Blue Economy and Competing Discourses in International Oceans Governance



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Journal of Environment and Development


In this article, we track a relatively new term in global environmental governance: “blue economy.” Analyzing preparatory documentation and data collected at the 2012 UN Conference on Sustainable Development (i.e., Rioþ20), we show how the term entered into use and how it was articulated within four competing discourses regarding human–ocean relations: (a) oceans as natural capital, (b) oceans as good business, (c) oceans as integral to Pacific Small Island Developing States, and (d) oceans as small-scale fisheries livelihoods. Blue economy was consistently invoked to connect oceans with Rioþ20’s “green economy” theme; however, different actors worked to further define the term in ways that prioritized particular oceans problems, solutions, and participants. It is not clear whether blue economy will eventually be understood singularly or as the domain of a particular actor or discourse. We explore possibilities as well as discuss discourse in global environmental governance as powerful and precarious.



Rio, marine, blue economy