The transition to more sustainable ocean economies is urgent. The ocean makes an important contribution to the global economy, providing jobs to millions of people. More than 90% of world trade uses sea routes. It is also the stage for a growing range of new ocean-related economic activities, and the source of constant innovations. Its role however goes much beyond an economic one. It is a key life-support system, central to human well-being and to a healthy planet. The ocean plays a crucial part in the regulation of our climate and weather, and provides critical ecosystem services which are vital to all living creatures.

Nevertheless, pressures on the ocean are mounting. We are witnessing sea-use change, continued over-exploitation of marine resources, intensifying pollution and, above all, climate change. Many ocean-based sectors have expanded with no sufficient consideration for environmental and social sustainability. These developments put at risk the very ecosystems on which economic sectors depend, they erode opportunities for social inclusion and they have important consequences for developing countries.

Ensuring that these countries can harness the full benefits of sustainable ocean economies and a healthier ocean is a global priority. It means helping 82% of the world’s population tap into the opportunities of the ocean economy, including more jobs, cleaner energy, improved food security, and enhanced resilience. It is also essential to improve ocean health globally, as developing countries are home to vast ocean resources that the prevailing unsustainable uses will erode, with high socio-economic and environmental costs well beyond these countries. Costs that will be borne by all the economies of our globalised world. Development co-operation has a critical role in supporting developing countries to achieve sustainable ocean economies as well as in promoting a global ocean economy that is governed by institutional arrangements, policies and financing that enables all countries, especially the poorest and most vulnerable ones, to benefit from expanding economic activities in the ocean.

The Sustainable Ocean for All: Harnessing the Benefits for Developing Countries report, which is part of the OECD Sustainable Ocean for All initiative, provides a new comprehensive analysis for policy makers in developing countries and their co-operation partners, to support a transition to sustainable ocean economies in developing countries. It presents OECD data on trends in selected ocean-based industries, and examples of policy instruments, including the latest data on economic tools to promote ocean conservation and its sustainable use. It also contains the first certified estimates of official development assistance (ODA) for sustainable ocean economies, and the estimates of private finance mobilised through these interventions. Building on this, the report provides thorough analysis and tailor-made recommendations for more ambitious and effective policy frameworks, and for targeted and effective development co-operation and financing that help developing countries achieve sustainable ocean economies.

There is no time left for complacency. The COVID-19 crisis is transforming our world, forcing us to change the way we think, the way we work, and the way we produce and consume. Many ocean-based sectors, such as tourism and shipping, have been severely impacted by the crisis, with acutely felt consequences in developing countries. As the recovery plans will shape the direction of global development for decades to come, we need to use them wisely to ‘build back bluer’. Investing in ocean-related sectors in a way that fosters environmental, social, as well as economic sustainability is crucial. It will be at the core of a recovery that can put the well-being and resilience of all people, especially the world’s most vulnerable, at the centre of a new dawn of sustainable development. We have a unique opportunity to redesign our relation with the oceans. Let’s not waste it!


Angel Gurría

OECD Secretary-General

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