UN Ocean Conference: the need for action to ensure a sustainable future
A few weeks ago, SUBMON was able to attend the second United Nations Conference on the Oceans, which was held in Lisbon from June 27th to July 1st. The event was attended by more than 6500 participants, more than 20 heads of State and Government, experts, scientists, young people, representatives of the private sector and civil society.
The theme of the conference, jointly organized by the Governments of Kenya and Portugal, was “Scaling up science and innovation-based action on oceans to achieve Goal 14: stocktaking, partnerships, and solutions”.
The conference comes at a critical time when the post-pandemic world is strengthening its efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals of the 2030 Agenda with concrete, innovative and science-based solutions. In addition, the conference comes in the second year of the Decade of Ocean Sciences for Sustainable Development, proclaimed by the United Nations from 2021 to 2030.
The 5 days of high-level discussions and panels have brought together stakeholders to take stock of multilateral efforts and the challenges ahead in protecting the world’s seas.
Topics, discussions, statements and calls to action
UN Secretary-General António Guterres at the start of the conference stressed that “we cannot live on a healthy planet without a healthy ocean” and warned of the “ocean emergency” we are in, calling on all stakeholders to invest in sustainable ocean economies for food, renewable energy, and livelihoods.
Guterres highlighted progress at the international level in response to this ocean emergency, pointing to the new treaty being negotiated to address the global plastics crisis, the recently concluded World Trade Organization to end subsidies that encourage unsustainable fishing, and the growing momentum for a legally binding instrument on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction. On the other hand, he highlighted that Sustainable Development Goal 14 “Conserve and sustainably use oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development” is the Objective that receives the smallest amount of funding, and this calls for change.
During the days, discussions alternated between different topics related to ocean conservation and sustainable development:
- Solutions to address marine pollution
- Promoting and strengthening sustainable ocean economies, in particular for small island developing states and least developed countries
- Innovative financial mechanisms that catalyze private sector investment
- Halting the loss of marine biodiversity and restoring ocean health
- Finding solutions on how to minimize and tackle ocean acidification, deoxygenation, and warming
- Solutions to make fisheries sustainable and to ensure small-scale fisheries access to marine resources and markets
- Enhancing scientific knowledge and developing research capacity and transfer of marine technology
- Improving the conservation and sustainable use of the oceans and their resources through the implementation of international law.
The global Ocean Literacy community participated in the Conference to ensure that ocean literacy is seen as a central element of ocean action. Discussions and workshops were organized to broaden global action and strengthen collaboration to share good practices among the different actors.
Commitments and conclusions
The Conference ended with the adoption by world leaders of the Political Declaration “Our Ocean, Our Future, Our Responsibility”, aimed at concrete action to save the ocean from current and future threats. The declaration highlighted the importance of ensuring that every human being and new generations are empowered with Ocean Literacy tools, to understand the ocean’s fundamental role in our lives and to contribute to ocean health.
Acknowledging the “collective failure” of the past, in the final declaration of the conference, world leaders called for greater ambition to ensure that the dire state of the oceans is addressed, and frankly admitted to being “deeply alarmed by the global emergency facing the ocean”.
At the conference, more than 150 member states voluntarily committed to conserve or protect at least 30% of the world’s oceans with marine protected areas and other effective conservation measures by 2030. Colombia announced that it has already achieved this ambitious goal and pledges to declare 9 million hectares as no-take zones.
Comment by Tecla Maggioni / SUBMON
“Attending the panels, events and debates of the Conference, the common denominator was the sense of urgency towards action: in Lisbon many commitments, promises and measures were declared for a better and more effective protection of the ocean. The conference left us with a “wave of optimism”, knowing that nations have finally realized the gravity of the situation and the emergency in which we live, and are prepared to turn their attention to the efforts needed to improve the ocean’s situation”.
On the other hand, “the participation of young people has been very extensive and it has been a very good networking opportunity to join forces. The Lisbon declaration has defined a roadmap for the future, showing the work that remains to be done to achieve a good state of the ocean. It also encourages awareness and responsibility on the part of society when it comes to valuing the ocean and using its resources.
- For more information on the Conference and to read the Declaration “Our Ocean, Our Future, Our Responsibility” read here.
- For more information on the Decade of Ocean Sciences for Sustainable Development, read here.
- If you are interested in knowing SUBMON’s 4 basic lines of action to improve the relationship between society and the ocean, read here.