The Department of the Blue Economy within the Ministry of Social Transformation, Human Resource Development and the Blue Economy is presently hosting a visit by the International Steering Committee (ISC) for the Centre of Excellence for Oceanography and the Blue Economy (COBE) that will be established at the Five Islands Campus of the University of the West Indies (UWI). The visit which started on Monday 21st February will conclude on February 25th.
In October, 2020, the Government of Antigua and Barbuda announced its support for the establishment of a Centre of Excellence for Oceanography and the Blue Economy (COBE) at the UWI which is to be housed at its Five Islands Campus in Antigua and Barbuda. The Centre’s aim is to advance intellectual progress, promote economic opportunities and strengthen institutional capacity in areas related to marine science and the blue economy.
Following this, a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed between the Government of Antigua and Barbuda, The University of the West Indies and the Association of Commonwealth Universities (ACU) in January, 2021. The objective of the MoU is to formalise a non-exclusive framework of cooperation and to facilitate collaboration on research, teaching and other initiatives in support of the establishment of the aforementioned Centre.
The Minister of Social Transformation, Human Resource Development and the Blue Economy, the Hon. Dean Jonas, serves as the Chairman of the Committee. The Pro Vice Chancellor for Global Affairs at The University of the West Indies, Dr. Stacy Richards-Kennedy, serves as the Co-Chair. The mandate of the ISC is to provide strategic direction for the successful establishment of the Centre. Minister Jonas sees Antigua and Barbuda as well-positioned to move this programme forward and will continue to share key updates as the process of establishment develops. As co-Chair, Dr. Kennedy emphasised that “The UWI is fully committed to building robust partnerships that will not only strengthen the foundation for the COBE, but also facilitate the execution of the roadmap to its full establishment. By working in concert, the ISC brings tremendous value and will support the achievement of the objectives of the Centre.
The ISC is composed of members from the Association of Commonwealth Universities (ACU), the Commonwealth Secretariat (ComSec), the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (CEFAS), the Commonwealth Enterprise and Investment Council (CEWIC), The University of the West Indies (UWI) and the Antigua and Barbuda High Commission (London). Senior representatives from each of these organisations currently serve on the Committee which meets monthly and provides strategic direction to progress the establishment of this Centre.
Commenting on the importance of the Centre, Professor Densil A. Williams, Pro Vice-Chancellor and Campus Principal of The UWI Five Islands Campus asserted that: “A Centre for the Blue Economy will be a big step in diversifying the economies of the region as we look for new growth poles to drive sustained and equitable growth. The traditional sectors of commodities and low value services will not be able to deliver the kind of growth needed to lift more persons out of poverty and allow our citizens to live a decent life. The blue economy on the other hand, has vast potential to generate mass employment given its proclivity to scale.”
The primary purpose of this visit is for the ISC to engage with a range of stakeholders and discuss plans for the establishment of COBE at the University of the West Indies (UWI), Five Islands Campus. During the visit, the ISC will meet with key stakeholders from the Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Finance and Education. They will also be meeting with the Department of Environment, the Fisheries Division, the Ocean Governance Committee, Antigua and Barbuda Port Authority, various Development Agencies, Civil Society Organisations and Non-Governmental Organisations. The delegation will also be paying a visit to the Five Islands Campus of The University of the West Indies. Additionally, a presentation will be made to the Cabinet.
Dr. Joanna Newman, CEO and Secretary General of the Association of Commonwealth Universities has advised that: “The ACU is pleased to be working with ACU members, The University of the West Indies and the Government of Antigua and Barbuda to develop a research and development Centre of Excellence for Oceanography and the Blue Economy (COBE) at UWI’s Five Islands Campus. Oceans are central to sustainable development globally and COBE will harness the power of our oceans with the strength of collaboration between ACU’s international network of 500 universities across the Commonwealth to support a more sustainable future for the Caribbean region.”
Appreciation is extended to all who made this visit and week of activities a possibility. We hope that it will be both an enjoyable and productive one. It is envisioned that many relationships and partnerships will be formed and that this will be the first of many visits.
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