Blue Guardians: A New Clinton Global Initiative Partnership

Two and a half years ago, the Waitt Institute launched the Blue Halo Initiative, through which we partner with governments and communities as they envision, design, and implement sustainable ocean management for their waters. In the time since, we supported the Caribbean island of Barbuda in passing meaningful legislation that zones the island’s entire coastal waters and protects 33 percent of them in marine reserves. This year we began working with the islands of Montserrat and Curaçao.

Starting today, we hope to be able to devote even more resources toward sound ocean management with the launch of “Blue Guardians,” a partnership with DigitalGlobe, SIDS DOCK, Clinton Climate Initiative, the World Bank, The Nature Conservancy, and others. Broadly, this program, announced yesterday at the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) annual meeting in New York City, will “protect oceans and enable blue economies.” (See press release.)

Blue Guardians partners
Photo courtesy of Clinton Global Initiative.

Why is this needed? As described on the CGI website, “The lack of affordable, high-quality geospatial and climate data needed by SIDS to plan, finance, and manage urgently needed mitigation and adaptation programs continues to make them highly vulnerable to the devastating economic, social, and environmental impacts of climate change. However, if properly managed, these ocean and coastal areas also present the greatest opportunity for island nations to capture sustainable economic benefits while increasing their resilience to climate change.”

Through our participation we hope to further support the creation of comprehensive ocean plans based on science and grounded in community priorities. In particular, this partnership enables us to expand our support for Small Island Developing States (SIDS) that wish to develop national climate resilience strategies and attract sustainable investment into coastal communities and marine and fisheries conservation.

Blue Guardians aims to raise a $100 million multi-donor trust fund to be managed by the World Bank and an Executive Steering Committee comprising SIDS DOCK member states. Also per the program description, “The goal of the trust fund is to create a management and policy foundation for SIDS to establish their own development priorities while having the necessary tools to make informed decisions regarding their blue resources as an engine of inclusive growth.”

Already, the partnership has resulted in DigitalGlobe, a Blue Guardians founding member, providing the Waitt Institute with high-resolution satellite imagery for Montserrat and Curaçao. This will aid us in our initial goal to map the coastal habitats of these islands so that their Governments can clearly understand the extend of their coral reef, seagrass, and other ecosystems, and devise plans to better manage them. Ultimately, this plus many other factors will inform national climate resilience strategies and a pipeline of sustainable investment projects to be developed by each SIDS government with support from the Blue Guardians.

We sincerely thank our partners for initiating and leading this effort. It’s an honor for the Waitt Institute to be amongst this impressive group of collaborators. Holistic, locally-appropriate efforts like this are critical to protecting, restoring, and managing the ocean at a large scale, in the context of climate change, and with the health of local economies at the forefront.

To learn more about the work of the Waitt Institute and the Blue Halo Initiative, find @WaittInstitute on FacebookTwitter, Instagram, YouTube, and Tumblr.

Human Journey


Meet the Author
Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson is a marine biologist, policy expert, conservation strategist, and Brooklyn native. She is founder and president of Ocean Collectiv, a consulting firm for ocean conservation strategies grounded in social justice. She teaches at New York University as an adjunct professor, and was co-director of partnerships for the March for Science. As executive director of the Waitt Institute, Ayana co-founded the Blue Halo Initiative and led the Caribbean’s first successful island-wide ocean zoning effort. Previously, she worked on ocean policy at the EPA and NOAA, and was recently a TED resident and Aspen Institute fellow. She envisions and works toward a healthy ocean that supports food security, economies, and cultures. Find her @ayanaeliza.