Our oceans cover more than 72% percent of the earth’s surface. It gives us food, essential protein and nutrition, as well as jobs (more than 350 million in poor countries), and recreation for a large portion of the world’s population. Oceans drive global GDP: 80% of global trade, 32% of hydrocarbons extracted for energy needs, and for almost 200 countries, tourism.
The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development estimates that our oceans contribute US$1.5 trillion annually, or roughly 3 percent of global value added and will be the source of the greatest number of new jobs over the next several decades.
However, of the 54 ocean-facing nations, Bangladesh stands out. It is one of the few non-island countries that has been working systematically toward understanding how their coastal and ocean area could become an engine for sustainable development and economic growth. In 2014, Bangladesh hosted the First International Blue Economy Dialogue in Dhaka and Her Excellency Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina became the first head of state to give a nationally and internationally recognized televised speech on the blue economy. She pointed out that Bangladesh’s ocean space is a “new horizon” for sustainable economic growth and development.
In late 2017, at the Second International Blue Economy Dialogue hosted by the Government of Bangladesh in Dhaka, interest in what the blue economy is and why it matters is at an all-time high and rising. Perhaps this not surprising.
The Government of Bangladesh is simultaneously leading and learning – hosting and joining high-level international dialogues. In fact, Bangladesh and Portugal were two coastal countries that convened with small island developing states in Grenada to consult on a World Bank report that estimated that the economic contribution of the Caribbean Sea to GDP. Policymakers of that region agreed that you can’t manage what you don’t measure. A similar strategy is unfolding in Bangladesh and other South Asian countries to guide decision-making over policy and investment.
The World Bank and the European Union are supporting Bangladesh’s effort to better understand what the blue economy is and why it matters – essentially providing high-level technical assistance and policy guidance on how transitioning to a sustainable coastal and ocean economy or blue economy.
Bangladesh is poised to realize its ocean wealth by finding new sources of sustainable growth from its coastal and ocean areas. However, sustained positive impacts for poverty reduction and shared prosperity can only happen if Bangladesh continues to remember that maintaining ocean health is a precondition to sustainably deriving ocean wealth.