Latest News and Upcoming Events

The Blue Economy in the New Normal

Capacity Development beyond COVID-19

Challenges and Opportunities

Webinar – 27th November 2020 – 10.00 CET


The COVID-19 pandemic is unprecedented in our lifetime and estimates show that it may generate a decline of world trade by a third this year alone, with Blue Economy sectors such as maritime transport, fisheries, and tourism being severely disrupted by the pandemic.


At the same time, the UN/DESA Policy Brief #811 illustrates how COVID-19 threatens to reverse progress on the global achievement of all 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and will have “in some cases, turned back years of progress”. The impacts of the pandemic have spared no segment of the population, no economic sector, and no part of the world, with a disproportional impact on the poor and the vulnerable.


The likelihood of this situation to extend beyond 2021 looks very possible at the time of writing. Current forecasts of vulnerability to more socio-economic shocks, lack of progress in the SDGs, and in implementing the Paris Agreement, and the already significant gaps in implementation of the provisions of UNCLOS on capacity development and transfer of marine technology, hinder the sustainable harnessing of Blue Economy resources at a pivotal moment in time when such resources may deliver a much needed impetus towards a quick post-COVID-19 recovery.


Capacity building in ocean governance plays a critical role in the reversal and mitigation of the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. It can enhance progress in achieving the SDGs and ultimately in ensuring safe and healthy oceans. The aim of such capacity development should be to increase scientific knowledge, promote sustainable practices and encourage planning and decision-making aimed at achieving equitable ocean governance practices, to govern and sustain a Blue Economy that benefits the generations of today and tomorrow, across the world.


Placing people at the centre of the international response to achieve equitable and resilient outcomes for all, identifying future skills and capacity needs - including in ocean governance - will be essential in order to harness the Blue Economy to its full potential. The SDGs, the Paris Climate Agreement, the issue of marine technology transfer and capacity building within the new international legally binding agreement on biodiversity beyond national jurisdictions (BBNJ) are all critical components of any post-COVID transformative recovery.


During this online conference, invited speakers will share knowledge and experiences gained in areas of the Blue Economy, ocean governance, climate and oceans, and human health, from the perspective of capacity development. Together the speakers will provide an outlook on the challenges brought by the COVID-19 pandemic and explore opportunities to mitigate its effects by focusing on the human factor and identifying actions to empower collaboration and capacity building in response to the challenges in the times of COVID-19 and beyond.

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The 15th Annual Session of Global Forum on Human Settlements & Sustainable Cities And Human Settlements Awards Ceremony (GFHS 2020)

Online Event, 15th – 16th October


The 15th Annual Session of Global Forum on Human Settlements (GFHS 2020) was organized in a virtual format, with the theme being “Post-Pandemic Recovery and Transformation: Resilient Cities, Healthy Planet”. 


The IOI partnered with UNCTAD, WOC and UNEP-FI in order to develop and emphasise the linkages between the theme of the forum, the Blue Economy and Ocean Health. To this end, a thematic forum was held during the event, with the speakers highlighting actions towards achieving and sustaining a healthy ocean, strengthening urban safety and resilience, and fostering partnerships towards attaining the SDGs. The Forum was moderated by Antonella Vassallo (Managing Director, IOI), and featured the input of expert speakers and commentators.


The thematic forum was opened by Awni Behnam (Honorary President, IOI) who addressed the need to make future coastal cities and megacities human-centered in a post COVID-19 era, and to empower human resources so that we may live from the ocean and with the ocean sustainably. Future coastal cities should be resilient yet adaptable, and where sustainable governance is in the hands of all stakeholders sharing mutual aspirations.


Alicia Said (Director for Fisheries, within the Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture at the Ministry for Fisheries, Agriculture and Animal Rights, Malta) addressed the issue of small-scale fisheries through the prism of sustainability, and highlighted the need for an integrated approach in the implementation of the SDGs and the SSF Guidelines. Although often considered as a fisheries problem, the sustainability of small-scale fisheries is much more than that, and is interconnected to various systems including the community, the markets, the political economy, and other structures which, although not always visible, have a determinant role in the viability equation of small-scale fisheries.


