Ministerial Panel: “Sustainable Ocean Economy – the Next Development Phase of SIDS?”


In many ways, oceans and climate are core to SIDS. They have an intertwined destiny looking for more opportunities in building blue economies. SIDS have been among the strongest champions of the ocean economy and at the same time, African SIDS are great victims of climate change. The vulnerability of SIDS is widely acknowledged by the international community, but financial support has been lagging in comparison to the challenges. For SIDS and African coastal states, the mention of 1.5°C in the UNFCCC Paris Agreement (“holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C”) was a long-awaited victory as this might help to limit sea level rise and minimize ocean acidification. The INDCs for the SIDS alone, for example, amount to over US$15 billion, with at least US$5 billion of these related to the oceans agenda.

Now, with such a vast exclusive economic zones (EEZ), and the desire to be known as “Large Ocean States”:

  • How do we catalyze action to help SIDS (as well as coastal developing countries) convert their INDCs and SDG14 targets into bankable projects?
  • How do we do this and where do we begin?
  • Is the ocean economy the next big frontier for SIDS?
  • Can the ocean economy deliver on better-paying jobs, higher income generation and inclusiveness, and long-term sustainability?
  • What will it take to help SIDS unlock the full potential of the ocean economy so they can move to a new and accelerated phase of development?
  • What lessons can be shared across regions and countries for and from African SIDS?

Expected Action:

The SIDS representatives will discuss the specific challenges they face in developing their ocean economies while facing the threats from climate change.



UN The Small Island Developing States Accelerated Modalities of Action (Samoa Pathway):
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UNCTAD The Oceans Economy and Opportunities and Challenges for SIDS:
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UN Declaration of Barbados and the Programme of Action for the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States:
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UN High-level Review Meeting on the Implementation of the Mauritius Strategy for the Further Implementation of the Programme of Action for the Sustainable Development of SIDS States:
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UN Economic Commission for Africa: Climate Change in the African Small Island Developing States – From Vulnerability to Resilience; The Paradox of the Small:
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Ministerial Panel: African Coastal States – From Living on the Edge to Harnessing the Power of the OceanS


Coastal erosion and flooding, and, more broadly, integrated coastal zone management, are some of the key issues which unite African coastal countries as they pursue the development of the ocean economy. This is particularly true in West Africa.

The West African coastal area is one of the most rapidly urbanizing areas in the world. It is home to major industries, tourism and seaside residences as well as peri-urban and agro-industry (palm plantations, rice-growing in mangroves and vegetables growing around urban concentrations). In economic terms, 56% of the GDP of West African coastal states originate from coastal areas. In addition, 31% of West African total population and 51% of the urban population live along the coastline. Population pressures and increasing exploitation of coastal resources have however led to rapid coastal degradation. Coastal ecosystems in West Africa now face a range of challenges, including coastal erosion, overexploitation of natural resources (such as fisheries), marine and coastal pollution, rapid urbanization and unsustainable land use, and overall poor environmental governance.

Over the past several decades, West Africa has been facing severe land losses and major damage due to coastal erosion and shoreline loss. This situation impacts coastal communities and infrastructure, and hampers economic growth. The negative impacts have increased in recent years as the concentration of population and infrastructure in the coastal areas has risen rapidly. In Togo, for example, the coastline is currently characterized by erosion spanning over 30km and the coastline is receding by an average of about 5m/year.  From the port of Lome in Togo, within a radius of 4km, the rate of erosion is currently estimated at more than 10 meters per year.  

The receding shoreline typically observed in West Africa is the result of various factors, some related to climate change, but mostly to human activity. Artificial shoreline stabilization, the deterioration of natural formations such as loss of mangroves, the construction of major infrastructure interrupting sediment flow (such as the port of Lomé), the extraction of materials and the multiplication of dams deprive these fragile coastal areas of important sediment deposits. The situation is compounded by the lack of coordination of anti-erosion solutions, at local, national and international levels. All these elements aggravate the risk situation and the safety of the population living along the coast. The poorest and most marginalized populations are those most vulnerable to these challenges, and these events are likely to be more frequent and occur with greater intensity in the future. 

Climate change effects will aggravate existing physical, ecological/biological, and socioeconomic stresses on the West African coastal zone. The prediction scenarios for the West African Region indicate an increase in frequency and intensity of tidal waves and storm surge, which will exacerbate coastal erosion. Predictions indicate that a rise in sea level of one meter would result in land loss of 18,000 km² along the Western African coast with damage to infrastructure, and displacement of populations. Natural habitats and resources are also at risk from sea level rise. Mangroves, for example, constitute an important resource as they stabilize coastal lands, prevent erosion and provide breeding grounds and sheltered habitats for many species. They also provide raw materials for medicine, food, and construction to the local communities. No less than one quarter of West Africa’s mangrove wetland ecosystem, which stretches from Senegal to northern Angola, lies along Guinea’s coast. Inundation of these habitats means losing the key functions and natural resources and disruption of the economic activities they support.

Expected action:

This panel will explore the challenges of coastal flooding and erosion and poor coastal zone management, and possible responses, including policy measures, and green and grey infrastructure.


IUCN The Regional Study for Shoreline Monitoring and Drawing Up a Development Scheme for the West African Coastal Area:

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Western Africa Coastal Areas (WACA) Management Program: A Partnership for Saving Africa’s Coastal Assets:
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