Credits Photo by Matt Paul Catalano on Unsplash
Published on March 13, 2024

Reversing the Tide to Foster a Sustainable Blue Economy

The ocean and seas together generate a GDP equivalent to the world’s seventh-largest economy. These blue ecosystems are not only at the center of the livelihoods of more than 3 billion people, but also sustain millions of jobs, host 80% of the world’s biodiversity, slow climate change by absorbing around 25% of C02 emissions and 90% of the excess heat trapped by greenhouse gases, and allow the transport and exchange of 80% of internationally traded goods.

We take the ocean for granted, but worse, have misused it to the point of now living in an ocean emergency, as stated by United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres at United Nations Ocean Conference, June 2022.

“The need for action to foster a sustainable Blue Economy is immediate in order to preserve marine ecosystems, ensure food security, maintain quality livelihoods, and promote economic stability to people and countries that rely on ocean resources and industries.” - António Guterres, UN Secretary-General

The United Nations Joint SDG Fund is committed to conserving the blue ecosystem integrity by protecting marine resources and coral reefs, supporting the development of innovative financial and policy solutions that are adapted to the needs of island nations and coastal communities, and preserving marine resources and coral reefs while offering income opportunities to coastal populations. The programmes financed by the UN Joint SDG Fund support scalable blue economy businesses, through equity and debt finance, while creating an adequate environment for investments toward SDG 14, life below water.

In Cape Verde, the United Nations and Stock Exchange created a sustainable finance platform, “Blue-X”, a platform to support sustainable projects that can be financed by  universal  investors. Recently, the platform listed its first blue bond, raising US$ 3.5M that will supply affordable loans to micro-entrepreneurs and startups in coastal communities, while also investing in small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) operating in the maritime and fisheries sectors. As a small island development state (SID) highly dependent on the ocean environment, the blue bond issuance will directly improve the livelihoods of the local communities.   

In Papua New Guinea, a Blue Investment Strategy will integrate blue economy principles into ocean management and help establish a conducive business environment. The policy work is matched by the Blue Economy Enterprise Incubation Facility, which will be embedded in the National Biodiversity and Climate Fund to stimulate the growth of viable blue economy business models. The facility provides technical assistance and early- stage finance to unearth, incubate and grow sustainable blue enterprises from cradle to exit with a focus on small and medium enterprises and women. Access to credit lines that are de-risked with guarantees will be offered by domestic financial players to ocean businesses.  

In Fiji, US$ 10 million of public finance provided by the UN Joint SDG Fund and the Global Fund for Coral Reefs leveraged a US$ 50 million investment promoting financial sustainability of coral reef conservation and accelerating reef-positive livelihoods. The programme includes commercial investments in locally managed Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) featuring revenues from eco-tourism, sustainable fisheries, and blue carbon credits as well as the set-up of Fiji’s second sanitary landfill. By 2030, the combined impact will result in at least 30 effectively managed marine protected areas, improved food security and income for over 6,000 fishers, and US$ 1 billion tourism revenue loss avoided annually.  

Protecting coastal ecosystems and sustainably using marine resources not only allows us to save the planet, but also to build more resilient economies and create jobs.

It is time to move the needle. We must urgently scale financing to protect the world’s largest ecosystem.


The Joint SDG Fund's joint programmes are under the prestige leadership of the Resident Coordinator Office and implementing United Nations Agencies. With sincere appreciation for the contributions from the European Union and Governments of Denmark, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Monaco, The Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Republic of Korea, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and our private sector funding partners, for a transformative movement towards achieving the SDGs by 2030.