Since coastal and maritime tourism is the largest of all blue economy sectors and at the same time one of the most affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, David Vivas Eugui (Legal Officer at Officer of the Director, Division on International Trade and Commodities, UNCTAD) proposed a mix of government and private sector measures that would be needed in order to avoid further coastal tourism sector deterioration as well as to provide income support for vulnerable populations until the demand incrementally returns. The presentation was co-created with Claudia Contreras (Economic Affairs Officer at the Trade, Environment and Sustainable Development Branch of UNCTAD).


Paul Holthus (Founder, World Ocean Council – the Global Blue Economy Business and Investment Organization) delivered a video presentation through which he highlighted that global cross-sectoral leadership, collaboration and action by the Blue Economy business and investment communities are essential for sustainable, resilient coastal cities and a healthy ocean. Additionally, he proposed that attainable innovative initiatives such as accelerators, incubators, challenge competitions, and startup hubs could be created to focus on the needs and opportunities for sustainable development in coastal cities to harness and focus the power of entrepreneurship in tackling the issues.


International funding initiatives have a major role to play in financing the transition to a sustainable blue economy, and these were explored by Dennis Fritsch (Member of the Secretariat and Coordinator, UNEP FI Sustainable Blue Economy Finance Initiative) in his presentation. He suggested that banks, insurers and investors are ideally positioned to direct the flow of capital towards activities which directly contribute to SDG 14 (Life below water), via an expert community of practice alongside the development of guidance and tools. Institutions can help to rebuild ocean prosperity, restore biodiversity and regenerate ocean health.


Mao Bin (former Secretary General, Research Fellow, China Ocean Mineral Resources R&D Association), Cherdsak Virapat (Director General, Centre on Integrated Rural Development for Asia and the Pacific) and Sunil Murlidhar Shastri (Director, Ocean Governance Limited, United Kingdom) were invited to provide their commentary on the panel presentations. The commentaries referred to the need for resilient cities and inclusive cities, and sustainable development and blue economy, more than ever before. In a post-pandemic world, innovation, business and investments should not repeat the mistakes of the past but adapt their policies to carefully incorporate concepts of sustainable development and protection of ocean health into all future loans and investments, with commitment, responsibility, accountability and integrity; focusing on conservation of common resources, reducing global warming and maintaining ocean health to ensure our future survival. All agreed that developing capacity in ocean governance and empowering global ocean managers was critical to achieving ocean sustainability and ocean health, thus creating a sustainable, equitable, and resilient Blue Economy that prioritised living from the ocean and with the ocean in a sustainable relationship. 

15th Annual Session Global Forum on Human Settlements


The IOI is a collaborating partner with the Global Forum on Human Settlements in the organisation of the online 15th Annual Session Global Forum on Human Settlements, this 15th – 16th October. The 15th GFHS will address the theme of Post-Pandemic Recovery and Transformation: Resilient Cities, Healthy Planet.


Within the Forum, the IOI, through HQ, is responsible for coordinating and moderating Thematic Forum 1b “Blue Economy and a Healthy Ocean” on the 15th October. Partners and speakers in this session hail from the IOI, the World Ocean Council (WOC), UNCTAD, UNEP FI Sustainable Blue Economy Finance Initiative, and the Ministry for Fisheries, Agriculture and Animal Rights, Malta.


You are cordially invited to register to the GFHS online Forum and to also join IOI and the distinguished speakers of Forum 1b “Blue Economy and a Healthy Ocean” on the 15th from 13.30hr to 15hrs (CET).


