On Thursday, 16 February 2017, the preparatory meeting for The Ocean Conference: Our Oceans, Our Future: Partnering for the Implementation of Sustainable Development Goal 14 (Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development) continued with the discussion on the call for action, which is to be the intergovernmentally-agreed outcome of the Conference. Participants exchanged views on elements that the declaration should include, such as: addressing marine pollution and ocean acidification; creating sustainable fisheries; establishing marine protected areas; and transitioning to a blue economy. The “fundamental” character of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) was also highlighted by many.
In the afternoon, the co-facilitators provided a summary of the discussions and identified ways forward. Noting the long list of speakers that took the floor over the two days, co-facilitator Burhan Gafoor, Permanent Representative of Singapore, thanked everyone for their constructive spirit. He explained that the co-facilitators had been in “listening mode” during the meeting because “at this early stage, it is really important that we listen to as many stakeholders as want to speak,” in order to increase participants’ collective understanding of the issues discussed.
Garfoor noted wide consensus that the call for action should be concise and action-oriented, forward-leaning, easy to understand by the public, and capture participants’ common vision for the future in terms of actions. Among the elements that were highlighted by participants as important for the implementation of SDG 14, he enumerated: effective partnerships and voluntary commitments; education and awareness raising; coordinated, coherent and integrated approaches at all levels; and increased scientific research, data collection and data sharing, including to support decision making.
Gafoor said the co-facilitators will produce a zero draft of the call for action by early March. Co-facilitator Àlvaro Mendonça e Moura, Permanent Representative of Portugal, reflected on the discussion of themes for the Conference partnership dialogues, and shared what the co-facilitators will report to the President of the UN General Assembly: broad support for most of the themes, and that a “significant number” of delegations suggested changing the theme that refers to UNCLOS to more closely reflect SDG target 14.c. In addition, he said, the co-facilitators had registered participants’ view that the themes should serve as “broad chapeaux” for the discussions to allow for cross-cutting issues and other relevant items to be raised in the dialogues.
Wu Hongbo, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs and Secretary-General of the Conference, thanked all participants and stressed that the Ocean Conference will be a “game changer” in reversing the decline of the health of oceans and seas, and in advancing the implementation of SDG 14. Gafoor then closed the preparatory meeting at 4:23 pm.