Magazine article UN Chronicle

The Ocean Conference: United Nations, New York, 5-9 June 2017

Magazine article UN Chronicle

The Ocean Conference: United Nations, New York, 5-9 June 2017

Article excerpt

From 5 to 9 June 2017, the United Nations will convene a major meeting to promote ocean sustainability. The United Nations Conference to Support the Implementation of Sustainable Development Goal 14: Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development--better known as the Ocean Conference--will be the first United Nations forum of its kind on the issue, and an important step in reversing the decline of our oceans.


Our oceans are in serious trouble. Human activities are having major impacts on the oceans, affecting everything from the viability of marine habitats to the quality and temperature of the water, the health of marine life, and the continued availability of seafood. This in turn affects poverty eradication, economic growth, sustainable livelihoods and employment, global food security, human health and climate regulation. What happens in the ocean affects our daily life and the health of our planet--and what we do matters a lot to the oceans.

Billions of people depend on the oceans as their main source of food and millions others draw their livelihood from the seas. Major economic activities, such as tourism and trade, depend on healthy oceans. Oceans are also the primary regulator of the global climate. They supply half the oxygen we breathe and absorb a third of the carbon dioxide we produce.

Despite their critical role in sustaining life in this world, our oceans are increasingly threatened, degraded or destroyed by human activities, reducing their ability to provide crucial ecosystem services.

Already today, 30 per cent of the world's fish stocks are overexploited, while more than 50 per cent are fully exploited. Coastal habitats are under pressure, with approximately 20 per cent of the world's coral reefs lost and another 20 per cent degraded. Plastic waste alone kills up to 1 million sea birds, 100,000 sea mammals and countless fish each year. An estimated 80 per cent of marine pollution comes from land-based activities.

Moreover, vulnerable groups, including people living in poverty, women, children and indigenous peoples are particularly affected, as are coastal communities and countries with a high dependency on the oceans and their marine resources, such as small island developing States.

We know that the oceans, which cover three quarters of the Earth's surface, form an integrated and essential component of our planet's ecosystem and are critical to sustainable development. With this in mind, the Ocean Conference is dedicated to supporting the implementation of Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 14, which seeks to conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development. Action on this Goal, however, will support the implementation efforts of all the SDGs, as they are all interlinked. The oceans matter to all of us, regardless of who we are or where we live, and we matter to the oceans.


The Ocean Conference will present an invaluable opportunity for countries, the United Nations system, intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations, as well as the private sector, media and the general public, to mobilize urgent and tangible action to reverse the cycle of ocean decline.

The Conference will not only serve as a place to raise awareness of the state of the oceans, but will produce a global call for action and generate new dialogues and partnerships aimed at implementing solutions. In addition, many participants will announce new voluntary commitments to address ocean challenges. Indeed, close to 30 commitments have been registered as of the end of March 2017.


The Conference will feature seven partnership dialogues on the following themes:

1. Addressing marine pollution.

2. Managing, protecting, conserving and restoring marine and coastal ecosystems. …

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