UNCTAD Moves to Boost Sustainable Blue Economy, Names Special Adviser

Dona Bertarelli and UNCTAD Secretary-General Mukhisa Kituyi

The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) has named Dona Bertarelli, its Special Adviser for the Blue Economy.

Ms. Bertarelli will help UNCTAD promote a sustainable blue economy, particularly in developing countries, to ensure the responsible and regenerative use of the ocean, seas and coasts for economic growth, while preserving the health of the ocean ecosystem.

Interestingly, sustainable use of ocean resources can help developing countries boost employment, reduce poverty and enhance food and energy security while advancing progress towards Global Goal 14, which seeks to preserve all life below water.

Over three billion people, most of them in developing countries, rely on the ocean for survival.

To improve their lives and livelihoods, UNCTAD supports developing countries to promote a sustainable blue economy by facilitating improved trade-in ocean-based sectors and helping nations craft and implement appropriate trade-related policies.

It also promotes blue BioTrade, which entails ensuring sustainable biodiversity-based value chains, products and services in ocean-based sectors that adhere to internationally agreed on criteria of environmental, social and economic sustainability – BioTrade principles.

For years, UNCTAD has mobilised countries to end illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing and supported efforts to end capacity-enhancing fishing subsidies that contribute directly to overfishing – currently, 31% of global fish stocks are below sustainable biological levels.

UNCTAD also supports eco-tourism, which sustains the livelihoods of millions of people, especially in small island developing states, where the ocean-based tourism sector accounts for between 30% and 50% of the gross domestic product of most nations.

The organisation’s 15th UNCTAD quadrennial conference, its highest decision-making body, will be held in one such nation – Barbados – in 2021.

UNCTAD Secretary-General, Mukhisa Kituyi, says “I am pleased to welcome Ms. Bertarelli, a pioneer in marine conservation as well as science education, and long-time philanthropist, to this important role.

“She brings her business acumen, passion for education and empowerment, innovative approach to ocean management and vision on how to make the blue economy sustainable and viable for future generations.”

Adding, the UNCTAD chief says Ms. Bertarelli will be an excellent adviser to the organisation. “Together we will reach out to vulnerable communities who rely on the ocean with a message of hope, promote their socio-economic advancement and mobilise international public opinion in support of the sustainable use of oceans and coastal ecosystems”, Dr. Kituyi said.

“I’m honoured by this appointment, and the opportunity to join efforts to ensure a sustainable blue economy. 

“We depend on the ocean for everything: livelihoods, food, transport, recreation, tourism, and even the very air we breathe. But our ocean is under threat. 

‘’This affects all of us. Now is the time to do things differently to ensure a healthy ocean and a sustainable, regenerative blue economy that can benefit us all, for generations to come”, says Ms. Bertarelli.

Ms. Bertarelli is a Swiss philanthropist of Italian origin and an experienced sailor. Her love of the ocean and offshore sailing has taken her across the world’s waters, inspiring her work in conservation.

She believes strongly in the power of business to do good for society. When she served as executive director of the family pharmaceutical business, Serono, she drove the development of its philanthropy and educational programmes.

She co-created the Bertarelli Foundation in 1998, and for the last decade, has led the foundation’s work in advancing marine conservation policy and ocean protection, which can help safeguard the livelihoods of the billions of people who rely on the ocean for their food and livelihoods.

To date, it has supported the protection and environmental conservation of more than 2.7 million square kilometres of the ocean.

Ms. Bertarelli’s multi-stakeholder approach of combining science, technology and education on one hand and working with governments as well as with local communities on the other will add immense value to UNCTAD’s work on the blue economy.

She is the fastest woman to sail around the world, a philanthropist, ocean conservation advocate and entrepreneur.

Her love of the ocean and offshore sailing has taken her across the world’s waters, inspiring her work in conservation. She believes strongly in the power of business to do good for society. 

Among her other philanthropic activities, she has developed programmes to support young people on the front line of climate change in creating sustainable and social enterprises, and an educational programme for school children.


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