Kenya wins support for Blue Economy summit; Commonwealth leaders huddle at retreat

LONDON, 20th APRIL 2018, (PSCU) —Commonwealth leaders huddled at a retreat at a royal residence in the English county of Berkshire on Friday, to flesh out an implementation plan for their agreement on deepening trade in their 53-member organisation, improving security, tackling climate change, and a concerted effort to work together.

President Uhuru Kenyatta and other leaders were driven to the Windsor Castle for the retreat from London, where they had held their other meetings in the royal residences of Buckingham Palace and St James’ Palace. At the retreat, leaders were assembled alone, without their aides such as foreign ministers and senior advisers.

Kenya has already won support from the Commonwealth for its Oceans summit in November, during which it will press the case for greater exploitation of the seas for the benefit of its people — ensuring that the Blue Economy is effectively deployed to lift the lives of Kenyans.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has agreed to co-sponsor, and it was known that a number of other countries had also agreed to come to the table, with the Commonwealth Secretariat convening a blue economy meeting of its own in June that Kenya will use to flesh out issues to agree in Nairobi.

PM Trudeau has also invited President Kenyatta to the summit of the seven most industrialised countries (G7) in Quebec in June, as Kenya seeks to consolidate its place as the go-to country on key global affairs.

“We continue to pursue our agenda to boost trade amongst the Commonwealth countries, ensure greater investment to Kenya, and deliver on the values of democracy and good governance for which the Commonwealth is known,” President Kenyatta said on Friday.

The high-profile Blue Economy summit will be a massive conference similar to the World Trade Organisation ministerial meetings and the U.N. Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) which Kenya hosted in December 2015 and July 2016 respectively.

Kenya was also looking to take charge of managing Commonwealth scholarships, to bring greater efficiency and effectiveness on how they are administered, after concerns that it was an area of Commonwealth strength that appeared to be diminishing in stature.

As leaders met, Cabinet Secretary for Foreign Affairs Monica Juma was meeting UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson to pursue progress in bilateral relations, including in the areas of trade, security, tourism and the blue economy.

On Thursday evening, Amb Juma invited all Commonwealth members and the rest of the world to the Blue Economy Conference to be held in November 26-28, 2018 in Nairobi.

Speaking to the media where the ‘Commonwealth Blue Charter’ champions were unveiled, the Foreign Affairs CS said Kenya chose to be a champion because of the unlimited opportunities available in the oceans.

“We have elected to join as champions of the Blue Charter in order that we can reverse the activities around the rising temperatures. This is important as a matter of fairness and as a matter of prosperity,” said CS Juma.

Apart from Kenya other co-champions include Belize, Sri Lanka, Vanuatu and Fiji.

Whereas oceans provide humanity’s largest source of protein and absorb around a quarter of our carbon dioxide emissions and most of the world’s extra heat; produces half of the world’s oxygen and billions of people depend on it for their livelihoods, cultures and traditions, human activities have increasingly put the health of the planet’s valuable ecosystem in peril.

“We look at the Blue Economy as an alternative to what we have been limited to the land. In fact, in many ways we have been sea blind for a very long time. Looking at the wealth in our seas and oceans, there is great potential for innovation, for growing employment, for growing productivity and value addition for our people,” remarked CS Juma.

The blue economy is one of the main areas of focus for President Kenyatta during the commonwealth meeting which comes to a close this evening.