Register to the event:


For more information:

GFHS Forum


New President of IOI Governing Board and Composition of IOI Governing Board in 2020 

Dr Mahin Faghfouri is the new President of the IOI Governing Board, chosen by the Board members in unanimity during their meeting in December 2019. She succeeds Nikolaus Gelpke, who is now the IOI’s Patron, following his previous role as President. The IOI family acknowledges with gratitude his support of the IOI throughout his tenure. The position of Vice President vacated by Dr Faghfouri is now occupied by Dr Chua Thia-Eng. The IOI continues to benefit immensely from the combined expertise and guidance of its members:


         Dr Awni BEHNAM, Honorary President

         Mr Nikolaus GELPKE, Patron of IOI

         Dr Mahin FAGHFOURI, President

         Dr Chua THIA-ENG, Vice-President

         Dr Lamiaa MOHAMEDEIN, Chair of IOI Directors

         Mr Peter W. LEDER, Treasurer

         Professor Simone BORG, Representative of the Government of Malta to the IOI Governing Board

         Dr Lawrence HILDEBRAND, Member 

         Ms Anita COADY, Member 

         Professor Louis F CASSAR, Member

         Dr Wendy WATSON-WRIGHT, Member 

         Dr Shi SUIXIANG, Member


IOI panel on Human Health and the Health of the Ocean organised during the 2nd Xiong'an International Health Forum in Langfang, PR China (17th - 18th October 2019)

The 2nd Xiong’an International Health Forum (XIHF), co-founded by the Shenzhen World Health Foundation, aimed to provide a platform for government officials, business managers, researchers and practitioners where ideas and good practices could be exchanged in order to predict development trends, discuss policy recommendations, build cross-sector bridges and promote the comprehensive implementation of the UN Sustainable Development Agenda, with a special focus on human health issues.


During the forum the IOI was invited to organise a panel on “Human Health and the Health of the Ocean: Linking SDG3 and SDG14 for Human Health & Wellbeing”. The panel was moderated by Antonella Vassallo and contained interventions from Chad Blackman (Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Barbados to the UN and other international organisations in Geneva); Poh Poh Wong (Visiting Associate Professor, School of Social Science, University of Adelaide, Australia); Mao Bin (Course Director, IOI China Training Programme); Hajo Zeeb (Professor of Epidemiology, Leibniz-Institute for Prevention Research and Epidemiology-BIPS, Bremen, Germany); Lu Haifeng (Secretary General, Global Forum on Human Settlements); Cherdsak Virapat (Executive Director, International Institute for Trade and Development, Thailand) and Peter Leder (Member, IOI Governing Board).


The speakers made their presentations with the intent of developing and emphasising the linkages between SDG3, SDG14 and also SDG13 under the broad thematic of human health as it relates to ocean and climate issues, Small Island Developing States, the interdependence of cities and oceans, ocean governance, capacity development and education, institutional arrangements and ocean policy, aquaculture and food security and socio-cultural issues.


Lifetime Achievement Award presented to Awni Behnam (photos available in the GALLERY section)

During the opening ceremony of the Forum, Awni Behnam (Honorary President, IOI) received the XIHF Lifetime Achievement Award, in recognition of his contribution to promoting the sustainable use of the ocean and also for his role in raising awareness on the importance of using its resources rationally and sustainably. The award was collected on his behalf by Antonella Vassallo.

The World Maritime University and the IOI partner on ocean sustainability and capacity development

The President of WMU, Dr Cleopatra Doumbia-Henry, and the President of the International Ocean Institute, Mr Nikolaus Gelpke, signed a five-year Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in January 2019. The MoU builds on the shared commitment of the IOI and WMU in supporting the implementation of UN Sustainable Development Goal 14 focused on sustainable oceans as well as the vital role of education and capacity building in support of the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.


The MoU fosters the development of collaborative and reciprocal activities in the fields of ocean sustainability, ocean governance, the implementation of the sustainable development goal for the oceans, and the science-law-policy interface. Collaboration in research, training opportunities and capacity-building initiatives and in the delivery of conferences, seminars, workshops and joint publications on matters of common interest will contribute to the achievement of these objectives.


In this era of globalization and sectoral integration, capacity building in ocean governance plays a pivotal role in ensuring safe and healthy oceans for the benefit of humankind and the planet. Additionally, obligations towards achieving the SDGs, notably SDG14 and its targets, and other intersecting SDGs, place a burden of responsibility on States and institutions which may benefit from targeted capacity development and training opportunities for their staff.


IOI SA cares about empowering all sectors of the population with knowledge about the marine environment including the young ocean ambassadors. They have developed a (digital) booklet of games that are available as PDFs on the IOI SA Kids website.