During the UN General Assembly (UNGA) General Debate, many speakers highlighted their priorities for the post-2015 development agenda and discussed global challenges, including international security, terrorism and Ebola.
At the same time, several countries stressed the importance of environmental sustainability and shared their visions and achievements on biodiversity, including oceans, wildlife, forests and protected areas (PAs).
30 September 2014: During the UN General Assembly (UNGA) General Debate, many speakers highlighted their priorities for the post-2015 development agenda and discussed global challenges, including international security, terrorism and Ebola. At the same time, several countries stressed the importance of environmental sustainability and shared their visions and achievements on biodiversity, including oceans, wildlife, forests and protected areas (PAs).
Many small island developing States (SIDS) and other coastal and island countries expressed appreciation for the inclusion of a standalone Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) on oceans and seas, including Tommy Esang Remengesau, President, Palau, Rimbink Pato, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Trade and Immigration, Papua New Guinea (PNG), Jean-Paul Adam, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Seychelles, and Joe Natuman, Prime Minister, Vanuatu. Gunnar Bragi Sveinsson, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Iceland, supported addressing ocean issues in the post-2015 agenda, stressing the importance of oceans and fisheries resources for livelihoods and food security and underscoring the need for improved management to address overfishing and other challenges.
Pacific SIDS in particular described their relationship with the ocean, stressing the importance of oceans and fisheries resources for their economies, environment and livelihoods and noting threats to oceans, including from climate change and overfishing. Christopher J. Loeak, President, the Marshall Islands, urged stopping illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing. Anote Tong, President, Kiribati, said his country’s vision for sustainable development hinges on the conservation and sustainable management of marine and ocean resources and the blue economy, noting the ocean’s role in food security, sustainable livelihoods and sustainable development.
Several Pacific countries recommended actions to ensure sustainable fisheries and increase domestic benefits from their tuna resources. Kiribati called for restructuring private and public partnerships based on equity, mutual respect, good will, fairness and accountability, and described its government’s efforts to maximize returns from its large fisheries resources through value adding fisheries development, including onshore processing. Divavesi Waqa, President, Nauru, said the Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA) have taken the lead in successfully managing their tuna stocks through sustainable harvesting and curbing illegal fishing. Murray McCully, Minister for Foreign Affairs, New Zealand, said it has committed over US$70 million over the next five years to advance an approach that includes enhanced surveillance, training in research and monitoring, commercial fishing practices, and improved management practices with the aim of assuring that Pacific tuna countries secure a greater share of the value of their tuna resources and pursue sustainable management of those resources.
Palau said the Pacific is committed to ensuring the launch of negotiations for an international agreement under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction (ABNJ). Iceland described the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) as a sound basis for states to harness marine resources and a valuable tool for development efforts, but said that states lack the capacity to implement effective monitoring and sustainable harvesting. Milan Jaya Nyamrajsingh Meettarbhan, Permanent Representative, Mauritius, called for adopting a global oceans strategy as an operational counterpart to UNCLOS to provide a vision and framework for sustainable development of ocean-related economic activities.
Nickolas Steele, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Grenada, welcomed actions on oceans and the blue economy, including the Global Blue Growth Initiative, the Global Partnership for Oceans and the Caribbean Challenge Initiative, which aims to promote an enhanced marine environment.
Frederick A. Mitchell, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Immigration, the Bahamas, said it “is appalled by the practice of killing sharks simply for their fins.” He urged sustainable shark fishing, noting the Bahamas serves as the Chair of the Save Our Shark Coalition.
Several African countries discussed poaching, illegal trade in wildlife and illegal logging, including Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete, President Tanzania. Noting it has the largest elephant population in Africa, Phandu Skelemani, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Botswana, said special attention should be given to the 10 Year Review of the Almaty Programme of Action, for countries with increasing elephant populations that are experiencing human-wildlife conflicts and environmental destruction. Ali Bongo Ondimba, President, Gabon, described ecological, economic and security threats from illegal trade in wildlife and poaching and reiterated Gabon’s commitment to fight poaching and ensure a moratorium on ivory trade. Denis Sassou Nguesso, President, the Republic of the Congo, identified illegal logging and trade in wildlife as a threat to its biodiversity. He announced that the Republic of the Congo will host a conference on the topic during the first half of 2015, in partnership with the African Union (AU) and UN Environment Programme (UNEP). Hery Martial Rajaonarimampianina Rakotoarimanana, President, Madagascar, underscored the importance of good forest governance to address illegal trade in protected species, including rosewood.
A few countries described forestry efforts. Dilma Rousseff, President, Brazil, said Brazil has reduced deforestation by 79% in the last decade as part of its efforts to tackle climate change “without relinquishing economic development and social inclusion.” Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, President, Indonesia, said it is applying a moratorium on deforestation, as a contribution to reducing carbon emissions. Elbegdorj Tsakhia, President, Mongolia, supported the New York Declaration on Forests to combat deforestation.
A few countries highlighted their marine and terrestrial protected areas (PAs). Domingos Simões Pereira, Prime Minister, Guinea Bissau, said 12% of its country is composed of PAs, which it expects to double by 2020. Kiribati described the Phoenix Islands Protected Area, 11% of its country’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) and the size of California, which will be closed to all commercial fishing and monitored through a trust fund, saying it is a major but necessary sacrifice for long-term ocean health and sustaining fish stocks for global food security. Palau highlighted Pacific countries’ efforts to declare and establish marine PAs of different sizes and requirements to reverse trends of overuse, ensure a healthy ocean and conserve underwater heritage, including the creation of a national marine sanctuary in Palau. Park Geun-hye, President, the Republic of Korea, described how the demilitarized zone (DMZ) resulted in “a treasure trove of nature’s wildlife” and suggested a World Eco-Peace Park to reconnect the Korean Peninsula’s divided nature and people. She said such a park could embody respect for international norms and values, ease tension and lead to peaceful reunification of the two Koreas. [UNGA General Debate 24 September 2014] [UNGA General Debate 25 September 2014] [UNGA General Debate 26 September 2014] [UNGA General Debate 27 September 2014] [UNGA General Debate 29 September 2014] [UNGA General Debate 30 September 2014]