In June 2017, 193 Member States of the United Nations gathered at the first-ever Ocean Conference and committed to a set of ambitious measures to start reversing the decline of the ocean’s health.
The Ocean Conference marked a global breakthrough in the sustainable management and conservation of the ocean, bringing the world one step closer to implementing the Sustainable Development Goal 14. The conference resulted in the outcome document, Our Ocean, Our Future: Call for Action, and close to 1,400 voluntary commitments for concrete action by governments, UN organizations, civil society, academia, the scientific community, and the private sector.
Now comes the time to turn these pledges into reality, to galvanize new partnerships, inspire international cooperation and mobilize resources for ocean action.
In September 2017, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres appointed Mr. Peter Thomson as his Special Envoy for the Ocean, aiming at galvanizing concerted efforts to follow up on the outcomes of the UN Ocean Conference in support of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, maintaining the momentum for action to conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development.
Mr. Thomson will lead UN’s advocacy and public outreach efforts inside and outside of the UN system, ensuring that the positive outcomes of the Ocean Conference, including the voluntary commitments, are fully analyzed and implemented. He will also work with civil society, the scientific community, the private sector, and other relevant stakeholders, to coalesce and encourage their activities in support of the implementation of Sustainable Development Goal 14.
To support the implementation of the voluntary commitments, Mr. Peter Thomson, in collaboration with UN DESA, will be supporting Communities of Ocean Action among all stakeholders to spur further action and maintain the momentum generated by the first-ever UN Ocean Conference held in June 2017. As a first step, on 7 September 2017, a webinar was organized with a focus on arrangements for following up on voluntary commitments, establishing action communities among stakeholders, and hearing updates from participants on commitments related to mangroves.
Mangroves are a vital coastal ecosystem, which hosts a spectacular diversity of animals and plants, including up to three-quarters of the world’s commercial fish species. They also help fight climate change and its consequences by sequestering nearly 23 million tonnes of carbon each year and by protecting coasts from extreme weather events.
The mangrove community – over 50 representatives of governments, UN organization, civil society and other partners – met on 7 September at a webinar organized by Mr. Thomson and UN DESA to review progress and plot the way forward to protect these unique ecosystems.
The community members reported some remarkable achievements. For example, the UN Development Programme / Global Environment Facility Small Grants Programme Pakistan has successfully conserved 7,000 acres of mangroves in the Indus Delta. The Bay Islands Conservation Association (BICA) on the Honduran Island of Guanaja has planted 20,000 mangrove plants in 10 hectares of wetland.
Actions reviewed at the webinar range from huge, global initiatives, to small local projects – all equally important and necessary for ocean action. For example, the Global Mangrove Alliance, set up by three large international nongovernmental organizations is aiming to increase mangrove habitat worldwide by 20 percent by the year 2030. On the other side of the spectrum, the WiseOceans community has partnered with resorts and schools in Seychelles to educate the youth on the importance of oceans and mangroves.
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