NEW YORK, JUNE 5 – Opening a “game-changing” international conference on the health of the world’s oceans and seas, top United Nations officials today urged coordinated global action to protect the planet. Speaking in the UN General Assembly Hall, Secretary-General António Guterres cautioned Governments that unless they overcome short-term territorial and resource interests, the state of the oceans will continue to deteriorate.
“Improving the health of our oceans is a test for multilateralism, and we cannot afford to fail,” the Secretary-General said addressing his first major UN conference since taking on his post. “We must jointly address the problems of governance that have held us back,” he said, calling for a new strategic vision of how to govern the oceans and marine resources.
One of the main challenges, he said, is to end “the artificial dichotomy” between jobs and healthy oceans: “The conservation and sustainable use of marine resources are two sides of the same coin.” He called for strong political leadership and new partnerships, based on the existing legal framework, and concrete steps, such as expanding marine protected areas and reducing plastic waste pollution.
Among other specific actions, Mr. Guterres urged Governments to allocate the promised funding for the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda, the Paris Agreement on climate change and the Addis Ababa Action Agenda, as well as improving data collection and sharing their best experiences.
These works are supported by the UN, he added, which among its work, is building partnerships with Governments, the private sector, civil society and others, and working with international financial institutions to allocate resources.
Also addressing the thousands of participants – including heads of State and Government, civil society representatives, business people, as well as actors, and ocean and marine life advocates – was the President of the General Assembly, Peter Thomson. “The time has come for us to correct our wrongful ways,” said Mr. Thomson, who hails from the island of Fiji, which is co-hosting the event alongside Sweden. Wu Hongo, the Secretary-General of The Ocean Conference and the Under-Secretary General for Economic and Social Affairs, pointed out that without oceans and seas, where would be no life on the planet and that everyone must work together – not in silos – to achieve the goals of the Conference.
The Ocean Conference, which runs through Friday, focuses on the targets outlined in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, adopted by Governments in 2015. In particular among the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Goal 14 highlights the need to sustainably use oceans, seas and marine resources to benefit present and future generations. Italy’s delegation is led by Silvia Velo, the Deputy Minister for the Environment. “The Conference is an opportunity to present and give momentum to the Italian capacities in this field”, she said before the opening session.
The main areas of work at The Ocean Conference will be a political call to action, a segment on partnership dialogues and voluntary commitments. Hundreds of commitments were already registered by the time the conference opened earlier today.
On occasion off the Conference, Italy will co-chair one of the seven dialogues on the margins of the plenary session: Dialogue 2, “Managing, Protecting, Conserving and Restoring Marine and Coastal Ecosystems” (Tuesday, June 6, 10:00am, CR 4). Silvia Velo will be joined by co-chair Tommy Ramengesau, the President of Palau. Ms. Velo will also be intervening in Dialogue 1, “Addressing Marine Pollution,” and delivering the national statement at the plenary session (Wednesday, June 7, 12:00pm, General Assembly).
Aa series of events to focus on Italy’s priorities have been organized by the Italian Mission at the UN.
1) High-level Event: “Marine Protected Areas: a Global Call” (by invitation)
Dedicated to the 10×20 Initiative, launched by Italy at the March 2016 Rome Conference to promote the protection of 10% of the oceans by 2020, involving influential personalities and “Ocean Ambassadors.” The participants will include the President of the General Assembly, Environmental Ambassadors from various Countries, and the Ocean Elder, Sylvia Earle. New partnerships with the most vulnerable Countries could be announced, in line with the decades-long commitment of Italy to the other island States, while new collaborations with philanthropic associations could be promoted.
2) 10×20 Steering Committee (June 8, 3:00pm, CR11)
The technical follow-up to the 10×20 initiative will be chaired by Ms. Velo together with the Deputy Chairs (Bahamas, Kenya, Poland) and the scientific partner, the OSA. Participants will include the actress and environmental activist Jane Alexander, the Director of the Ocean Legacy of the Pew Bertarelli Foundation and UNEP, which is involved in the Toolbox Project, one of the follow-ups to the Rome Conference’s Call for Action.
3) Side-Event on “Oceans, Fishing and Sustainable Gastronomy” (June 6, 3:00pm, CR12)
Italy’s commitment to sustainable gastronomy will be showcased through Slow Food, with the participation of a local affiliate of the movement speaking on local artisanal fishing. Co-organized with Peru and Thailand.
4) Side-Event on “Ocean Literacy for All” (June 6, 5:00pm, CR A)
Co-organized with UNESCO, this event will promote oceans education, pursuant to SDG14, which calls for an engaged and aware civil society. The General Director of UNESCO may participate.
5) Side-Event on “A multi-stakeholders governance for tackling marine litter in the Mediterranean Sea” (June 8, 11:00am, CR B)
The Mediterranean case as a best practice in the management of marine waste. Promoted by Legambiente and co-organized by MATTM, UN Environment, the European Environmental Agency, and the Secretariat of the Union for the Mediterranean.
6) Side-Event on “Reaching Across the Ocean: Protecting our ocean for the conservation of the culture and traditions of communities” (by invitation)
The impact of protected marine areas on the preservation of the cultural identity of a community. Co-sponsored by the Pew-Bertarelli Foundation, Chile, OSA (a partner in the 10×20 initiative), and Italy.
Finally, Italy and the Maldives will co-chair the second Global Multi-Stakeholder (June 7, 1:00pm, ECOSOC Chamber), an event provided for by the SAMOA Pathway to promote effective, long-term partnerships to foster the development of Small Island Developing States. The central theme is oceans collaborations that highlight voluntary pledges announced by States for the holding of the Conference. (@OnuItalia)