UNDP Around the world

Magdy Martínez-Solimán: Statement at the World Oceans Day Plenary

Jun 7, 2017

Mr. Magdy Martínez-Solimán, UN Assistant Secretary General, UNDP Assistant Administrator and Director of Bureau for Policy and Programme Support addressing the Plenary of the World Oceans Day at the General Assembly

Excellencies, distinguished delegates, ladies and gentlemen:

A healthy ocean has a vital role in sustainable economic development, poverty eradication and reduction of inequalities.  From fisheries to shipping to tourism, oceans represent some $3-6 trillion[i] per year of economic output.  Over half the world’s population gets 15 percent or more of its animal protein from seafood[ii].  Several hundred million people, from small scale fishers to seafarers, depend on the ocean for their livelihoods.   The non-market ecosystem services the ocean provides, from climate regulation to carbon storage, amount to several tens of trillions  per year. 

The ocean faces an unprecedented array of threats, from plastics pollution to overfishing to ocean acidification, which place them at serious risk.

SDG14 represents a comprehensive framework for the restoration and protection of the ocean commons.  At the same time, SDG14 is among the most ambitious of the SDGs, particularly in terms of the time frames for achieving the targets. 

20 million tonnes of plastics reach the ocean each year. Reversing nutrient and plastics pollution calls for a paradigm shift: moving towards a circular economy that enables the efficient use, recovery and re-use of nutrients and plastics.  This transformation can only occur via a systemic rethink and restructuring of the nutrient and plastics economies, from design and utilization to recovery and re-use. 

Proven policy, economic and financial tools, from product bans to tradeable emission permits, need to be applied and scaled up.  Recognizing ocean plastics pollution as a rapidly worsening, global problem, linked to a multi-trillion dollar global industry, suggests the need for some kind of multi-lateral agreement that could incentivize plastics recovery, recycling and re-use in the design and manufacture of plastics resins and products. 

We are burning fossil fuels at a rate that is approximately one million times faster than it took natural processes to create these vast energy reserves[iii].  As a result, the ocean is acidifying at least 10 times faster than during the most rapid known event in earth history.  Unchecked, this will have devastating effects on the integrity of marine ecosystems and ocean dependent countries and communities.  Reversing ocean acidification is integrally related to meeting the Paris Climate Change commitments.

With some ninety percent of fish stocks over or fully exploited, some twenty percent of catch illegal, unregulated or unreported[iv], and annual losses of some $83 billion[v], the imperative to reverse these trends is obvious.  Shifting the billions of dollars in destructive fisheries subsidies into strengthening fisheries management, Marine Protected Areas, and sustainable aquaculture could be a good idea.

The significant gap in global Marine Protected Areas coverage towards the target of 10 percent by 2020, particularly in developing countries, requires a significant increase of financing to MPA establishment, management effectiveness and sustainability.

SIDS and coastal LDCs disproportionately depend on healthy coastal ecosystems for their economies, livelihoods and food security.  UNDP supports SIDS and LDCs in operationalizing their blue economies towards maximizing economic benefits derived from sustainable ocean use.

Thank you very much.


[i] UNDP Catalysing Ocean Finance 2012

[ii] FAO State of the World Fisheries 2012

[iii] Fossil fuels accumulated over 100’s of millions of year, we are burning in a few hundred, 100 million/100 = 1 million

[iv] FAO data

[v] WB-FAO The Sunken Billions (update, 2012)