At a high-level special event on ‘Healthy Oceans and Seas: Paving the Way Towards a Sustainable Development Goal,' participants addressed specific ways to conserve and promote the sustainable use of oceans, seas and marine resources, in relation to the proposed SDG 14.
Climate change was also a strong theme of the discussion.
26 September 2014: At a high-level special event on ‘Healthy Oceans and Seas: Paving the Way Towards a Sustainable Development Goal,’ participants addressed specific ways to conserve and promote the sustainable use of oceans, seas and marine resources, in relation to the proposed SDG 14. Climate change was also a strong theme of the discussion.
The event – the second on the topic, following one in February – was organized by the Permanent Missions of Italy, Monaco and Palau, on the margins of the UN’s 69th General Debate, on 26 September 2014, with the participation of Tommy Remengesau, Jr., President of Palau, other high-level government and UN officials and celebrity supporters, and was moderated by Amir Dossal, Global Partnerships Forum.
Sebastiano Cardi, Permanent Representative of Italy to the UN, said climate change is not a “far-off problem.” Helena Semedo, Deputy Director General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO), speaking on behalf of Director General Jose Graziano da Silva, said the 69th UN General Assembly is taking place at a time when climate change has become a reality, and governments have come together to decide on concrete actions. She added that the FAO’s ‘Blue Growth’ initiative builds on successful public-private partnerships (PPPs), and seeks to scale them up. Stuart Beck, Palau’s Ambassador for Oceans and Seas, said the post-2015 development agenda will be “stunningly ambitious,” and such opportunities are rare. He also highlighted the Pelagos Sanctuary for Mediterranean Marine Mammals created by France, Italy and Monaco, and the sharks coalition at the UN chaired by the Bahamas.
Remengesau said, “We’re on the brink of a paradigm shift in oceans governance. Perhaps the free for all is coming to an end, and not a moment too soon.” He announced the formation of a new “bedrock partnership,” with Italy having agreed to become the first country to make a substantial financial contribution to the early stages of developing a nation-wide marine sanctuary in Palau. Silvia Velo, Italy’s Minister for Environment and Protection of Land and Sea, said climate change has already produced irreversible damage to oceans. She added that her country will actively pursue consensus on strengthening the private sector’s role in carrying out the post-2015 agenda.
In a discussion of strategies, Iceland’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Gunnar Bragi Sveinsson, expressed strong support for a separate goal on oceans in the post-2015 development agenda. Iceland’s emphasis in the OWG has been: increasing economic benefits from sustainable use to decrease poverty and increase food security; responsible fisheries management for conservation and sustainable use; protect the marine environment from destruction and pollution; increasing capacity-building; measures for developing to better manage and conserve. Maldives’ former president Mohammed Waheed highlighted the importance of small-scale fisheries and restoring fish stocks, suggested calling small island states “large ocean states”, and noted the risk of severe storm surges caused by climate change. He said that with the SDG on oceans, “we have finally made some progress on making healthy oceans and seas a priority.”
Isabelle Picco, Permanent Representative of Monaco to the UN, said the Pelagos Sanctuary was created in 1999 to protect habitats from all forms of threat and disturbance, natural or human-based. Ellen Pikitch, Stony Brook University, said the remarks heard so far did not convey the needed sense of urgency to fix problems; the ocean is in a “severe and accelerating crisis.” Therefore, our collective well-being is already profoundly diminished and is further threatened. The impacts of climate change are already being seen in the ocean. She stressed the need to address overfishing, as the “most destructive force inflicted upon the ocean,” and said the need for a stand-alone SDG has never been clearer.
Frederick Mitchell, the Bahamas’ Minister of Foreign Affairs, noted the starkly higher economic value of sharks “captured and dead” versus “alive in the water,” and the compelling case for protecting them. Bahamas’ entire economic zone is protected from fishing for sharks, he said, because “sharks need healthy oceans, and healthy oceans need sharks.” Portugal noted its new national oceans strategy, and said it will host an international event in June 2015 to bring together all relevant stakeholders to discuss common solutions to shared challenges facing the sea and marine environment.
Among other additional speakers, film director Fisher Stevens urged participants to “be brave and take risks” to save the oceans, in order to save ourselves, and Valerie Hickey of the World Bank said it is her job to get the number of hungry people to zero, but this cannot be done if the oceans collapse. She added that “blue growth is the future” and that donors want to fund results, not hopes and best wishes. [IISD RS Soruces] [Event Webcast]