Building peace in the minds of men and women

Irina Bokova highlights the critical role of ocean science for sustainable development



1st September - The Director-General attended today the Opening Plenary Meeting of the Third United Nations Conference on Small Island Developing States (SIDS) in Apia, the overarching theme of which is "The Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States Through Genuine and Durable Partnerships”.

In the framework of the Conference, Ms. Bokova participated in the High-Level Side Event entitled “The UN System Partnering for the People of SIDS”, together with the UN Secretary-General and other CEB Executive Heads. UN Leaders were also joined by H.E. Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi, Prime Minister of Samoa. During an interactive panel discussion, Executive Heads highlighted the UN system’s tangible contribution to the sustainable development of SIDS, and also how the UN system is working together with and for SIDS on sustainable social and economic development, climate change, disaster risk management, issues relating to the ocean, and other priority areas.

In her intervention, the Director-General elaborated on the critical role of ocean science in pursuing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). “The ocean is essential to the earth system, ecosystems and human well-being, especially for SIDS, but with this importance come steep threats and vulnerability - from sea level rise, ocean acidification or such ocean hazards as storm surges and tsunamis”, said Director-General Bokova. “An essential component of any strategy to address these challenges lies with effective, science-based management, which requires reliable data for sound policy decisions” she added.

Referring to the work of UNESCO's Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC), Ms. Bokova observed that the ambitious goal to protect, recover and sustain the ocean’s environment and biodiversity can be accomplished only with a strong knowledge base on the ocean. Such a knowledge base must be underpinned by a robust global ocean observation and knowledge infrastructure as embodied by the Global Ocean Observing system, sponsored by IOC, UNEP and WMO.

The Director-General highlighted also the role and contribution of Education for Sustainable Development, which is echoed in the draft outcome document to this Conference. “We need now to deliver together on this ambitious vision, harnessing the power of education and education for sustainable development”, she concluded.

In his address, the Prime Minister of Samoa concurred with this view, recalling that SIDS countries have identified addressing the gap in ocean science capacity as a key area within the draft outcome document for this Conference. The Prime Minister also urged for close monitoring of the implementation of the SAMOA Pathway agreed by the Conference.

The United Nations Secretary-General underscored that SIDS are on the front line of global climate action and the quest for a sustainable future. “I expect SIDS to have a strong voice in the Climate Summit I am convening on September 23rd in New York, and in the deliberations on the sustainable development goals and a post-2015 development agenda, he said. In concluding the side event, Mr. Ban-Ki Moon emphasized the need to ensure an effective and coordinated follow-up process to the SAMOA Pathway agreed by the Conference, which provides a roadmap for SIDS to reach their development goals.

On this same day, the Director-General, together with Samoa Minister of Natural Resources and Environment, also opened the UNESCO/IOC Side Event: “Coping with and adapting to ocean threats for resilient SIDS communities”. The event was organized by UNESCO/IOC with the participation of the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) and the Governments of Samoa and Barbados.

Finally, the Director-General visited the UNESCO booth in the International Year of SIDS Tent and the UN SIDS exhibition, including the UNESCO/Magnum photos exhibition sponsored by Palau.