Having amassed billions of dollars in voluntary commitments and pledges to save the Earth’s most vital resource, the curtains came down on the second UN Ocean Conference. This renewed commitment could not have come a moment too soon.
The ocean is responsible for 50% of the oxygen we breathe, provides food, livelihoods, and mineral and energy resources to billions of people around the world, and is a home to a multitude of flora and fauna. The science is clear: anthropogenic threats including deoxygenation, ocean acidification, oil spills, plastic pollution, and overfishing, mean that the ocean’s survival may be in jeopardy. There are still large gaps in what we know about the ocean but there are many reasons why we need to manage it sustainably, addressed under the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 14 (life below water).
In 2017 the first high-level UN Conference to Support the Implementation of SDG 14 was held at UN Headquarters in New York, co-hosted by the Governments of Fiji and Sweden. The conference successfully built momentum for the implementation of SDG 14, as a central rather than isolated component of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The conference produced three outcomes: an intergovernmentally agreed Call for Action; a registry of over 1300 voluntary commitments by governments and other stakeholders; and key messages from partnership dialogues.
To galvanize action to address the threats to the ocean, the UN General Assembly adopted resolution 73/292 in 2019 to convene the high-level 2020 Conference to Support the Implementation of SDG 14: Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development. After two years of postponements due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Conference will seek to propel science-based innovative solutions, swelling the tide of global ocean action.
Co-hosted by the Governments of Kenya and Portugal, the UN Ocean Conference aims to strengthen progress surrounding some of the most defining issues of our time such as climate change, food insecurity, poverty, human and environmental health, biodiversity loss, and economic inequality. The overarching theme of the Conference is “Scaling up ocean action based on science and innovation for the implementation of SDG 14: Stocktaking, partnerships and solutions.” This is in line with the United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021-2030). The Conference is expected to adopt an intergovernmentally agreed declaration as its key outcome.
Eight interactive, multi-stakeholder dialogues will take place throughout the week. These dialogues are expected to be collaborative, focusing on recommendations to support the implementation of Goal 14, including on:
- Addressing marine pollution;
- Promoting and strengthening sustainable ocean-based economies, in particular for small island developing states and least developed countries;
- Managing, protecting, conserving and restoring marine and coastal ecosystems;
- Minimizing and addressing ocean acidification, deoxygenation and ocean warming;
- Making fisheries sustainable and providing access for small-scale artisanal fishers to marine resources and markets;
- Increasing scientific knowledge and developing research capacity and transfer of marine technology;
- Enhancing the conservation and sustainable use of oceans and their resources by implementing international law, as reflected in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea; and
- Leveraging interlinkages between SDG 14 and other goals towards the implementation of the 2030 Agenda.
The Conference will take place from 27 June – 1 July 2022 in Lisbon, Portugal. Throughout the Conference, delegations and interested stakeholders and partners can make voluntary commitments, to play their part in meeting the targets set out in SDG 14. Several special and side events are also scheduled to take place.