Leaders from Pacific island countries and territories will attend the United Nations Oceans Conference in New York next week looking to show the world how important a healthy ocean is for their sustainable development, their prosperity, and their future.
The United Nations Oceans Conference is being co-chaired by the governments of Fiji and Sweden. The Conference aims to be the game changer that will reverse the decline in the health of our oceans.
The Conference will comprise plenary meetings, partnership dialogues and a special event commemorating World Oceans Day on the 8th of June. One of the outcomes from the Conference will be adoption of an inter-governmentally agreed “Call for Action” to support the implementation of Sustainable Development Goal 14 – Life Below Water (SDG14).
The Council of Regional Organisations in the Pacific (CROP) will be supporting Pacific delegations at the conference and hosting a series of side events.
“A healthy Pacific Ocean means a prosperous Pacific people. The ocean is integral to our cultures, well-being and economic growth. This conference provides an invaluable opportunity for the Pacific region to showcase the many innovative ways in which our people have and continue to manage, conserve and develop our ocean and its resources. But there is much that needs to be done in the face of modern challenges that we are confronted with such as climate change, ocean acidification, illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing, pollution and salt-water intrusion from sea level rise. The Pacific region will be looking to build and strengthen partnerships that can improve the lives of our people,” said Dame Meg Taylor who will attend as the Pacific Ocean Commissioner and Chair of the CROP.
The Pacific Community (SPC) Director-General, Dr Colin Tukuitonga said existing SPC programmes such as sustainable management of coastal fisheries resources, oceanic fisheries programmes for tuna stock assessment, maritime boundaries support, governance and management of deep sea minerals, sea level monitoring, marine and coastal science surveys are well placed to support the implementation of key priorities outlined in the March 2017 Pacific Leaders’ declaration to implement SDG 14.
“If we want to make positive impacts on our ocean health, we must combine our decades of social and scientific efforts, and lessons learned in integrated natural resource management, with strong and durable partnerships, at all levels. Collectively, we must continue to ensure that while we are the consumers of our natural resources, we need also to be its responsible stewards,” said Dr Tukuitonga.
Achieving SDG 14 with durable and genuine partnerships is a key priority for the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP). The intergovernmental organisation has submitted four voluntary commitments in the UN Ocean Registry with member countries and partners, committing to tangible outcomes over the coming years for strengthened Ocean health.
“Ocean acidification, marine pollution and debris, ocean research, and marine conservation are at the crux of voluntary commitments we have tabled in the UN Ocean Conference Registry. Our ocean work is a cross-cutting theme for us at SPREP and we are encouraged by the support of our Members and partners to collaborate in action for the betterment of our ocean,” said Mr Kosi Latu, Director General of SPREP.
“The Ocean belongs to us all, and in the spirit of partnership we have been working with the UN Environment to strengthen the understanding and awareness of Ocean issues through a range of factsheets and a social media campaign. The more we all know about our Ocean, the better we will be able to work together to conserve and sustain it.”
Based on its long history of marine research and capacity development, The University of the South Pacific (USP), Pacific’s premier Higher Education provider, with campuses on 12 Small Island Developing States is presenting at a number of side-events at the Oceans Conference.
Professor Rajesh Chandra, Vice-Chancellor and President of USP said this engagement showcase examples of USP leadership in innovation, research and capacity building in the region’s marine sector.
“However, USP recognises that there are limitations to existing technical and scientific capacity and infrastructure and that the depth and diversity of partnerships will need to be advanced. The UN Oceans Conference offers an opportunity to explore ways in which USP can contribute to research and capacity development in sustainable and integrated ocean management as well as further strengthen partnerships. The University is pleased to be assisting the Office of the Pacific Ocean Commissioner by providing technical advice and we are committed to working with our CROP colleagues in our shared pursuit of these objectives,” said Professor Chandra.
Leading the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) delegation to support the 17 Pacific members who will be attending the UN Ocean Conference in New York, Director-General James Movick said the goals and strategies underpinning the Regional Roadmap for Sustainable Pacific Fisheries provide “clear and coherent” alignment with key principles of SDG14.
“Conservation and sustainable use of our oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development are the very reasons why Pacific Forum Leaders formed this agency, it forms the mandate and work programs in support of members,” said Director General Movick.
“More than any other UN Conference, this is one event where the Pacific nations are coming to demonstrate their global leadership of the issue on the table. They are coming to talk Oceans, and the Pacific lessons and achievements when it comes to sustainable tuna fisheries management. We know zone-based management works. Cooperation in fisheries surveillance works. Sharing the realities and actual solutions, experiences and challenges of our members, especially in approaches that work for us, is great news for all who want to talk about a future for the Oceans.”
The UN Oceans Conference begins on Monday 5th June and runs until the 9th.