OACM on Partnerships with the UN and the World Bank
Mr. Kristijan Curavić, OACM's President and Dr.Taleb Rifai, OACM Board Member and the former Secretary-General of the United Nations' World Tourism Organisation, gave an interview disclosing the plans of Ban Ki-Moon, the former Secretary-General of the UN and Irina Bokova, the former Director-General of UNESCO, to join the OACM.
Other topics included in the interview pertain to partnering up with the UN in light of UN's Sustainable Development Agenda 2030 and the intention to build an alliance with the World Bank, an exceptionally important initiative to grow sustainable tourism.
Mr. Kristijan Curavić, President of the OACM Group
How long did it take to establish and create the White Flag International, and why is it called SOSCP Sustainable Ocean Solution Conservancy Program?
The white flag certification project has been developing and growing over the entire past decade. I personally initiated it in 2009 and very soon had managed to mobilize a vast number of respected marine biologists, financial experts, government officials from the touristic, financial and environmental sectors, marketing experts, and most importantly, highly skilled divers. Developing each sector and facilitating synergies between them was vital for this project to become financially sustainable. It was a challenging yet rewarding journey.
Why has it been so successful globally, being approved and supported by so many heads of state, royal families, and governments?
White Flag International has become globally successful because it is the only environmental brand not based on pure marketing nor awareness-building principle. Instead, it is a set of concrete measures displaying power and ability to minimize the current plastic content in the oceans, lakes, and rivers. It produces immediate visual results and prevents the bigger plastic debris from disintegrating into less visible and extremely dangerous microplastic particles. Its success among the heads of states and royal families is due to its concrete and direct human approach in removing the plastic from beneath the surface, where it makes the most killing of the aquatic life.
Which heads of state have advocated for the certifications of White Flag International since its launch in Monaco by HSH Prince Albert ll of Monaco?
After the launch in Monaco 2013 by HSH Prince Albert ll, the White Flag was raised by the Slovenian President Borut Pahor at the premises of Lake Bled, followed by North Macedonian President George Ivanov for Lake Ohrid. Soon after, the eminence of the project was endorsed outside the regional boundaries to Malta and Seychelles. In Malta, White Flag was endorsed by H.E. Marie Loise Coleiro Preca, the President of Malta, and H.E. Karmenu Vella, the EU Commissioner for maritime, fisheries, and environment. In Seychelles, H.E. Danny Faure, the President of Seychelles, was the most highly ranked advocator of the project. Finally, the White Flag was embraced in Croatia when Mr. Stipe Mesić, the former President of Croatia, had endorsed the first White Flag ceremony in Pula.
What is the main objective with White Flag, and how does OACM intend to present it at the UAE ETIS (Environmental Tourism Industry Summit ) in Dubai 2022?
The main objective is to minimize the current plastic imprint in the oceans, as 70 % of the plastic beneath the surface is within the human reach in coastal areas of oceans, lakes, and rivers. Therefore, the White Flag will be the main attraction during the UAE ETIS summit as it will be presented as the world's only financially sustainable ocean preservation, protection, and cleaning system.
Why is it crucial for the OACM to integrate the White Flag into the UN and its specialized agencies and organizations such as UNESCO, UNWTO, UNEP, UNITAR, UNDP, and many others?
White Flag is the only environmental system dealing with plastic that is beneath and above the ocean surface. The UN has presented no such program within the last three decades. The White Flag is a valuable asset to the UN's Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) 2030 agenda, as it directly contributes to more than 6 SDG programs. Collaboration between the UN and OACM in regards to the White Flag International project will be crucial for a physical reduction of accumulated plastic and the global survival of the oceans in general.
Has the royal family confirmed the raising of the White Flag in the UAE?
It has not been confirmed yet, but we are in the process of presenting the official ceremony program with the support of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the UAE.
What is the White Flag EOMD system, and how do you intend to keep track of the numbers of marine debris extracted from the ocean?
