Countries set universal measures to reverse ocean deterioration

The 193 member states of the United Nations on Friday, unanimously agreed on set of measures that would begin the reversal of the decline of the ocean’s health as the five-day Ocean Conference came to an end.

The outcome document, together with more than 1,300 commitments to action, marks a breakthrough in the global approach to the management and conservation of the ocean.

The Ocean Conference, the first UN conference of its kind on the issue has raised global consciousness of ocean problems ranging from marine pollution to legal and over fishing, from ocean acidification to lack of high seas governance. By including all stakeholders in the discussions, the Conference produced a comprehensive and actionable range of solutions.

Warning that the special relationship between people and the ocean that brings untold benefits for life is under threat as never before, United Nations Secretary-General, António Guterres told the opening of the Ocean Conference that the problems of the ocean, all created by human activity, can all be reversed and prevented with decisive, coordinated action.

“Oceans are a testing ground for the principle of multilateralism,” he said. “The health of our oceans and seas requires us to put aside short-term national gain, to avoid long-term global catastrophe. Conserving our oceans and using them sustainably is preserving life itself,” he said.

President of the UN General Assembly, Peter Thomson said “The Ocean Conference has changed our relationship with the ocean. Henceforth none can say they were not aware of the harm humanity has done to the ocean’s health. We are now working around the world to restore a relationship of balance and respect towards the ocean.”

Wu Hongbo, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs and Secretary-General of the Ocean Conference, said the Conference marked a major step forward for the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals.

“Participants from member States, NGOs, civil society, the private sector, the scientific community and academia engaged in wide-ranging discussion and shared state-of-the-art knowledge and latest information on marine science and challenges. They showcased and put forward many innovative solutions, which can help us achieve Sustainable Development Goal 14, and through its interlinkages the other SDGs and targets,” he said.

The Conference, co-hosted by Fiji and Sweden, began with a solemn Fiji ceremony that is accorded to high dignitaries to formally welcome and receive them into a community.

Swedish Deputy Prime Minister, Isabella Lovin, said in the opening session, that Sweden remains fully committed to maintaining the political momentum created by the adoption of the Paris Agreement, the 2030 Agenda and SDG 14, and called upon all United Nations Member States, as well as other critical stakeholders, including business, civil society and academia, to harness this unique opportunity, and start working to make a real difference.

“We are truly looking forward to seeing new partnerships being formed, and new voluntary commitments on SDG 14 being submitted during and after the conference, and warmly welcome the commitments already made. The momentum is really energising.”

Fiji Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama, and the incoming president of the next Climate Conference, said: “Climate change poses the biggest threat the world has ever known. And the quality of our oceans and seas is also deteriorating at an alarming rate. They are interlinked, because rising sea levels, as well as ocean acidity and warmer waters have a direct effect on our reefs and fish stocks and the prosperity of our coastal communities.”

Some of the Conference outcomes include recognising that the wellbeing of present and future generations is inextricably linked to the health and productivity of the ocean, so countries collectively agreed in the Call to Action, “to act decisively and urgently, convinced that our collective action will make a meaningful difference to our people, to our planet and to our prosperity.”

While the ocean partnership dialogues focused on the multiple problems and challenges the ocean is facing, all participants offered solutions and commitments to reverse these challenges.

The Call for Action which was formally adopted at the conclusion of the Conference, showed how countries agree to implement long-term and robust strategies to reduce the use of plastics and microplastics, such as plastic bags and single use plastics. Countries also agreed to develop and implement effective adaptation and mitigation measures that contribute to ocean and coastal acidification, sea-level rise and increase in ocean temperatures, and to address the other harmful impacts of climate change on the ocean. The Call recognises the importance of the Paris Agreement on climate change.

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