, and inclusive recovery. 

With this in mind, I look forward to supporting ADB and TNC as we move forward in this exciting partnership to develop nature positive investments, technical assistance, and knowledge sharing activities. 

Thank you.

1Coastal proximity of populations in 22 Pacific Island Countries and Territories, Neil L. Andrew, Phil Bright, Luis de la Rua, Shwu Jiau Teoh, Mathew Vickers, Published: September 30, 2019
2Valuing invisible catches: Estimating the global contribution by women to small-scale marine capture fisheries production, Sarah Harper, Marina Adshade, Vicky W. Y. Lam, Daniel Pauly, U. Rashid Sumaila, Published: March 4, 2020