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Maldives, Parley for the Ocean Creating New Model for Healthy ‘Future Island Nations’

They plan to develop a scalable model for government- and industry-led responses to ocean and climate threats, and establish proof of concept for a new economy in which harmful materials and business practices are relics of the past.

On Wednesday, the Republic of the Maldives and Parley for the Oceans announced an extension of their partnership to create a scalable, nationwide framework for solutions to ocean and climate threats. Through the ‘Future Island Nation’ program, Parley and the Maldives aim to address everything from marine plastic pollution to climate change to illegal fishing; and bring solutions towards the achievement of multiple UN Sustainable Development Goals — namely, SDG 7 (Affordable and Clean Energy), SDG 9 (Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure), SDG 11 (Sustainable Cities and Communities), SDG 12 (Responsible Consumption and Production), SDG 13 (Climate Action), SDG 14 (Life Below Water) and SDG 15 (Life on Land); not to mention SDG 17 (Partnerships for the Goals).

The island nation was the first to answer a global call to action led by Parley in collaboration with the UN-OHRLLS (United Nations Office of the High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States) to demonstrate how small island developing states (SIDS) can become leaders in the fight to end marine plastic pollution by implementing the Parley AIR Strategy (Avoid, Intercept, Redesign) in a collaborative, innovative approach to solutions.

“To leave toxic materials in the past, we need to do more than intercept them. We need to develop and test new materials, new technologies and question existing product concepts and business models,” said Parley founder Cyrill Gutsch. “By inventing Ocean Plastic®, Parley turned a problem into an economic opportunity; and with our AIR Strategy, we are creating the blueprints for systemic change.

“The Republic of the Maldives was early to believe in our vision and to act on our strategy. We're honored to call the Maldives the first ‘Future Island Nation,’ because we see this magic country as a Symbol of Change and a canvas for the new,” Gutsch continued. “Together, we are now not only combatting marine plastic pollution, but piloting solutions for climate change and illegal fishing.”

The Maldives first entered into a collaboration with Parley in September 2016, during the 70th Session of the UN General Assembly. Since piloting the project, Parley has introduced programs to reduce the nation’s reliance on single-use plastics, as well as plastic interception and baling sites in island communities and more than 70 schools. Parley has also led collaborative cleanups on affected coastlines, and opened the first-ever recycling center and innovation lab in the island nation’s capital, Malé. In collaboration with the Ministry of Education, local schools and NGOs, Parley Ocean School programs have helped more than 100,000 youth and their parents go swimming and snorkeling to experience the world beneath the blue surface, many for the very first time.

With the successful completion of an initial pilot phase, Parley recognizes the Republic of the Maldives as the first ‘Future Island Nation.’ The expanding collaboration now includes the Ministry of Environment and the national waste management company WAMCO in a 10-year action plan. Immediate steps include policy change, the expansion of recycling infrastructure, cleanups and community education initiatives across all levels of society, industry and government. And similar to fellow island nation Palau’s approach with its “Palau Pledge,” education and direct-action initiatives will also be offered to tourists visiting the Maldives, empowering visitors to become messengers for the oceans and bring change back to their homeland.

Declaring the Maldives as the base and epicenter for its next chapter, Parley is calling for a ‘Material Revolution’ and is gathering the world's leading creators and scientists to replace all harmful materials and products used in the supply chains of its brand partners within the next seven years. The base for this global innovation initiative will be a small island called Kondey Mathee Laabadhoo in the southern atolls of the Maldives, where Parley is building a permanent collaboration space called Parley Station One, in collaboration with the Republic of the Maldives. 

Parley Station One will provide a unique destination and collaboration space for creators, leaders and thinkers — connecting art, design, science, technology and business in an innovation driver for a new, “blue” economy. This program will turn the Maldives into a launch pad for future technology, R&D and creative collaboration.

“As a small island nation, we are faced with many economic and environmental challenges. We suffer from problems that we didn’t create, and materials we didn’t invent,” said Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, President of the Republic of the Maldives. “Plastic pollution is an example of that. We need to protect our ocean, because it is our national treasure, and we need to find ways to establish a new, vibrant blue economy. That is why we decided to take the path of ocean conservation, collaboration and Eco Innovation with Parley for the Oceans. Together, we will tackle plastic pollution; harness alternative, clean energy sources, and protect Maldivian waters from illegal fishing. I truly believe in the innovative power and resilience of my country, and its young and creative people.”