High-level event underscores urgency and importance of conserving oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development

Feb 14, 2017

UNDP Administrator Helen Clark with President of General Assembly Peter Thomson and Isabella Lovin, Minister for International Development Cooperation and Climate and Deputy Prime Minister of Sweden, at the high-level side event hosted by UNDP today, on the eve of the Preparatory Meeting (15-16 Feb) for June Ocean Conference (Photo: UNDP/Freya Morales)

New York, 14 Feb — With an estimated 40 percent of the world’s oceans heavily affected by unsustainable practices, global leaders are gearing up for an historic Ocean Conference (June 5-9), to renew momentum towards achieving Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 14, ‘Life Below Water’.

A preparatory meeting this week in New York will lay the groundwork for the Ocean Conference, also to be held in New York. UNDP today organized a high-level event on the sidelines of this week’s preparatory meeting, to discuss strategies and approaches for accelerating and scaling up SDG 14.

Unlike most other SDGs, which have only one or two targets with delivery years of 2020 and 2025, SDG 14 has five targets for 2020 or 2025. The targets address major challenges facing the oceans, including pollution, overfishing, fisheries subsidies, coastal habitat loss, and acidification.

“Today’s side event is showcasing case studies of where negative trends affecting oceans have been able to be reversed,” UNDP Administrator Helen Clark said at the high-level side event.

“The Oceans Conference in June needs to galvanise this action and major partnerships around it, if the near term targets are to be met".

“Oceans provide the basis for the livelihoods of hundreds of millions of people, including some of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable, and contribute an estimated $3 to $6 trillion per annum to the global economy,” Ms Clark added.

Through its Global Environment Facility (GEF) co-financed International Waters and Biodiversity portfolios, UNDP has been actively supporting a range of programs that have delivered measurable impacts cutting across most of the SDG14 targets.  Drawing from this experience, the side event presented a series of short ‘case studies’ highlighting a range of tools and approaches used by UNDP and its partners that apply and deliver integrated, ecosystem-based approaches to sustainable ocean and coastal management at local, national, regional and global scales.

On the occasion, President of the UN General Assembly Peter Thomson announced the launch of the registry for Voluntary Commitments starting 15 February. The voluntary commitments are concrete pledges that support SDG 14 implementation to be announced at the Ocean Conference in June. They are expected to be specific in nature, quantifiable where possible, focused on delivering one or more target(s) under SDG 14.

Ms. Isabella Lovin, Minister for International Development Cooperation and Climate, and Deputy Prime Minister of Sweden stressed on the urgency to act now, for mitigating the rapid decline of oceans which hits hardest the poor and the vulnerable. She also shared some successful examples and initiatives undertaken by Sweden. "We have shared responsibility to act together and save oceans for future generations. If we don't do anything, we will have more plastic than fish in the oceans by 2050," she stated. 

The high-level event was organized in partnership with the Forum Fisheries Agency, Partnerships for Environmental Management in the Seas of East Asia, International Commission for the Protection of the Danube River, Government of Tonga, Marine Research Institute of Colombia, and the International Maritime Organization.

The Ocean Conference and its preparatory meeting is open to a broad range of stakeholders including non-governmental organizations, civil society organizations, academic institutions, the scientific community, the private sector, philanthropic organizations and other actors.

Oceans cover nearly three quarters of the Earth’s surface and contribute substantially to human development, including through food security, transport, energy supply, tourism and critical ecosystem functions. Yet unsustainable practices such as overfishing, land-based sources of pollution, habitat destruction, invasive species, and the impacts of climate change – particularly ocean acidification – are threatening the ocean environment.

A 2015 World Economic Forum survey identified water-related crises as the top global risk, in terms of impact.

Join the Ocean Action Hub for more information:  http://www.oceanactionhub.org/

Contact information

Sangita Khadka, Communications Specialist, UNDP Bureau for Policy and Programme Support, email: sangita.khadka@undp.org | tel: +1 212 906 5043

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