UNITED NATIONS, June 5 (APP): Opening a “game-changing”
international conference on the health of the world’s oceans and
seas, top United Nations officials Monday urged coordinated global
action to protect the planet.
Speaking in the UN General Assembly Hall,
Secretary-General Antonio Guterres cautioned Governments that
unless they overcome short-term territorial and resource
interests, the state of the oceans will continue to deteriorate.
“Improving the health of our oceans is a test for
multilateralism, and we cannot afford to fail,” the
Secretary-General said addressing his first major UN conference
since taking on his post.
“We must jointly address the problems of governance that have
held us back,” he said, calling for a new strategic vision of how
to govern the oceans and marine resources.
One of the main challenges, he said, is to end
“the artificial dichotomy” between jobs and healthy oceans: “The conservation and sustainable use of marine resources are two sides
of the same coin.”
He called for strong political leadership and new partnerships,
based on the existing legal framework, and concrete steps, such
as expanding marine protected areas and reducing plastic waste pollution.
Among other specific actions, Guterres urged Governments to
allocate the promised funding for the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda, the Paris Agreement on climate change and the Addis Ababa Action
Agenda, as well as improving data collection and sharing
their best experiences.
These works are supported by the UN, he added, which among its
work, is building partnerships with Governments, the private
sector, civil society and others, and working with
international financial institutions to allocate resources.
Also addressing the thousands of participants – including
heads of State and Government, civil society
representatives, business people, as well as actors, and ocean
and marine life advocates – was the President of the General
Assembly, Peter Thomson. Senior government officials from around
the world, including Pakistan, were also present.
“The time has come for us to correct our wrongful ways,”
Thomson, who hails from the island of Fiji, which is co-hosting
the event alongside Sweden, said.
He spoke out against “inexcusable” actions, such as
dumping the equivalent of one large garbage truck of plastic into
the oceans every minute of every day, driving fish stocks to the
points of collapse, and destroying marine life through
acidification and deoxygenation.
“We are here on behalf of humanity to restore
sustainability, balance and respect to our relationship with
our primal mother, the source of life, the Ocean,” he noted.
Also speaking at the opening was Wu Hongo, the Secretary-General
of The Ocean Conference, who pointed out that without oceans and
seas, where would be no life on the planet.
Wu, who is also the Under-Secretary-General for Economic
and Social Affairs, noted that everyone must work together – not in silos
– to achieve the goals of the Conference.
The Ocean Conference, which runs through Friday, focuses on
the targets outlined in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable
Development, adopted by Governments in 2015. In particular
among the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Goal 14 highlights
the need to conserve and sustainably use oceans, seas and
marine resources to benefit present and future generations.
The main areas of work at The Ocean Conference will be a
political call to action, a segment on partnership dialogues
and voluntary commitments. Hundreds of commitments were
already registered by the time the conference opened earlier today.