Ocean governance is critical: the more healthy and resilient the ocean, the more positive its contribution to the environmental, social and economic dimensions of sustainable development and vice versa. This week’s World Ocean Summit is bringing together the Ocean community –global leaders, business, NGOs, think-tanks, academia and international organizations– to work on common solutions for sound governance, with the participation of Irina Bokova, Director General of UNESCO, and Wendy Watson-Wright, Executive Secretary of the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO.
The second World Ocean Summit is taking place in San Francisco, USA, on 24-26 February 2014. It is hosted by The Economist in partnership with National Geographic on 24-26 February as a means to feature the ocean more prominently on global environmental, climate-change and sustainability agendas. The Ocean is essential to life: it provides the oxygen for every second breath we take, and 2/3 of the value of all the natural services offered by the planet. It regulates our weather, provides food for billions of people, and supports many industries such as fishing and aquaculture, shipping, oil and gas, marine and coastal tourism.
Yet, as the result of unsustainable practices, the Ocean is now one of the Earth’s most threatened ecosystems. There is only one interconnected Ocean on this blue planet, which means that what we do in one part of it will ultimately affect the others. The cumulative impact of these human activities, whether land or sea-based, has already been estimated to affect almost all of the Ocean. The picture is clear: the problems are global and require global action, but will most often require local responses. Above all, we need to change the way we interact with the ocean.
To be effective, response strategies must be science-based, but the importance of the ocean is not matched by our knowledge. The Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO (IOC-UNESCO) promotes international cooperation in order to generate knowledge about the nature and resources of the ocean and coastal areas and to apply that knowledge to improve management, sustainable development, marine environment protection, and decision making processes. It has always been a pioneer in identifying threats to the Ocean, such as ocean acidification. It is leading global efforts to monitor the ocean and understand such emerging issues.
Public and private stakeholders will brainstorm together in thematic working groups to identify solutions across sectors on the collective governance of the high seas, integrated ocean management within Exclusive Economic Zones or putting the ocean economy on a rational footing to conserve ecosystem services, among others.
Good governance is difficult to forge—not least in the high seas, where there is little formal jurisdiction. The World Ocean Summit is also an opportunity to meet with like-minded partners and discuss future collaboration to reach common goals. One such organization is the Global Ocean Commission (GOC), an independent international commission addressing ocean health and high seas governance that recently launched a call for a stand-alone Sustainable Development Goal for the ocean in the post-2015 agenda. Irina Bokova and Wendy Watson-Wright will meet with José María Figueres, co-Chair of the GOC and Former President, Republic of Costa Rica, to discuss synergies on shared objectives such as the post-2015 sustainable development agenda, the definition of Marine Protected Areas for the high seas as a resilience mechanism for the ocean, and mitigating the impacts of climate change and ocean acidification.