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Internal compass for the implementation of SDG 14: Putting local people and communities at the centre

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man repairing a fishnetIn Malaysia, the Small Grants Programme supported an initiative to address accidental capture of sea turtles in commercial and artisanal fisheries. Photo: SGP Malaysia

In the run up to the Ocean Conference in June, this blog series explores issues related to oceans, seas, marine resources and the implementation of Sustainable Development Goal 14, Life below water.

On 25 September 2015, world leaders adopted the comprehensive and ambitious Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Since then, life has continued and gone on in thousands of communities around the world, for whom the SDGs are probably of little significance. Indeed, political declarations or statements, if left with no implementation on the ground, are barely anything more than good wills. If, on the other hand, SDGs are people-centred, the focus should be on local people, communities and the ecosystems they rely on for their survival and prosperity. This, in my view, is the internal compass for the implementation of the SDGs.

Now that the upcoming Ocean Conference confronts the world to implement SDG 14:Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development”, there is a need to strengthen its implementation at the local level. Guided by this internal compass, the Global Environment Facility Small Grants Programme (SGP) implemented by UNDP has provided financial resources and technical guidance to communities and civil society organizations for the environment and sustainable development.

SGP actions are community-based initiatives that attempt to simultaneously address poverty reduction, environment and community empowerment. In Malaysia, SGP supported an initiative to address accidental capture of sea turtles in commercial and artisanal fisheries. As nets roll along the seabed, they indiscriminately catch and drown numerous sea turtles. SGP supported the Marine Research Foundation to develop and implement a long-term national bycatch reduction programme in partnership with the Department of Fisheries of Malaysia.

This was achieved through the use of Turtle Excluder Devices (TEDs). The project worked directly with fishing communities in six key states in the country (Kelantan, Terengganu, Pahang, Johor, Sarawak and Sabah) and with the Department of Fisheries in Malaysia to introduce TEDs in coastal communities using demonstration trials, practical TED construction workshops, knowledge exchange sessions, and at-sea comparison trials, data gathering and sharing.

This project has had a profound impact on fisheries and bycatch reduction policy in Malaysia, and has led to the development of a GEF medium-sized project. Thanks to the project, which opened up a dialogue between the Governments of Malaysia and the Unites States, Malaysia intends to seek a Section 609 certification from the US State Department that would allow the export of shrimp fishery products to US markets.

Given the transboundary nature of ocean and coastal management, effective implementation of SDG 14 will require actions at the global, regional, national and local level, and ensure these actions are well aligned and coordinated to ultimately benefit local people, communities and the oceans.

Local actions, while direct and effective, may be constrained by their scale, scope and coverage, hence generating limited impact. Recognizing the importance of scaling up local actions, SGP has partnered with UNDP, UNEP and the World Bank in the Caribbean large marine ecosystem, the South China Sea and Gulf of Thailand, the Nile River and other international waterbodies to ensure local experiences and lessons learnt are taken into consideration at the regional level.

Only through effective inclusive partnerships that build upon a shared vision placing people, communities and planet at the centre do have we a chance to achieve the SDGs. Guided by this internal compass, GEF SGP will continue its efforts to protect the oceans and serve local people and communities.

Oceans blog series Oceans Blog post Sulan Chen Malaysia Asia & the Pacific Sustainable development