Blue Communities is a 4 year research capacity-building programme for marine planning in East and South-East (E/SE) Asia, funded by Research Councils UK’s £225 million Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF). The programme has 12 interconnected research projects, which will be actively integrated to support marine planning, and 10 cross-cutting capacity building activities.
Millions of people across the globe rely on marine and coastal ecosystems for their livelihoods: food, employment and their general well-being. However, the marine environment is under immense pressure from the multiple, and often conflicting, needs of the people that use it. In E/SE Asia, where marine activities are important contributors to Gross Domestic Product (GDP), marine spatial planning involving coordinated decision-making has been highlighted as a key requirement for a sustainable future.
Through academic-stakeholder collaborations, community co-creation and co-delivery, Blue Communities will support the development, implementation and ongoing management of initiatives that promote the sustainable use of marine resources by multiple users, whilst protecting the fragile marine ecosystems and supporting the livelihoods food security, health and well-being of the people in these coastal communities.
The vision of the Blue Communities Programme is to develop interdisciplinary research capability and lasting collaborations that:
- Facilitate innovative application of integrated planning in the marine environment within the UNESCO Man and the Biosphere Programme, and other marine parks and their communities, in East and Southeast Asia.
- Respond to the UN Sustainable Development Goals of no poverty, zero hunger and good health and wellbeing for coastal communities through the sustainable use of marine resources.
The overarching challenges that the project will address are:
- Promotion of sustainable harvesting
- Preparation for climate change
- Promotion of good health
- Identification of opportunities for growth
- Co-development and implementation of marine planning and management schemes
The Blue Communities team will focus their work on case study sites in ‘UNESCO Man and the Biosphere Reserves’, located in Indonesia, Vietnam and the Philippines, and the Tun Sakaran Marine Park in Malaysia. These ‘Science for Sustainability’ support sites provide an established, collaborative infrastructure in which initiatives can be developed and tested with the local stakeholders, with an aim to then promote successful approaches with other coastal communities in the wider UNESCO Biosphere Reserve network and elsewhere.
One of the most important aspects of this Blue Communities programme is effective and culturally-sensitive relationship building with the wide-ranging stakeholders. Strong links will be forged between the Blue Communities team, case study site and the UK’s North Devon UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, to engender trust between all parties and to underpin up-take and continuation of the marine management strategies that are co-developed.