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ASEAN Blue Economy Forum 2023: Harnessing Blue Potential for Sustainable Development

4 July 2023

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Belitung, 2-4 July 2023: The Indonesian Ministry of National Development Planning (BAPPENAS), with support from the Economic Research Institute for ASEAN and East Asia (ERIA), organised the first ASEAN Blue Economy Forum from 2-4 July 2023, in Belitung, Indonesia. The forum marked a significant step toward finalising the ASEAN Blue Economy Framework, which is set to be endorsed by ASEAN Leaders during the 43rd ASEAN Summit in September.

Indonesia's Minister of National Development Planning Suharso Monoarfa said ASEAN views the blue economy as a multifaceted cross-cutting concept in advancing economic prosperity and facilitating value-creation, resiliency, inclusivity, and sustainability. He stressed Indonesia's commitment to delivering the ASEAN Blue Economy Framework as one of its priority economic deliverables (PED) in 2023. He said 66% of the total Southeast Asian area is covered by seas and oceans, so without a doubt the blue economy will be ASEAN’s new engine of growth to improve people’s wellbeing and welfare.

ERIA President Professor Tetsuya Watanabe said in his opening remarks that ‘this forum is timely as it is crucial, not only in light of the need to find an alternative source of economic growth for the post-pandemic recovery, but also in terms of addressing the main challenges, such as the continuing existential threat posed by climate change as well as marine plastic pollution, often caused by unsustainable practices of our economic actors.’

Prof Watanabe said that while global geopolitics and geo-economics are increasingly characterised by fragmentation and confrontation, the ASEAN spirit remains positive and constructive, based on unity and collaboration. The ASEAN Blue Economy has emerged as one of the most promising initiatives to overcome this fundamental issue and to build more prosperous, resilient, inclusive, and sustainable development. Prof Watanabe concluded his speech by expressing ERIA’s eagerness and enthusiasm to collaborate more closely and progressively with all member states in blue economy-related research and policy strategies.

During the Ministerial Panel, Abdul Manaf Metussin, Brunei Darussalam's Minister of Primary Resources and Tourism, said that balancing economic development with environmental sustainability and involving local communities is vital. He also said engaging stakeholders, implementing regulations, and investing in infrastructure and capacity-building initiatives are key to advancing the blue economy agenda in the ASEAN region.

A panel discussion moderated by ERIA’s Senior Economist, Dr Fauziah Zen, featured blue economy experts from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the United Nations Resident Coordinator (UNRC), and Stanford University. Valerie Julliand, the UNRC in Indonesia, said the ocean has the right to live on its own, and pointed out that UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 14: Life below water is the least funded SDG. She said she hoped the ASEAN Blue Economy could help address this problem through collective action among ASEAN Member States, because optimising the blue economy for sustainable development requires strong cooperation beyond borders: ‘Our ocean knows no boundaries.’

In the afternoon session, the roundtable discussion on the ASEAN Blue Economy Framework (ABEF) led by Dr Amalia Adiniggar Widyasanti, Deputy Minister for Economic Affairs, BAPPENAS, was attended by representatives from ASEAN Member States (HLFT-EI) and a delegation of ERIA experts, who witnessed a lively and positive exchange of views, signalling a positive development for ABEF.

The forum was followed by a number of side events, including a series of working level meetings, and island-hopping. Prior to the main event, ERIA’s delegation participated in an oceanic geo-adventure, which featured activities such as a geo-run and geo-site visits.

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