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Opening Statement by H.E. Mr. Marko Pomerants, Minister of Environment of the Republic of Estonia at the Ocean Conference 5 Partnership Dialouge, 7 June 2017

07.06.2017

Excellencies,
Distinguished Participants,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Good Afternoon!

It is a great pleasure and privilege to serve as the co-chair of this important and timely partnership dialogue together with Dr. The Right Honourable Keith Mitchell, Prime Minister of Grenada – thank you for your insightful opening remarks, and a compelling introduction to the theme!

I would also like to extend my deepest gratitude to Co-Presidents Fiji and Sweden, Secretary-General of the Conference Wu Hongbo, President of the United Nations General Assembly Peter Thompson, and the hardworking staff of the United Nations Secretariat for their exceptional work in organizing this vitally important event, and especially for laying the groundwork for productive partnership dialogues.  

I come from Estonia, a small country in Northeastern Europe. We are small in terms of territory – roughly the same size as the Dominican Republic or Denmark – and also in terms of population – 1.3 million.

But from the nautical perspective we boast a maritime area that is almost as large as our mainland territory; we have one of the world’s longest coastlines per capita, and approximately 2,300 islands. Therefore, we enjoy a special relationship with the sea and our marine environment. What is more,  due to our geography, small-scale coastal fisheries are an important part of our cultural heritage. But we are also seafaring people, and as Ernest Hemingway has famously said - you can find an Estonian in every port in the world.

As my co-chair already outlined, the international community has recognized the unique situation of Small Island Developing States & Least Developed Countries, and today we will be looking into additional measures how to more effectively address their particular vulnerabilities and special challenges from the prespective of marine resources.
As a small coastal country itself, Estonia understands these challenges and fully shares their concerns. We welcome this opportunity to find workable solutions and hope that the insights gained from this dialogue will help build partnerships for speeding up action in these urgent matters.

I would like to complement my distinguished co-chair’s opening statement by sharing some insights on activities that have benefited Estonia as a small maritime nation, and also our traditional small-scale coastal fisheries. I believe that our experiences are to a large extent applicable globally and we are actively engaged in bilateral cooperation to share best practices through technology transfer and capacity building. I will now touch briefly upon activities that we believe could benefit Small Island Developing States & Least Developed Countries.

Let me start by addressing the fist part of our partnership dialogue – increasing economic benefits from the sustainable management of resources. The key to sustainability lies in a holistic and integrated framework, and the concept of Blue Economy offers an excellent blueprint for designing long-term strategies that encompass all marine sectors while also incorporating social and environmental aspects.

Considering the transboundary nature of marine ecosystems and environmental problems, the best results have consistently been demonstrated by regional marine governance frameworks that facilitate intergovernmental collaboration. As a Baltic Sea country we would like to highlight the activities of our own regional management organization – HELCOM.

In addition to promoting sustainable ecosystem-based management, such networks facilitate marine research that is necessary to support informed decision making, guaranteeing that policies are based on the best available scientific data.

To sum up this portion, we believe that an intergated approach serves as the best blueprint for sustainable management of marine resources. However, national efforts alone are not sufficient, it is important to join forces with neigbouring states, because regional cooperation is a key enabler in the the achievement of this specific SDG 14 target.

With regard to the second focal point of our dialogue – improving acces for small-scale artisanal fisheries. In this respect, empowering local communities is of vital importance. National policies should recognize and support the status and capacity gaps of coastal fishing communities. For example, in Estonia, we have granted special status to island communities where small-scale coastal fishing forms an integral part of traditional heritage and livelihoods – they are guaranteed designated fishing areas and an equitable share of fishing opportunities.

In terms of improving market access, we have had great success with cooperative associations. There is strength in numbers, and such platforms have proved instrumental for small-scale operators by enabling them to pool resources, and improving their bargaining-power and status vis-a-vis other operators, including in terms of price-setting.

What is more, well-organized and active communities are better able to contribute to policy-making processes, and thus, serve as constructive partners for governments. Therefore, active involvement of empowered communities is instrumental in acheiving this SDG14 target.

In addition, I would like to point out one more area where we could be of use. Estonia has gained the reputation of a digital pioneer.

Our groundbreaking eGovernance platform – enabling Internet voting in general elections & filing taxes online – has put Estonia at the forefront in redefining governance for the digital age. We are committed to sharing our experiences and best practices in developing efficient digital solutions to make governance more convenient, transparent & cost-effective. For instance, in order to ensure more sustainable fisheries management we set up an online fishing permit system, and as a result 90% of recreational licenses are allocated electronically via the Internet.

The SDG14 targets offer many opportunities for developing innovative digital solutions. For example, transparent & efficient monitoring systems to combat illegal, unreported & unregulated fishing, and also multi-hazard early warning systems to help build resilience to the adverse effects of climate change. Estonia has contributed to purchasing solar panels to charge satellite systems that help distant small islands frequently suffering from power failures, in cooperation with the International Telecommunication Union.

I sincerely hope that these examples provide useful inspiration for other countries as well, and we are ready to share our experiences and good practices through technology transfer and capacity building. But most importantly, we are open to collaboration for developing new solutions. We are also looking into new ways to engage our private sector and our research institutions in the area of development cooperation.

We have gathered here today for a productive exploration of challenges faced by Small Island Developing States and Least Developed Countries. Our aim is to forge new partnerships for tackling these issues and finding workable solutions. I am looking forward to the discussion, and hearing what kind of measures could support your efforts in this area.

Now it is my privilege to introduce our moderator – Dame Meg Taylor –
who will facilitate our discussion here today.

Dame Meg Taylor is a Papua New Guinea lawyer and diplomat. She has served as Ambassador of Papua New Guinea to the United States, Mexico and Canada and has served on the Boards of a number of Private Sector companies and civil society organizations. Since late 2014 she has been based in Suva, Fiji, as Secretary General to the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat – the first woman to hold the post. Dame Meg has recently been appointed to the high level steering committee on Every Women Every Child by the Secretary General of the United Nations. Dame Meg is also currently the Pacific Ocean Commissioner, and as such advocates for the secure future of Pacific people based on the sustainable development, management and conservation of the Pacific Ocean and its resources.

The floor is yours!

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