Breathing new life into an old model: debt-restructuring for marine protection and planning in Small Island Developing State Exclusive Economic Zones

Authors: Jennifer Silver*, The University of Guelph
Topics: Environment, Political Geography
Keywords: Blue Economy; Debt Swap; Large Marine Protected Areas; Marine Spatial Planning; Sustainable Development Goals
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/5/2019
Start / End Time: 3:05 PM / 4:45 PM
Room: Madison B, Marriott, Mezzanine Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


The Exclusive Economic Zones of Small Island Developing States are currently posited as a frontier ripe for developing and testing new or expanded governance arrangements for ocean conservation and development. This presentation examines a highly publicized arrangement, the Debt Restructuring for Marine Conservation and Climate Adaptation Program, convened by the NatureVest division of The Nature Conservancy in collaboration with the Government of the Republic of Seychelles. The arrangement purchases, restructures and relieves the Seychelles of USD$21.6 million in Paris Club debt and is said to rest in part on private ‘impact investors’. For its part, the Government of Seychelles commits to Marine Spatial Planning throughout the full extent of its EEZ, and, among various uses, to designating 15% as a ‘no-take’ Large Marine Protected Area. While posited as novel in the context of governance and sustainable development in the ocean, the arrangement is inspired by the nearly 40 year old ‘debt-for-nature’ model and is fundamentally inseparable from the political-economic history of Small Island Developing States and broader economic liberalization ongoing in the Seychelles. We argue that the arrangement enrolls the entire Seychelles’ EEZ (over 1 million km2 of ocean space) in that restructuring and that the USD$21.6 million figure reflects the structure and uneven power dynamics of multilateral negotiation rather than anything close to the value of the ecosystems/services now protected.

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