Virtual Oceans Dialogue of the World Economic Forum

Include the ocean economy in the response to COVID-19

More international cooperation is needed to help the seafaring sector, said ILO Director-General, Guy Ryder, at the Virtual Oceans Dialogue of the World Economic Forum.

Statement | 08 June 2020
Thank you for including me in this conversation. It's great that you started us off with a feeling of optimism, and encouraging us to look at the opportunities ahead of us for the promotion of a sustainable ocean economy. And that's exactly what we should be doing.

But we also have to be realistic about the circumstances in which we find ourselves today. This pandemic and its consequences have badly hit the ocean economy. In a world that's lost 305 million jobs in the second quarter of this year, we know the Ocean Economy is disproportionately affected, be it in tourism, be it in commercial shipping, be it in fishing.

Regarding the prospects for recovery you've mentioned, the World Trade Organization is telling us that the loss of trade in the most pessimistic scenario they're putting up could be the equivalent of what happened in the first three years of the 1930s. So there is a high degree of uncertainty about growing back.

At the same time there's a discussion going on about the reengineering of global supply chains. Of course it's about increasing the resilience of existing global supply chains. But there is a debate coming about how these global supply chains may be reengineered, not always for evident economic reasons.

In the meantime, and let me speak to the labour situation particularly in the seafaring sector, two million seafarers as you know are badly affected around the world by what's happening. Between 150,000 and 200,000 of those seafarers are now stuck on board simply because crew changes cannot take place, because repatriation can't take place. Many of these people have been in really dramatic circumstances for some four months, and we've joined with Kitack Lim and our colleagues in the IMO and with others in the international community calling for these people to be designated as key personnel, key workers, and treated accordingly.

But looking forward beyond this really distressing situation, you've asked what we should be looking at. Well the first thing is that in the COVID-19 response packages which are now being put in place around the world, and I think the aggregate figure is at some 9 trillion US dollars that have been invested in dealing with the COVID-19 consequences, two things are missing.

One thing missing is a degree of international cooperation. Countries are understandably investing resources in their own economies, in their own workers, in their own enterprises. We've seen a conspicuous lack of international cooperation and coordination of these efforts - and if there's one place this is absolutely needed, it's by definition in the international Ocean Economy.

Secondly it seems to me that COVID-19 responses ought to integrate all of the objectives the International Community has set itself, including in respect of the oceans, through the 2030 UN Sustainable Development Agenda in which the ocean economy figures very prominently. I'm not sure that that's happening. But we have a compass, a guiding star for building back better in the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda. We need to take that very seriously.

I have much more to say, but why don't I pause here and listen to the rest of the conversation, and hopefully contribute later on.
Thank you.