03.04.2012 - Natural Sciences Sector

Advancing ocean issues at Rio+20 and beyond: working toward ambitious and action-oriented outcomes

© Y.HameedIsland daily life (Maldives)

While negotiations were in full swing during the third open-ended informal intersessional meeting in preparation for the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20), a side event focused on the ocean-issues that must be addressed and included in the negotiation process, which will be of capital importance for the global environment in the coming 10 years.

UNESCO-IOC, the Global Ocean Forum, the Permanent Mission of the Republic of Fiji to the United Nations, and the Permanent Mission of the Republic of Seychelles to the United Nations joined forces to organize the event and address the perspectives of States, UN agencies, and civil society on achieving a viable ocean outcome from the Rio+20 process.

The meeting was co-chaired by Wendy Watson-Wright (UNESCO-IOC) and Biliana Cicin-Sain (Global Ocean Forum). Experts gave an overview of current threats and challenges, including declining coral reefs and acidification (Scott Doney), sea level rise (Joe Appiott), coastal erosion, land-based sources of marine pollution, and overfishing (Brittany Baschuk). Ambassador Ronald Jumeau recalled that these do not only threaten marine ecosystems but also human well-being, including but not limited to coastal communities and Small Island Developing States (SIDS).

The concept of a ‘blue economy’ was brought up throughout the meeting, an indication of it’s increasing relevance as a credible alternative. Andrew Hudson detailed several “Blue Economy” measures, such as a blue carbon financing mechanism, which could be the cornerstone of the Blue Economy implementation.

Many speakers, including Dr. Biliana Cicin-Sain and Ambassador Gary Quinlan, emphasised and applauded the prominence of the ocean in the Zero Draft input and negotiating text for Rio+20. A growing concensus on the importance of taking ocean issues into account has emerged in recent negotiations. Yet, Maria Teresa Mesquita Pessôa underlined that ‘everything is still on table’ and panellists agreed on the need to sustain efforts in order to achieve a solid outcome. Mr. Vladimir Jares and Ambassador Gary Quinlan urged participants to look again at previously agreed commitments, many of which have not been achieved. This demonstrates the critical need to agree on measurable targets, ensuring that commitments are met.

Roughly 100 representatives of governments, intergovernmental organizations, NGOs and academia participated in the discussions. The success of the side event shows the extent of the concerns raised by ocean-related issues. The wide range of speakers described the Rio+20 process as a unique opportunity to move forward on these issues, which the global community cannot afford to miss.

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