13 February 2017: The 2017 Annual Parliamentary Hearing at the UN addressed the interlinkages between Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 14 (life below water) and other SDGs such as climate action (SDG 13), responsible consumption and production (SDG 12), zero hunger (SDG 2), good health and well-being (SDG 3), decent work and economic growth (SDG 8), and peace, justice and strong institutions (SDG 16). Parliamentarians, UN officials, diplomats and experts discussed their roles in safeguarding and restoring the health of the oceans, considered oceans’ economic benefits and stresses, including fishery management and tourism, as well as the effects of pollution and marine debris.
Titled ‘A World of Blue: Preserving the oceans, safeguarding the planet – Ensuring human well-being in the context of the 2030 Agenda,’ the hearing took place from 13-14 February 2017, at UN Headquarters in New York, US. Organized jointly by the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) and the UN, the meeting will provide parliamentary input into the UN Ocean Conference in June 2017.
Opening the meeting on 13 February, Peter Thomson, President of the UN General Assembly (UNGA), said the ocean lies “at the heart of the delicate and complex relationship between the environment, climate, life on land, and life beneath the water.” Noting that the Ocean Conference is “the only universal forum mandated by all 193 UN Member States that sets out to support the faithful implementation of SDG 14,” Thomson encouraged parliamentarians to make the best use of that opportunity for collaboration, and to come to the Conference “armed with regional, national and local-level commitments” to reinforce the global effort.
Saber Chowdhury, IPU President, highlighted current and future climate refugees and migrants, ocean pollution and how it compromises the food chain, and the disappearance of entire local economies.
Saber Chowdhury, IPU President, identified several key challenges, including: current and future climate refugees and migrants; ocean pollution and how it compromises the food chain; and the disappearance of entire local economies. Wu Hongbo, UN Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, introduced participants to several international legal agreements, including the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
During the two-day meeting, participants engaged in interactive discussions on: the state of the oceans – challenges and opportunities; the economic benefit of oceans – balancing exploitation with environmental preservation; protecting and preserving marine life: the disruptive effects of pollution, marine debris and other waste and opportunities for change; the climate change connection – rising sea levels, acidification and other ecosystem changes; and ocean governance – strengthening of peace, maritime security, cooperation and friendly relations among all nations.
Closing the meeting, Thomson highlighted a few thematic issues that arose: the importance of international cooperation in addressing the ocean’s issues, including through compliance with the UNCLOS framework, through regional agreements, and through strengthening existing frameworks, such as the negotiations now underway for biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction (BBNJ); ocean governance as a critical means to sustain peace, maritime security, and friendly relations among nations, including through greater coordination of activities in the areas of fisheries, offshore energy, tourism, and shipping; fishery-related issues and the need to strengthen regulatory frameworks for harvesting and addressing overfishing and illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing; and the “critical” role of parliamentarians in pursuing ocean-related priorities. [Meeting Website] [Programme of Annual Hearing] [UNGA President Opening Remarks] [UNGA President Closing Remarks] [SDG Knowledge Hub Story on Ocean Conference Preparatory Meeting]