Press Release No.2001-133
UNITED NATIONS URGED TO INCLUDE OCEANS AND COASTS
AT WORLD SUMMIT ON SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT
Paris, December 7 - The goals of next year's World Summit on Sustainable Development can only be met if effective action to protect ocean and coastal areas is implemented-and soon. This conclusion was reached at a five-day meeting of over 400 coastal and ocean experts assembled for The Global Conference on Oceans and Coasts at Rio+10: Toward the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development, Johannesburg which ended at UNESCO Headquarters today.
"Sustainable development and poverty reduction cannot be achieved without healthy oceans and coasts," said the meeting's Co-Chairs, Patricio Bernal, Executive Secretary of the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Committee (IOC) of UNESCO, and Biliana Cicin-Sain, Director of the Center for the Study of Marine Policy of the University of Delaware (USA). "The key question is how to sustain the natural resource base and the integrity of coastal and ocean ecosystem services, while continuing to expand economically. We strongly recommend that the United Nations put sustainable development of oceans-comprising 70% of the Earth's surface-as a central feature of the World Summit."
The United Nations will convene heads of state for the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, South Africa, in September 2002, the 10th anniversary of the 1992 Earth Summit, which was held in Rio de Janeiro.
"We have great reason for concern about the health of our oceans and coastal areas. Participants at the Conference generally agreed that we are in a critical situation that requires immediate action by nations and governing bodies world-wide." This sense of urgency and priority was corroborated in ministerial statements, and by non-governmental, inter-governmental experts, scientists, commercial fishing, and industrial representatives attending the meeting. "It is significant that this broad array of ocean and coastal experts agrees with this statement," said Mr Bernal and Mr Cicin-Sain.
Below are the highlights of the Conference Co-Chairs' report:
Poverty reduction during the coming decade requires more access to sustainable economic livelihoods and wealth derived from the ocean, and development of safer, healthy coastal communities.
The UN Millennium Declaration notes the need to halve, by 2015, the proportion of very poor people in the world, and to reduce the scourge of diseases like malaria and water-borne infections (250 million clinical cases of gastroenteritis and upper respiratory diseases are caused annually by bathing in contaminated sea water). This was a key concern at the conference, and perhaps the most difficult challenge facing our use of the oceans.
Full implementation and effective compliance with international agreements is needed
The significant number of international agreements that have come into effect since 1992 now need to be implemented properly and enforced, and their implications for national
action more fully addressed. There is an urgent need for better co-operation and co-ordination among regional and international bodies governing oceans and fisheries to ensure harmonized and efficient implementation.
The health of the oceans and coasts is directly linked to the proper management of river basins, including freshwater flows to the marine environment
Eighty percent of marine pollution comes from land-based sources. In the developing world, more than 90% of sewage and 70% of industrial wastes are dumped untreated into surface waters where they pollute water supplies and coastal waters.
Protecting coastal and marine areas and biodiversity takes an ecosystem approach
The very significant shift from a sectoral to an ecosystem-based approach that recognizes precaution and linkages among activities is an important achievement of the past decade. The Convention on Biological Diversity provides an international framework for an ecosystem-based approach that will depend upon protection of marine habitats at regional and national levels.
Strengthening science-based monitoring and assessment of the oceans is essential for managing the long-term sustainability of marine ecosystems
Effective international co-ordination needs to be developed to support an integrated assessment of the status of oceans and coasts, and their use. A periodic, comprehensive global report on the State of Oceans and Development that builds upon existing regional and sectoral efforts is needed. It could be complemented by similar national reports.
Fishing remains the most widespread economic activity in the ocean. "The future integrity of our coastal communities and of the world's food security is directly linked to sustaining our fisheries and their related ecosystems. The 400 million fishing men and women of the world are a testimony to one of the richest heritages of humanity. Fishing brings us one of the last sources of wild food-let us not take it for granted," said Pietro Parravano, World Fisheries Forum of Fish Workers and Fish Harvesters, and a participant at the Conference.
A substantial body of scientific evidence supports the urgent call by the conference to place coastal and ocean issues squarely on the World Summit's agenda. More than half of the world's population currently lives within 100 km of the coast, and by 2025 it is estimated that 75% of the world's population, or 6.3 billion people, will live in the coastal zone, concentrated in coastal megacities. Many will be living in poverty on less than two dollars a day. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) says that, in the last 40 years, the demand for fish has been growing at twice the rate of population growth. Over 500 million people depend on coral reefs for food and income, yet 70% of reefs world-wide are threatened. Eighty-eight out of 126 species of marine mammals are endangered, and several are extinct or close to extinction.
"It is essential that we link economic development, social welfare and resource conservation in order to achieve sustainability. Governments world-wide must realize that resource conservation and protection must be an integral part of the development process and cannot be considered in isolation," said Bernal and Cicin-Sain.
Another Conference participant, Samoan Ambassador to the United Nations Tuiloma Neroni Slade, Chair of the Alliance of Small Island Developing States, said "Small Island states are a special case since they are most vulnerable to the effects of climate change, especially sea level rise. We are responsible for the stewardship of our islands and vast areas of the oceans, containing high biological diversity, the most extensive coral reef systems in the world, and significant seabed minerals. We have a critical role to play in the future of the oceans."
The Paris discussions did report some good news about the decade since the Rio Earth Summit. Some progress has been made in certain areas, laying the groundwork toward sustainable development of the oceans-a new cluster of some eight global agreements provide the direction for good governance of coastal and ocean use. Many countries, both developing and developed, have experimented with various approaches to ocean and coastal management. Significant funding, by both national and international donors has taken place, and a significant body of knowledge and practical experience on ocean and coastal management has been accumulated.
Ocean resources and environmental conditions have continued to decline, however, and, unless oceans and coasts are given high priority by the world's governments, "under present trends and circumstances, the outlook for our oceans and coasts in the year 2020, leaves little room for optimism. It is obvious that action is required now to correct our present course," said Mr Bernal and Mr Cicin-Sain. "As the world's population continues to grow and if current development and social trends continue, there will be even greater pressures on our coastal resources. We have an alternative vision for the future - one of healthy and productive seas, clean coastal waters, and prosperous coastal communities. We have an obligation at the World Summit to look at the root causes of many of the world's economic and social crises, and nearly all of these are affected by the way we care for our oceans and coastal areas."