The Asia-Pacific Blue Economy Forum, a landmark event in the sustainable coastal development sector and blue economy, kicked off at the Villa Nautica Maldives Resort on Monday. Co-hosted by the Maldives, the forum is held from 13 to 14 May.

The forum is a collaborative effort between the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Maldives and the Maldives’ Ministry of Economic Development and Trade, with additional support from the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office of the United Kingdom.

The forum aims to facilitate the exchange of knowledge and innovative practices to explore financing avenues for the blue economy in the Asia-Pacific region, according to the UNDP Maldives. It will highlight emerging financing opportunities and share experiences on the evolution of public policies to attract investments. The forum will also focus on how the private sector responds to these policy shifts to unlock capital for national and regional priorities.

Participants from 15 countries are attending the forum, which the Maldives is co-hosting for the first time, marking a significant step towards sustainable coastal development in the region.

Speaking at the forum’s inaugural event, Economic Minister Mohamed Saeed said: “I hope that the two-day discussion will lead to actionable outcomes for [Small Island Developing States] SIDS, focusing on innovative financing mechanisms that are inclusive, simpler, and viable for countries like the Maldives.”

Addressing the gathering, Gerd Trogemann, the manager of the UNDP Bangkok Regional Hub, underscored the ocean’s pivotal role in driving the Asia-Pacific region’s economic prosperity. He highlighted that oceanic resources provide employment to over 60 million individuals, contribute to more than 80 percent of global fish production, and support the largest shipping industry, which facilitates approximately 80 percent of global trade.

“Finding sustainable and innovative financing solutions for investments in [the] Blue Economy is crucial for the region’s future,” Trogemann said.

Bradely Busetto, the Acting UN Resident Coordinator in the Maldives, underscored the economic potential of ocean action. He highlighted that for every US dollar invested in ocean-related initiatives, there is a potential return of five US dollars in benefits.

“[The] Maldives, with its massive EEZ, is perfectly poised to be a hub for innovation in the Blue Economy through sustainable tourism, exploring renewable energy from the sea, and marine biotech,” Busetto stated.

The British High Commissioner to the Maldives, Caron Röhsler, expressed the UK’s commitment and pride in financially supporting the Climate Finance Network (CFN). The CFN, a peer-to-peer network established by the UNDP, is backed by substantial funding of £274 million from the UK Government under the Climate Action for a Resilient Asia programme.

“The blue economy represents a huge opportunity for sustainable, decent jobs in the Maldives, especially for youths,” said Röhsler.

The inaugural symposium in the Maldives, according to Enrico Gaveglia, the UNDP Resident Representative in the Maldives, serves as a distinctive forum for the exchange of knowledge, the promotion of collective learning, and the development of partnerships centred around innovative solutions that are specifically adapted to the Maldivian milieu.

“[The] Maldives’ bond with the ocean goes back centuries—recognising the immense value of the ocean, embracing the principles of the blue economy, is not just beneficial but essential for the nation’s prosperity and resilience in the face of climate change,” he added.

The forum is witnessing the participation of over 100 high-ranking delegates from 15 CFN nations. This year marks the forum’s inaugural event in the Maldives, a noteworthy achievement that highlights the country’s escalating significance in sustainable coastal development.