Opening remarks by Ingrid van Wees, ADB Vice-President, at the Civil Society Program: Collaboration for Resilient & Green Recovery: Realizing the Potential of a Sustainable Blue Economy at the 54th Annual Meeting, 3 May 2021

Thank you Natalie, 
Dear ladies, and gentlemen,

I am pleased to welcome you on behalf of the Asian Development Bank to today’s panel.

Across Asia and the Pacific, biodiversity and healthy marine ecosystems are critical to life, livelihoods, and economic prosperity. They provide food, clean air, medicine and carbon storage along with many other ecosystem services that underpin various economic sectors such as tourism, fisheries and aquaculture. 

However, acceleration of biodiversity loss and ecosystem degradation at an alarming rate is threatening the region’s development gains - especially the health, livelihoods and resilience of our most vulnerable communities.   

To focus on supporting the transition and expansion of the region’s blue economies in harmony with healthy marine ecosystems, we launched at our AM in Fiji, in 2019 a dedicated $5 billion Action Plan for Healthy Oceans and a sustainable Blue Economy. We aim to assist with the transition towards sustainable, growing and resilient blue economies and marine ecosystems that contribute to the region’s inclusive and prosperous future.

Shaping and building an inclusive “post-COVID-19 future” that leaves no one behind, in harmony with our aquatic and terrestrial environments, and aligned with nature’s limitations and needs will require the competence, expertise and ingenuity of all stakeholders - the government, the private sector and civil society. The speed and depth of this transition will be defined by the quality of cooperation amongst all partners that can conceive, implement and finance it.

Much of our progress made to date such as regulation of plastic pollution, launch of an ocean finance framework that defines our “blue finance” transactions, and multistakeholder funds providing flexible finance facilities, is fueled by strong partnerships, based on mutual respect, trust and complementary capacities such as strengths in policy leadership, science-based-solutions, blue finance, and on-the-ground presence. 

As we enter the United Nations’ Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development, we need to strengthen and expand our partnerships to benefit from our synergies and seize opportunities to work more closely, and more substantively, on generating and sharing knowledge, piloting innovations, developing programs and co-investing. 

Today’s panel, therefore, couldn’t be a more pertinent occasion, to celebrate the 20th anniversary of ADB’s partnership with the World Wildlife Fund for Nature, the WWF. In 2001, we agreed to  “develop a partnership to contribute toward the sustainable management of the natural resources on which we all depend”. 

Our partnership, anchored in a mutually shared goal to support countries and their private sectors, to transition to environmentally sustainable development pathways is, as relevant today as it was back in 2001.

Our collaboration has had many successes, from our support in promoting nature-based solutions to climate change and collaboration on water stewardship. For many years, our organizations have been working hand-in-hand on “cutting edge” regional programs such as: 

- the Coral Triangle Initiative, covering Coral Reefs, Fisheries and Food Security in Coral Triangle, 
- the Core environment program for the Greater Mekong Subregion.
- Recently, the expansion of our partnership to cover reduction of marine plastic pollution.  

Our partnership with WWF is a shining example how collaboration can help realize the Potential of a Sustainable Blue Economy.

To conclude – Only by working together, we can rise to the challenge to restore and preserve our natural capital and the invaluable services it provides, for generations to come. 

I am looking forward to a fruitful discussion.

Back to you, Nathalie