08.06.2017 - ODG

Protecting marine biodiversity


On 7 June 2017, UNESCO Director-General, Irina Bokova, together with UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador, Oskar Metsavaht, participated in a side event on “The South Atlantic Whale Sanctuary as a Strategic Approach to Implement SDG 14”, held during the UN Ocean Conference in New York.

Organized by the Brazilian Mission to the United Nations, the event gathered panelists to discuss the proposed South Atlantic Whale Sanctuary (SAWS), sponsored by the Governments of Argentina, Brazil, Gabon, South Africa and Uruguay, with the support of International Whaling Commission (IWC) members. 

The SWAS aims to protect whale stocks levels in the region by identifying and mitigating threats. It also intends to stimulate research cooperation, especially by developing countries, and to develop sustainable, non-extractive and non-lethal economic use of whales for the benefit of coastal communities.

The Director-General commended the proposed sanctuary, describing it as “vitally important for supporting marine biodiversity conservation and to implement the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, particularly SDG 14 on oceans and SDG 15 on biodiversity conservation”.

Highlighting the educational and outreach component of the initiative, which aligns closely with UNESCO’s work on ocean literacy, the Director-General underlined the importance of education for developing new skills, values and attitudes that lead to more ocean sustainable societies.

“Transforming the way we think and act starts on the benches of schools,” she declared, calling for education systems that empower learners to know about the ocean and its rich marine life, and give them the desire to protect and cherish it.

The Director-General applauded the initiative as an example of scientific regional cooperation and coordination to support joint initiatives. On this note, she invited all participants to join UNESCO in calling for 2021-2030 to become the International Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development to provide Governments, the scientific community, civil society and all other actors with a framework for coordinating and consolidating observations and research to achieve SDG14.

Similarly, Goodwill Ambassador Metsavaht described the SWAS initiative as an alliance to better understand and develop ways to sustainably use and preserve the oceans for current and future generations.

“The sanctuary embodies the principle that environment and development can work hand-in-hand, and that sustainable development is possible,” he stated.

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