COVID-19 in the Caribbean and the Central America region: Identifying blue pathways to move forward in a COVID-19 context and beyond

21 - 22 October 2020

The Caribbean, and to a large extent Central American countries, have been one of the most exemplary regions in containing the COVID-19 from the outset (in absolute numbers and as a share of country’s total population).  Nonetheless, due to its pre-existing conditions —including their blue economies,  these economies have been hard hit by the pandemic, notably in terms of employment, consumption and poverty.

The two subregions are characterised by many islands, including Small Island Developing States (SIDS), whose geography dictates that their populations are mostly costal and that they are particularly vulnerable to exogenous shocks, including hurricanes and the challenges of climate change.  The subregions, albeit with differences across countries, have learned to get back to business relatively promptly after natural disasters and other external shocks.  These are, however, small developing economies  with low levels of export diversification (in terms of goods/services and markets) and where connectivity and input costs hinder development. They face high levels of external debt, many are highly dependent on remittances, and their employment structure is dominated by small-medium enterprises (SMEs) and the informal sector. Also, among other challenges, the level of poverty in several economies has increased over the past decade.

The COVID-19 pandemic has accentuated the challenges confronted by the region and has called for new initiatives to tackle long-standing issues. Harnessing the blue economy could afford some relief to these States, including in a COVID-19 context, and especially beyond for recovery and building resilience and sustainability.

In response to these changing realities, UNCTAD and UN/DOALOS organised online consultations in April and May of 2020 with the national Focal Points of the Oceans Economy Trade Strategy (OETS) Project (Barbados, Belize and Costa Rica).  The objective of the consultations was to take stock of the impacts of COVID-19 on Project activities and outputs, and to