7 February 2022

G20 Presidency of Indonesia: Towards sustainable and equitable ocean economy

A sustainable ocean economy is a global paradigm on ocean governance for economic development with principles of effective protection, sustainable production and equitable prosperity, where benefits from the ocean and ocean industries are distributed equitably. This paradigm is a solution to achieve ecosystem protection, ocean economic development and welfare of the people, especially coastal-dependent communities and small scale fishers. The paradigm is endorsed by the High Level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy (Ocean Panel), through an alliance of 15 heads of state and government representing people from across all ocean basins, nearly 40 percent of the world’s coastlines and 30 percent of the world’s exclusive economic zones. President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s membership within the Ocean Panel is a manifestation of the Indonesian government’s commitment to achieving a sustainable ocean economy and the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) agenda.

On Dec. 3, 2020, the Ocean Panel launched the new ocean action agenda, built upon knowledge and science, transformative recommendations and actions. The agenda is underpinned by the document titled, “Transformations for a Sustainable Ocean Economy: A Vision of Protection, Production and Prosperity”. One of the commitments stated in the document is: “We commit to bold transformations toward a sustainable ocean economy where environmental protection and conservation, and economic production and prosperity, go hand in hand.”

Pursuant to the Transformations Document, there are five focused areas in the implementation of a sustainable ocean economy, which are, ocean wealth, ocean health, ocean equity, ocean knowledge and ocean finance. The Transformations Document sets out a shared aim of the Ocean Panel to sustainably manage 100 percent of the ocean area under national jurisdiction through the Sustainable Ocean Plan by 2025.

Affinity Between Sustainable & Equitable Ocean Economy And Indonesia’s Constitution

The 1945 Constitution of the Republic of Indonesia (UUD 45), as the highest legal norm, obliges the state to govern over the land, waters and natural resources within for the greatest benefit of the people (Article 33 (3) UUD 45), conducted on the basis of economic democracy upholding the principles of ecologically sustainable development (Article 33 (4) UUD 45). Therefore, implementing a sustainable and equitable ocean economy is indeed a manifestation of the State’s obligation established in Indonesia’s constitution.

Indonesia Ocean Justice Initiative (IOJI) believes that the principle of a sustainable ocean governance has been introduced in Indonesia’s national policy through Presidential Regulation No. 16/2017 concerning Indonesia’s Ocean Policy. This Ocean Policy emphasizes that the use of marine resources shall not sacrifice the necessary quality and quantity needed for the future generations, and any use of marine resources whose impact is unknown must be carried out based on the precautionary principle, along with the support of reliable scientific evidence. The National Long-Term Development Plan (RPJPN) 2005-2025 also confirms the direction of marine economic development in an integrated manner by optimizing the sustainable use of the ocean. Therefore, the Indonesian government should follow up on the commitments stated in the Ocean Panel by establishing the Sustainable Ocean Plan to be integrated in national development plans.

Going Forward

Based on the IOJI’s recent research, Indonesia needs to take strategic steps to accelerate the implementation of a sustainable ocean economy based on Jokowi’s commitments along with 13 heads of state in December 2020:

  1.  Mainstream the principles of a sustainable ocean economy based on effective protection of marine ecosystems, sustainable production and use of ocean resources, and equitable distribution of ocean benefits for the welfare of people, both in national and local ocean and fisheries policies;
  2.  Improve data baseline quality, strengthen data integration and conduct more scientific studies to identify the current status of ocean health, wealth, equity, knowledge and finance, along with their various opportunities and challenges. The collection of reliable data and information shall be the basis for a sustainable ocean development strategy, which will be included in the Sustainable Ocean Plan;
  3.  Intensify engagement among policy makers, expert groups, and civil society to develop science and evidence-based policies, facilitated by the Coordinating Ministry for Maritime and Investment Affairs, the National Development Planning Agency, the National Research and Innovation Agency and the Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Ministry;
  4. Establish a Sustainable Ocean Plan (SOP), mandated by the Ocean Panel, as an effort to advance the Ocean Policy. The SOP should be integrated into and strengthen the targets set out in the National Medium-Term Development Plan (RPJMN);
  5.  Continuously improve good governance, in a way where the transition toward a sustainable ocean economy is not restrained by weak governance, weak rule of law or lack of access to civil liberties as the basis of genuine citizen involvement in the policy-making process and strong law enforcement.

Implementing the principles of the sustainable ocean economy consistently will result in a “triple win” benefit for the people, nature and economy. This means that in all policy decision making and implementation, the three interests (people, nature, economy) are considered equally and in balance. A sustainable ocean economy is an entrance to opportunity and fulfills the collective responsibility to maintain and restore Indonesia’s ocean health, while at the same time developing an equitable ocean economy to achieve justice for our present generation (intra-generational equity) and the future (inter-generational equity).

Upcoming G20 Leaders Meeting In Bali

The commitment to protect at least 30 percent of the global oceans and seas by 2030 was reiterated during the Group of 20 Leaders Declaration in Rome on Oct. 30-31 2021. The declaration encouraged all governments to ambitiously commit to ensuring the conservation, protection and sustainable use of natural resources. In addition, the G20 fully recognized Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) as a powerful tool for protecting sensitive ecosystems, while reaffirming their commitment to prohibiting fishing subsidies that contribute to overfishing and overcapacity, in line with the SDGs. Further, they reaffirmed the commitment to ending illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing and to address marine plastic waste, building on the initiatives conducted in view of strengthening existing instruments and developing a new global agreement or instrument.

During the forthcoming G20 meetings in Bali, the IOJI hopes that President Jokowi, as the highest government leader of Indonesia, one of the largest ocean nations, will spearhead concrete actions with other Ocean Panel members –– who are also G20 members: Australia, Canada, Japan, Mexico and the United States –– to protect the world’s oceans through tangible commitments to accelerating the development of a sustainable and equitable ocean economy. Indonesia may learn from Mexico and Australia, which earlier established the National Sustainable Ocean Plan. On the other hand, the Ocean Panel members may learn from Indonesia on the commitments and actions to protect blue carbon ecosystems, especially mangroves, in mitigating the global impact of climate change.

Indonesia Ocean Justice Initiative (IOJI), Feb. 7, 2022

This report is also published in The Jakarta Post.