EOMD stands for the Extracted Ocean Marine Debris Scale. Each nation, which has undertaken the integration of the SOS CP system, will work with our certified experts to map out its customized scale measuring all the marine debris that comes out of the ocean. Keeping track of the marine debris coming out of the ocean is crucial for measuring the system's success rate. This has never been done before, and it will serve as a historically important breakthrough for the environment.
How is the White Flag integrated into the OACM? When do you expect all the G7 nations to become members and integrate the White Flag on the coastal areas?
To become a member of the OACM, each nation has to certify its coastline using the White flag CSMA system. White Flag is the beating heart of the OACM and financial engine that will eventually separate nations who aren't doing anything to preserve the oceans from those taking concrete measures and securing the next generation's prosperity and economic growth by protecting the environment both on a national and global level.
You are planning the 1st CSMA White Flag in the USA, precisely on the Ellis Island around the Statue of Liberty. When do you expect this ceremony?
Having the White Flag ceremony at the premises of the Statue of Liberty has been my dream for more than eight years. Choosing Ellis Island for the CSMA certification has a historical meaning and value for humankind. My wish is to present the white flag ceremony as a symbolic demonstration of future hope for the oceans. I also see this as a metaphoric expression in which humankind and the oceans will conciliate and move on to build a better planet. I hope to make this happen by the beginning of the next year, or at least before February 2022.
When will you resume the negotiations with the Canadian government for the Canadian coastline's certification, and are you still endorsed by the prime minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau, for the SOS CP System?
Our delegation was supposed to meet the Canadian government, but the trip had been postponed due to the COVID 19 crisis. However, the plans will resume, and the trip will be realized by the end of 2021. My medium-term plan is to have all G7 nations attending the UAE ETIS in November 2022. In addition, OACM will shortly send a new official letter to Mr. Justin Trudeau, the prime minister of Canada, regarding the CSMA certification of the 1st Canadian marine area.
Is Croatia expected to become an OACM member, and when?
OACM has so far focused on interacting with governments of nations that support ocean environmental efforts. But, unfortunately, Croatian government only supports rhetorical measures. So far, we have seen no concrete actions, measures, and initiatives initiated by the government within the last 12 years. Given these circumstances, Croatia is unfortunately not on the OACM priority list. We are happy to have been working with multiple Mediterranean nations that have already undertaken the certification process, such as Italy, Greece, France, and Montenegro.
What is a white flag moto?
Protect, preserve and clean the oceans, lakes, and rivers.
Dr. Taleb, OACM Board Member and the former Secretary-General of the UNWTO
You became the OACM Group Board Member and the President of the World Ocean Council more than a year ago. What was the reason why you have joined the OACM, and which part of the organization strategy or its ethical principles do you support the most?
OACM is a wonderfully innovative idea. When I met Kristijan Curavic for the first time in Jordan two years ago, where he came to see me with Darko Lorencin, the former Minister of Tourism in Croatia, it took me minutes to see the wisdom of the idea. When he told me that 70- 75 % of the world's plastic is dumped into the water, I realized the importance of cleaning up this mess.
What is your personal opinion on Kristijan Curavić, the OACM President, the system he has created, and why do the heads of state governments widely accept it? Why do you think the UAE government is showing support for its coastal certification?
My friend Kristijan is a wonderful person. Aside from being a firm and dedicated believer in his mission, he is first and foremost the professional diver himself and knows exactly what he is talking about. As for the UAE's support of the coastal certification, I see this as a natural step for this government. It is keen on promoting itself as a responsible and sustainable destination.
What was the extent of UNWTO's involvement during your presidency regarding developing and integrating the global environmental strategy with the tourism industry? How crucial is it to introduce environmental preservation as a part of the code of ethics in this industry?
The UNWTO is an intergovernmental UN organization that should not only promote yet lead the efforts made by OACM exactly because of what you have said, the adoption of the global code of ethics by all member states, and the central role the code plays in environmental preservation makes it essential for UNWTO to play a central role.
