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2018, október 23 - 08:00

Unesco award of Global Champion of Ocean Science “Oceans 8”

‘Award represents Seychelles’ hard work in promoting the Blue economy concept,’


The Republic of Seychelles and former President James Michel’s leadership role for a sustainable management of the ocean,

 which he described as the world’s new economic frontier, was recognised by the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of Unesco (IOC) at the UN Ocean Conference in New York on Tuesday June 6 in New York as an ‘Ocean’s 8 Champion’. And to that effect, Mr Michel was awarded the Unesco award of Global Champion of Ocean Science ‘Oceans 8’. Expressing his views on the award, Mr Michel said it represents the work that Seychelles has undertaken in the promotion of the Blue Economy and promotion of the ideal that the economy of our ocean needs to be sustainable.

It was Vice-President Vincent Meriton, who handed over the award to Mr Michel in a ceremony at the James Michel Foundation headquarters at the Espace building on Tuesday June 27. Mr Meriton collected the award while leading a twenty-two strong delegation to the conference in New York from June 5-9, where eight individuals and nations were honoured.

On June 6, 2017, Unesco’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC), in collaboration with the governments of Iceland and Peru, UN Environment and Sky TV, organised the first ever ‘Ocean’s 8 Celebration’ in honour of national ocean science champions at the United Nations Ocean Conference in New York. The event, co-hosted by Unesco director-general Irina Bokova, President of the UN General Assembly Peter Thomson, and the governments of Iceland and Peru, recognised eight nations having made remarkable contributions towards building the capacity needed in global ocean science to achieve Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 14, building on the findings of the IOC Global Ocean Science Report launched on June 8.

In his acceptance remark, Mr Michel said he dedicates the award to the people of Seychelles as he was not alone in that endeavour. He talked to the press on the award itself; how he feels about it and what it means for small island states like Seychelles to be in the forefront of such a significant environmental programme.

“I would like to thank you Vice-President, for accepting this award on my behalf in New York. It represents the work that Seychelles has undertaken in the promotion of the Blue Economy and promotion of the ideal that the economy of our ocean needs to be sustainable. I would like to dedicate this award to the Seychellois people. I would like to ask you, the government and the people of Seychelles to continue to support the work of developing the Blue Economy; that we protect our ocean and to develop innovative ideas such as the debt-for-conservation swap agreement and the Blue Bonds, to mitigate the effects of climate change, to develop programmes to use our oceanic resources in a sustainable manner, and continue to be a leading example to other small island developing states,” said President Michel.

It is worth remembering some of the remarkable works former President Michel has undertaken as a driver in the ocean science and Blue economy concepts, in spreading the words so the concept is recognised internationally. These were in prominent meetings, summits and discussions worldwide. On Tuesday December 9, 2014, Mr Michel opened the National Stakeholder Consultation Forum on the Blue economy at the International Conference Centre where he said the Blue economy is not just a space for the creation of socio-economic opportunities but also a powerful means to further foster the nation’s unity, in all of its diversity, through its spin-offs, its activities and benefits. At the panel at the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) Special Session on Sustainable Oceans on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly’s General Debate in New York on Tuesday September 29, 2015, Mr Michel said Seychelles has committed itself to be a Blue economy pioneer and has empowered  itself as Blue Guardians to not only empower island states, but also to make a real and immediate difference in our oceans’ health- our planet's well-being. “It begins with us all,” he said. He also spoke at the Blue Economy Summit in Abu Dhabi on January 19, 2016, where he stressed on the importance and significance of a paradigm shift towards a sustainable ocean-based Blue economy in his keynote address.

On the occasion of World Oceans Day, on June 8 last year, President James Michel launched his fourth book, entitled ‘Rethinking The Oceans - Towards the Blue Economy,’ during an evening reception at State House. In his address he said that under the proud flag of Seychelles, he has taken every opportunity to turn the world’s attention to this new frontier and has addressed world leaders on every continent and many international organisations on this subject, calling for a new partnership with the oceans instead of depleting their resources.

“As a result of the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of Unesco (IOC), it discovered there are 8 countries which have been considered as ocean science champions which are being innovative in bringing new ideas in bringing about mitigating programmes against climate change; finance projects for environment, especially on sustainable development programmes for oceans, fishery and small island states against climate change.

“Seychelles formed part of that group due to innovative ways of acquiring financial assistance for such programmes in the setting up of the debt swap initiative where funds earmarked for debt repayment is put in a local and independent trust fund, SeyCAAT, to finance those projects on the environment,” explained Mr Michel, adding more funds are being found for that trust fund.

 As for his personal feelings on such award, President Michel said he feels honoured Unesco has recognised both his work and that of the people of Seychelles.

“It is a work done by Seychelles to promote the Blue economy. But it was under my direction as president of the country. It was a collective vision we had to make the concept known internationally so it can be accepted. It was not easy as we worked on it for many years by bringing it forward at international institutions and organisations to be accepted. We did it at the SADC level. We did it at the EU level. We did it at the AU level. We did it at the United Nations level. We participated in the Samoa summit. Today all international institutions have accepted the concept. The Blue economy is important not only for the development of small island states, which today we consider ourselves as large oceanic and coastal state, but for the whole world, the whole planet. Because when we protect the ocean and develop it and its resources in a sustainable way, it also saves the planet too for future generation. So I feel very proud Seychelles has been recognised. And wherever the Blue economy is mentioned, Seychelles is looked at and thought of. We have considered it a new frontier on which we have all worked together to achieve. As soon as I heard of the award I decided to dedicate it to the people of Seychelles,” said Mr Michel.

With regards to The James Michel Foundation, which the former president founded when he stepped down from office last year, Mr Michel said as he has always been passionate about the Blue economy concept and the need to manage our environment in a sustainable way, he said he made sure his foundation focuses a lot on the Blue economy and on issues regarding the environment. And that’s why the foundation has started with certain programmes and expected to do more like scholarships for young people interested in the Blue economy. He wishes more funds come their way so more people can benefit.


Compiled by M. Julie