Helen Clark: Opening Speech at Event on Achieving SDG 14 on Oceans: Strategies and Approaches for Accelerating and Scaling up SDG14 Implementation

Feb 14, 2017

The health of our oceans is vital for sustainable development. Credit: UNDP/Vlad Sokhin

UNDP is pleased to have organized, with the support of partners, this important side event on the eve of the Preparatory Meeting for the Ocean Conference taking place here at UN Headquarters in June.  We commend the President of the General Assembly; the Conference co-hosts, Sweden and Fiji; the Preparatory Meeting facilitators, Portugal and Singapore; and the Conference Secretariat, DESA, for their commitment and hard work to make the June conference a success.

SDG14 on oceans is ambitious – and it needs to be. The health of our oceans is vital for sustainable development. Oceans have huge intrinsic value. They are the Earth’s largest life support system, holding nearly 97 per cent of our planet’s water, regulating the global climate, cycling vital nutrients, and producing more than half the oxygen in the atmosphere. As well, 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.
It’s clear that the health of the oceans is being seriously challenged by pollution, overfishing, and other forms of environmental degradation. It is urgent to reverse these adverse trends, as SDG14 commits the international community to do.

SDG14 is all about the conservation and sustainable use of oceans, seas, and marine resources.  Its targets address the major challenges facing the oceans, including pollution, overfishing, fisheries subsidies, coastal habitat loss, and acidification. The target of having at least ten per cent of coastal and marine areas covered by protected areas by 2020 is vital for maintaining biodiversity, including for restoring fish stocks as marine protected areas provide safe havens in which depleted fish stocks can rebuild.

The need for urgent action is reflected in the five SDG14 targets to be met by 2020 or 2025. The Oceans Conference in June needs to galvanise this action and major partnerships around it if the near term targets are to be met.

Now for the good news: there are solutions.

Today’s side event is showcasing case studies of where negative trends affecting oceans have been able to be reversed. These examples are drawn from UNDP’s International Waters and Biodiversity Portfolios, for which the Global Environment Facility is a vital partner along with our partners in governments, other international organisations, and NGOs and civil society.

The successful initiatives highlighted in this event include:
•    reducing the nutrient pollution which causes large scale dead zones;
•    reducing the risk of invasive species introduction through the discharge of ship ballast water ;
•    creating and enforcing marine protected areas;
•    sustaining migratory fish stocks and shifting fisheries income to resource owners;
•    applying and scaling up integrated coastal management as a means to balance competing demands on ocean resources; and
•    applying ecosystem approaches to the management of large marine areas shared by several countries.

To achieve the targets of SDG14 within the timeframes set, it will be vital to adapt, replicate, and scale up proven solutions like those covered in this briefing.

It is our hope that today’s presentations will provide inspiration and useful tools and methodologies for the conservation and sustainable management of our oceans.

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