How affected has the global tourism industry been by the Covid-19 and travel restrictions?
The tourism industry is the most affected sector, as whenever there is no travel, there is no tourism. The travel has completely stopped as a result of covid. The essence and nature of travel are in connecting places and people. No matter how well each government is doing on its own, the trick is to figure out how to work together to coordinate protocols and procedures with other governments. Only then can travel and tourism starts to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
When will the tourism and travel industry fully recover, and how can the OACM with its SOS CP (Sustainable Ocean Solutions Conservancy Program) contribute to its recovery?
As said before, the only way to recover is for the multilateral system to function as such. You cannot have the EU where one country is insisting on a quarantine next to a country asking for a vaccination passport and a third country satisfied with a 72-hour PCR test or a simple re-entry test. This is independent of what OACM can do, enhancing the quality of beaches and increasing the competitiveness and sustainability of a destination.
Last year, before the 1st lockdown in March, the country of Jordan had been planning to certify some of its coastline, a process that was postponed. Do you think Jordan will continue this initiative, and to what extent can it be used to promote the national tourism industry and its position in the international tourism market?
I am sure it will resume after covid. It will indeed improve the competitiveness of Jordan. This is especially vital, given that the coastline in Jordan is rather small and heavily used.
Last year, Mr. Curavic mentioned the plans of Ban Ki-Moon, the former Secretary-General, to join the OACM, as well as Irina Bokova, the former Director-General of UNESCO, as a result of your participation. You have personally spoken to them. Will some of these individuals join this year?
I did speak to both of them, and they are more than ready.
OACM is at the final stage of signing a partnership with the UN. How important is this for the UN and OACM, and how will this partnership affect the development of a new modern environmental preservation strategy?
It is very important for both, especially in light of the SDG 2030 agenda of the UN.
OACM is preparing an important development program that will be presented to the World Bank. It is about financing developing nations relying on tourism. Coastal certification and introduction of SOS CP will be fundamental requirements by the World Bank. A certain nation will need to fulfill this requirement before being approved the financial support for developing its tourism industry. This is being coordinated and created by the former government officials, such as ministers from the touristic, environmental and financial sectors. Do you believe this can become a long-term solution for developing a sustainable ocean tourism industry and ocean plastic extraction?
The world bank is an essential partner in this regard. This partnership will no doubt become a long-term solution for a sustainable ocean tourism industry and plastic extraction.
During his visit to Jordan, many presidents and ministers from the touristic and environmental sectors have shown interest and support for certifying their coastal areas to provide SAFE marine areas for human and aquatic life in nations such as Kenya, Seychelles, Bahamas, Jamaica, Costa Rica, and many others. Will those nations resume with their coastal certification interest this year due to the Covid 19 restrictions?
Maybe not this year; however, the interest in coastal certification will always be a priority to many countries.
The UAE government supports the world's 1st UAE ETIS (Environmental Tourism Industry Summit) to be held in Dubai in November of 2022. How important is this summit for the UN and other UN organizations such as UNESCO, UNEP, UNITAR, and UNDP?
The UAE summit will prove to be very important. To all UN and international organizations, the timing is also crucial because, after 2022, things are expected to normalize.
We have been informed about your arrival to Croatia at the beginning of August for a White Flag ceremony. Have you visited Croatia earlier?
Yes, I will be there in August. I have been to Croatia many times. I love the place but, I particularly love the people.
Right around September to October, you are expected to be present at the official White Flag ceremony in Dubai with the government and royal family. So how important is this program to UAE and the entire Middle East?
It is very important. Dubai is without a doubt a jewel, not only in the Middle East but worldwide as well.
Do you have any messages to the governments, environmental organizations, or NGOs who strive to preserve oceans, lakes, and rivers worldwide?
My message is simple. There is no future for any destination that does not clean its waters. Do it now, do it today, not tomorrow.