About Blue Communities

Empowering communities and decision makers to secure a sustainable future for the Blue Economy in Southeast Asia

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Blue Communities was a 4-year research and capacity-building programme for marine planning in Southeast (SE) Asia, funded by the UK Government’s Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) of which the total value was £1.5 billion. The programme comprised 12 interconnected research projects, which were integrated to support marine planning through 10 cross-cutting capacity-building activities.
Through the Blue Communities programme interdisciplinary research capability and lasting collaborations were developed that facilitated innovative application of integrated planning in the marine environment. The programme focused on case study sites in Southeast Asia located in Indonesia, Vietnam and the Philippines that are designated UNESCO Biosphere Reserves and a gazetted marine park in Sabah, Malaysia.
The research and capacity building focused on the following overarching challenges:
  • promotion of sustainable harvesting
  • preparation for climate change
  • promotion of good health
  • identification of opportunities for growth
  • co-development and implementation of marine planning and management schemes.
These ‘Science for Sustainability’ support sites provided an established, collaborative infrastructure in which initiatives can be developed and tested with the local stakeholders, with an aim to then promote successful approaches with other coastal communities in the wider UNESCO Biosphere Reserve network and elsewhere. 
Blue Communities case study sites. Creative Commons Blank world map (green color) by OSeveno, used under CC BY-SA 4.0 / cropped, changed colours and added case study sites.
One of the most important aspects of the Blue Communities programme was the effective and culturally sensitive relationship building with a wide range of stakeholders. Strong links were forged between the Blue Communities team, case study sites and the UK’s North Devon UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, to engender trust between all parties and to underpin up-take and continuation of the marine management strategies that have been co-developed.
Image: Blue Communities case study sites. Creative Commons Blank world map (green colour) by OSeveno, used under CC BY-SA 4.0 / cropped, changed colours and added case study sites.

Project partners

Key areas of work

Supporting health and well-being

There is growing evidence that the health of the marine environment and human populations are inextricably linked. These linkages encompass both risks and benefits.

Improving governance and management

Tropical marine and coastal ecosystems – coral reefs, mangroves, seagrasses – are vital for the livelihoods, food security and well-being of millions of people in Southeast Asia.

Modelling and understanding future scenarios

By consulting with stakeholders and local communities, co-created future scenarios can be used to communicate potential future environmental status and engage with and connect stakeholders who look to explore sustainable solutions. The integration of climate, ecological and social data can be used to set future scenarios and help to change behaviours and attitudes and encourage pro-environmental actions.

Ecosystem services and resource management

Ecosystem services are the direct and indirect contributions of ecosystems that provide benefits to human well-being. These comprise provisioning services, regulating services and cultural services and are enabled by natural capital (nature, the biodiversity of marine ecosystems).

Capacity building and research techniques

A key objective of the Blue Communities programme was to strengthen and broaden skills and build research capacity and expertise. The increased capability and capacity will enable the local researchers to provide evidence to decision-makers that will address the challenge of sustainable living in coastal communities in Southeast Asia. In addition, by working in collaboration with researchers in Southeast Asia, UK researchers have been able to co-develop the research methods and build their experience as well as adapting the methods so that they are applicable for other regions around the world.
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