The Challenge

Islands need economic growth and the oceans need islands as marine stewards

Small island developing states (SIDS) are home to less than 1% of the world’s population but control 30% of the world’s Exclusive Economic Zones — coastal waters and seabeds to which countries claim exclusive rights. Many of these states struggle with poverty and child mortality, while persistent threats from sea level rise, hurricanes and typhoons are only getting worse due to climate change. These island nations’ remoteness disconnects them from global trade, increasing cost of imports and decreasing access to global markets. Many rely on international aid and development assistance so their communities can survive. And yet there is vast, unrealized natural resource wealth and opportunity for economic development in the oceans they control. The oceans are the answer. Our goal is to promote growth and prosperity while empowering sustainable management of marine resources and ecosystems.

What we are doing

International development experts and NGOs have been flying into SIDS for decades with briefcases of strategies and plans. Our effort is different. We intend to provide resources and tools to each state so they can develop their own strategies and plans. We recognize that the tools and expertise needed span business, ecology, fisheries, ecosystem assessments, legal structures and public policy frameworks.

Each year, UCLA will assemble teams of graduate students and faculty mentors from the Anderson School of Management, UCLA School of Law, Luskin School of Public Affairs, and IoES to work together developing tools, guidance and resources. Through research and engagement with the SIDS community, we hope to island-test these tools and resources. Sharp focus will be placed on not damaging or depleting environmental assets in exchange for short term gains, as well as on maintaining resistance to natural disasters. The first tools will be available for public use in the summer of 2019, with the final package coming in 2021.

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Who we are

Our project’s name comes from our benefactor, Ted Waitt, who made a commitment at the 2016 Our Ocean Conference to nurture “Blue Prosperity” in the global community. The central idea of the term is that through sustainable use of ocean and coastal resources, islands can achieve greater economic stability and financial independence.

Instead of international aid or development assistance, Blue Prosperity has at its core the following agreement: The Waitt Foundation will provide SIDS with technical assistance and tools to help communities and governments within each nation to make their own future and prosperity — in exchange for government commitments to specific marine protection and conservation objectives. The role of UCLA Institute of the Environment and Sustainability (IoES) is to lead development of a toolkit to promote Blue Prosperity for SIDS. This toolkit’s development will be iterative, as much a product of the experience and insights of SIDS leaders and citizens as it is a product of UCLA student teams.

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This project is generously funded by the Waitt Foundation with technical guidance from the Waitt Institute.