Ocean Action Hub

4 May 2017 - Preparations are underway for the high-level UN Conference to Support the Implementation of Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 14, co-hosted by the governments of Fiji and Sweden and set to coincide with World Oceans Day 2017 in June.

The 5-9 June event will be the first SDG-specific conference held by the UN since its adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Goals in 2015. It is also known as the UN Ocean Conference. (See Bridges Weekly, 1 October 2015)

“When we talk about SDG 14, we are thinking about navigation in the sea, we think about catching fish in the sea for food, we are thinking about doing tourism, but that is not all. Health of the sea and sustainable use of marine resources have a direct impact in the implementation of the many SDGs,” said Wu Hongbo, UN Under-Secretary-General and head of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) during an initial preparatory meeting.

UN member states, intergovernmental organisations, and other entities will convene in New York for the week-long event to reaffirm their commitments to SDG 14 and its objectives: to “conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas, and marine resources for sustainable development.”

Oceans absorb one-third of greenhouse gas emissions produced by humans and are vital to poverty eradication, food security and nutrition, and climate change mitigation. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), ocean-based economies assure the livelihoods of 10-12 percent of the world’s population.

Overall, the Ocean Conference aims to respond to declines in ocean health from marine pollution and ocean acidification and to develop solutions that offset the negative effects of overfishing, the overcapacity of fisheries, and the use of fisheries subsidies.

Call for Action: revised zero draft

Projected outcomes from the Ocean Conference include the adoption of the intergovernmental declaration titled “Our Oceans, Our Future: Call for Action” by consensus. Negotiations over drafts of the “Call for Action” are ongoing, with a revised version of the text having undergone its second round of consultations last week.

The latest draft, which is dated 7 April, stresses that measures to implement SDG 14 “should build upon… reinforce and not duplicate or undermine, existing legal instruments” in line with the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, such as the Port State Measures Agreement to Prevent, Deter and Eliminate Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing (PSMA).

The PSMA was adopted by 29 countries and the European Union in 2016 and has now entered into force. (See Bridges Weekly, 25 May 2016)

In addition to the “Call for Action,” co-chairs will compile a report summarising the seven partnership dialogues scheduled and a list of voluntary commitments meant to facilitate the implementation of SDG 14. So far, 103 voluntary commitments from stakeholders, UN bodies, and governments have been received, which outline different projects to protect marine ecosystems in coastal zones like Grenada and Bali and efforts to increase ocean conservation philanthropy.

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International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development