Mobilizing collective action for a sustainable ocean economy

June 8, 2022

The UNDP Resident Representative in Ghana, Angela Lusigi, taking the charge to save the ocean during a beach clean up exercise with staff and partners. Photos: Praise Nutakor/ UNDP Ghana

Our oceans, an important source of food and livelihoods and an intrinsic part of our culture and heritage are at risk. On World Ocean Day, as we celebrate the critical role of oceans in our everyday life, we are reminded that we all have a role to play in protecting our common future.

Protecting oceans protects our future

Our future depends on keeping our oceans healthy. The ocean economy contributes up to USD3 trillion every year to the global economy and 3 billion people depend on the oceans for their livelihoods. In Ghana, the fisheries sector employs about 20% of the labor force, almost 3 million people. The Oceans contribution to people, prosperity and keeping nature in balance are at risk from multiple stressors driven by human action.  Rising plastic pollution, overfishing and the impacts of climate change have a negative impact on marine environment and resources, livelihoods as well as food security. It is estimated that 9% of about 1.1million tonnes of plastic waste generated each year in Ghana leaks into water bodies.

Policies and collective actions

National policies and actions are important in driving collective action.  Ghana is a member of the High Level Panel on Oceans and has a robust policy framework for protecting ocean health in line with international agreements on ocean governance. The plastic management policy provides guidelines to tackle marine waste pollution, Illegal, Unregulated, and Unreported (IUU) fishing as well as promote the conservation of marine biodiversity.

Collective action is nurtured through partnerships and local action. The Ghana National Plastic Action Partnership (NPAP), supported by UNDP  provides a platform for the government to work together with over 120  stakeholders to take action to combat plastic waste pollution.  Organizations like Plastic Punch, one of the winners of the first edition of UNDP’s Waste Recovery Innovation Challenge are working together with communities to clean up beaches and sensitize the public regularly. Ahead of this year’s World Ocean Day, Plastic Punch in collaboration with UNDP and the European Union (EU) Commission in Ghana mobilized over 250 communities including school children, volunteers and staff of the EU and UNDP for a beach clean-up and sensitization.

Collective actions will improve ocean benefits for people, planet and the economy

More is needed to sustain a healthy ocean economy with benefits for people, the planet and the economy in line with the High-Level Ocean Panel’s report launched in Accra in 2020.  

First, more effective collective action is needed to protect our oceans. Fostering stronger collaboration between actors at national, regional, local and community levels will reduce duplication and strengthen synergies. Partnerships with traditional, religious and community leaders,  the youth, women, CSOs, and the private and public sector enhances the sharing of data, information and best practices. Facilitating this multistakeholder collaboration means creating more spaces for joint learning, planning and resource mobilization for greater impact.  The Ghana Waste Recovery Platform and the NPAP are important vehicles for multi-stakeholder engagements.

Second, more ambitious advances in sustainable production will reduce waste and pollution. Plastic waste remains a significant challenge globally and in Ghana only 5% of all plastic generated every year is recycled.  Efforts to create a new balance by reducing consumption and production of plastic while creating greener alternatives can generate a triple win for people, planet and the economy. Advancing sustainable consumption and production across all productive sectors can also help to reduce carbon emissions and slow global warming and ocean acidification.

Third, we need to increase finance for ocean science and technology. By exploring innovative financing mechanisms and tools we can generate the resources required to advance equitable access to science and technology driven solutions. Blended financing approaches can help to unlock private sector financing by de-risking investments in innovative solutions to enhance food, energy and climate security . We must create an enabling environment to attract investment by reforming policies so that they support more equitable technology access and transfer. More investments in scientific research will  help to guide appropriate mitigation and adaptation actions.

UNDP is committed to fostering partnerships for inclusive collaboration to ensure the protection and sustainable use of our ocean’s resources towards the achievement of Sustainable Development Goal 14 on life below water and all the SDGs.

To realize the promise of a healthy ocean that supports people, the planet and our economy, we must scale up ocean action now.  Ghana is well-positioned to revitalize the ocean economy through collective action supported by effective protection, sustainable production and increased ocean finance.

The UN Resident Coordinator in Ghana, Charles Abani (left) at the beach clean up. On his right are Angela Lusigi, the UNDP Ghana Resident Representative and a Volunteer.

Some UNDP Staff at the beach clean-up

Some UNDP Staff at the beach clean-up.

Cross-section of partners from Plastic Punch, EU, Volunteers and Communities at the 2022 World Ocean Day Clean -up.