Ocean Grabbing must be on Colombo’s IORA agenda: Blue Economy Extraction
Posted on October 7th, 2023

Press conference Indonesia Focal Point for Corporate Accountability

As the Indonesian Civil Society Coalition Criticizes UN Ocean Conference 2022, the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA), meeting in Colombo October 12-14 must take note of the need to protect Indian Ocean Fisheries from Distant Water States plundering Indian Ocean resources and ban trawlers from non-Indian Ocean littoral States– to alleviate poverty and enable conservation, as well as, recovery of fish stock.

The Indonesia Focal Point for Corporate Accountability (IFP Coalition) reminds us that the Global Blue Economy Governance agenda, discussed at the UN Global Oceans Conference, encourages ocean grabbing and threatens the sustainability of the people’s lives, especially coastal communities and indigenous peoples.

The discussions of world ocean governance are dominated by the intervention of the multinational corporations’ interest to monopolise in the context of extracting marine resources as widely as possible. The commercialisation by transnational corporations also indicates that the state does not have a role in monitoring and taking action against this agenda. The IFP Coalition urges all state parties in the international field to immediately push for corporate liability on the commercialisation of the global blue economy agenda.

The UN Global Ocean Conference meeting from 27 June to 1 July 2022 in Lisbon, Portugal, carried the theme Scaling up ocean action based on science and innovation for implementing Goal 14”. However, can we expect the UN Oceanic Conference to address the issue equitably?

Progress From the Global Ocean Conference

Carsten Pedersen, Researcher at the Transnational Institute, explained that the political wheelhouse of the global marine economy is currently strongly controlled by 100 transnational companies (TNCs), which account for 60% of the accumulated capital in the ocean economy, of which 86% comes from offshore oil and gas companies and the shipping industry. Read more about this here. 

The strong co-optation of multinational corporations in decision-making within the UN system has exacerbated the practice of ocean grabbing. They talked a lot about investing and financing in the blue economy. In one side event on the 30 by 30 agenda [Marine Protected Areas] donors, including philanthropic foundations and the Blue Action Fund [money from the French, German and Swedish governments] mobilised 1 billion US Dollars for advancing the conservation agenda. But this money will not go to the government  nor to fisher organisations. A significant part of it, if not most, will go to the big international conservation organisations [e.g. WFF, Conservation International and The Nature Conservancy] and in some cases their budget to operate exceeds those of Ministries of Fisheries. Recent history has shown that the conservation agenda leads to expropriation of people dependent on the territories and resources for their livelihoods and in many cases led to violence with the worst examples including killing of fishers by park rangers. What we witness in Lisbon is a fanfare of philanthropic foundations, corporations, governments and international conservation organisations walking down a path of Blue-Washing” said Pedersen conveying the report from Lisbon.

The discussion process that took place in Lisbon was very disappointing. Jesu Rathinam, from the National Fishworkers Forum, India, explained that the discussion on marine governance in this forum has shifted from the issue of protecting traditional fishers and coastal communities to extracting the blue economy.

The issue of investment and financing of the blue economy dominates in order to pump up profits. Most of the companies from wind energy, solar energy, and even offshore oil and gas companies. In fact, the Declaration of Marine Protected Areas ignores where these companies can carry out oil and gas exploration activities in marine protected areas. Meanwhile, in marine protected areas, fisherfolks are not allowed to catch fish there,” said Rathinam.

Indonesia’s Blue Economy Strategy Doesn’t Side with Coastal Communities.

Parid Ridwanudin, National Executive Manager for Coastal and Marine Campaigns at WALHI, emphasised that marine governance in Indonesia is also structured to serve the interests of large-scale corporations. The agenda for Indonesia’s blue economy strategy presented by the Government of Indonesia at the UN Global Ocean Conference forum is far from protecting coastal communities. One of them is a policy under the blue economy umbrella that is very profitable for corporations, namely scalable fishing. This policy is a derivative of the Job Creation Law which will provide a red carpet for large-scale corporations to exploit marine and fishery resources.

In fact, when referring to the status of fish resource utilisation, the status is red and yellow. This means that Indonesia’s fish resources are fully exploited and over exploited. Policies pushed by the government should restore, not encourage exploitation. In this forum, the Indonesian government should evaluate Indonesia’s marine governance, which has prioritized corporate interests, but at the same time does not improve the welfare of coastal communities,” added Ridwanudin.

Assessing this area will be easily converted for the benefit of extractive projects such as mining and also converted for neo-extractive areas such as large-scale tourism projects. This has been clearly stated in Law no. 11 of 2020 concerning Job Creation, Presidential Regulation no. 109 of 2020 concerning the Third Amendment to Presidential Regulation Number 3 of 2016 concerning the Acceleration of the Implementation of National Strategic Projects, and Government Regulation No. 27 of 2021 concerning the Implementation of the Marine and Fisheries Sector.

This is a form of planned ocean grabbing carried out by the government. Ocean grabbing is the deprivation of control and access to marine and fishery resources which are the community’s rights, carried out through inappropriate governance processes and destroying the socio-ecological welfare of the community.

Susan Herawati, Secretary-General of KIARA, explained that the UN Global Ocean Conference meeting is one of the various meetings to invite developed countries to invest in Indonesia, especially in coastal, marine and small islands based on corporate interest.”

This can be seen from the regulations drawn up, such as the Regional Regulation (Perda) on the Zoning Plan for Coastal Areas and Small Islands (RZWP-3-K), which is a legal affirmative for the control of coastal, marine and small islands space for the benefit of capital and forms. Legal marginalisation of local communities through regulations. This is in line with the commitment of the Government of Indonesia to encourage Marine Protected Areas as well as the development of conservation areas, coastal and marine rehabilitation, development of SKPT on seven islands and reduction of waste. These five (5) commitments can be used as a cover for the expulsion of coastal and island communities from living spaces that have been managed for generations,” explained Herawati.

Rahmat Maulana Sidik, Executive Director of Indonesia for Global Justice (IGJ), said that what was discussed at the UN Global Ocean Conference meeting further strengthened corporate control on global and national marine resource control, and this was in line with the WTO’s failure to produce a decision on the elimination of fisheries subsidies, especially those given by advanced industrial countries, at the 13th WTO Ministerial Conference meeting in Geneva on 13-17 June.

This means that these two international meetings have legitimised marine ownership from public ownership to closed ownership. In fact, the main actors whose rights and sovereignty must be protected are small fishermen and traditional fishermen,” said Maulana.

For information, the Indonesia Focal Point Coalition for Binding Treaty and Corporate Accountability was formed in 2015 to implement the mandate of UNHRC Resolution 26/9 regarding the negotiation of binding international instruments to regulate transnational companies. This instrument is important to urge the mechanism for corporate legal accountability that commits various human rights violations and environmental damage, as well as to urge the responsibility of the State, both the host country and home country, which has given legitimacy to the business crimes of multinational corporations.

Members of the IFP (Indonesia Focal Point for Corporate Accountability) Coalition:
WALHI, IGJ, KRuHA, IHCS, KIARA, FIAN Indonesia, Solidaritas Perempuan, KontraS, ELSAM, Lokataru, IILH-apintlaw

For more information contact:
Parid Ridwanuddin, WALHI Coastal and Marine Campaign Manager, at parid.ridwanuddin@walhi.or.id

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