Organ also Takes Action on Draft Resolutions, Decisions by Second, Sixth CommitteeThe General Assembly today adopted resolutions and decisions of its Second (Economic and Financial) and Sixth (Legal) Committees, also adopting four texts — includi…Read More
The General Assembly would express profound alarm that greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise worldwide and remain deeply concerned that all nations are experiencing an increase in adverse impacts of climate change, according to one of eight draft r…Read More
With children’s aspirations still falling short of global commitments to improve their well‑being, and some calling those pledges a “distant dream”, the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) continued its debate on…Read More
Here’s the IRIN team’s weekly take on humanitarian news, trends, and developments from around the globe.
On our radar:
The (ending) age of Aquarius
MSF’s Mediterranean rescue ship, Aquarius, has been at the centre of a series of diplo…
Every week, IRIN’s team of specialist editors curates a reading list of humanitarian trends and developments from around the globe.Fact Check: A Saudi prince on Yemen aidSaudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS, to those in the know) has be…Read More
The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesman for the Secretary‑General.
Today is the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons. In his remarks to the high-level plenary meeting to mark this Day, the Secretary‑General said that in recent months, the dangers posed by nuclear weapons have been forcefully driven home, and added that ensuring that we achieve a nuclear-[weapons]-free world is now more urgent than ever. “It is true that we live in challenging circumstances,” he said, “but this can be no excuse for walking away from our shared responsibility to seek a more peaceful international society.”
He once again condemned the series of nuclear and missile tests conducted by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea [DPRK] and welcomed the Security Council’s firm action on the situation, as well as its desire for a peaceful, diplomatic and political solution. He added that there is a need for inclusive dialogue, renewed international cooperation and practical measures for irreversible, verifiable and universal nuclear disarmament.
Turning to the situation in Bangladesh, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs [OCHA] says that the number of Rohingya refugees who have fled Myanmar to Bangladesh since late August has now topped 480,000. This brings the total number of Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh to more than 700,000 people. The UN and its partners continue to provide assistance to these refugees.
As part of its contribution to the response plan led by the Bangladeshi authorities, a cargo jet chartered by UNHCR [Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees] carrying 100 metric tonnes of urgently-needed shelter supplies landed in Dhaka early this morning. Two more aid flights are now scheduled to arrive. Despite the efforts being made on the ground, the massive influx of people seeking safety is outpacing the capacity to respond. Many of those who recently arrived are deeply traumatized.
At the request of authorities in Bangladesh, UNHCR and its partners have scaled up protection and life-saving support to the new arrivals in Kutupalong and Nayapara camps. UNHCR is also distributing emergency shelter kits, kitchen sets, jerry cans, sleeping mats, solar lamps, and other supplies. During his visit to Bangladesh over the weekend, the High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, discussed the importance of working with Bangladeshi authorities. He emphasized that, for now, the immediate focus has to remain on fast, efficient and substantial increase of support to those who are so desperately in need.
For its part, the World Food Programme [WFP] has enrolled 460,000 people to receive 25 kilos of rice every two weeks for the next six months. More than 200,000 people have received an emergency supply of high-energy biscuits. WFP is especially concerned about the health of women and children arriving hungry and malnourished, and has provided nearly 60,000 of them with fortified food to date.
The World Health Organization [WHO] has helped to set up a control room for the Bangladeshi Health Ministry’s operations in Cox’s Bazar. The control room will monitor the health situation, provide early warning alerts and coordinate the work of health workers on the ground.
Turning to Colombia, today, the UN Verification Mission in Colombia started its activities in support of the peace process between the Government of Colombia and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia-People’s Army [FARC-EP]. Its mandate is to verify the implementation by the parties of both reintegration and security guarantees.
The Verification Mission, as you will recall, succeeds the UN Mission in Colombia, which completed its mandate yesterday, following the successful tripartite monitoring and verification of the cease-fire and the cessation of hostilities. That Mission has also had a specific role in overseeing the laying down of arms process of the FARC-EP.
The previous Mission, in a statement, provided a full list of all the weapons, ammunition, explosives and mines they collected. This represents a total of 8,994 arms, 1,765,862 rounds of ammunition, 38,255 kg of explosives, 11,015 grenades, 3,528 anti-personnel mines, 46,288 electric detonation caps, 4,370 mortar rounds and 51,911 metres of detonating cord and fuses.
Following the laying down of arms, the FARC-EP has transformed from a guerrilla organization into a new political party. The reintegration phase of former FARC members is now underway.
Back here, the Security Council met on South Sudan this morning. The Special Representative of the Secretary‑General, David Shearer, briefed the Council on the situation in the country, and Mr. Shearer will be briefing you in this room at 2 p.m. Yes, in this room.
**Central African Republic
Turning to the Central African Republic [CAR], our humanitarian colleagues said today that the situation in the western part of the country has deteriorated again since the beginning of this month. Armed groups have taken over several localities, including the cities of Bocaranga and Niem, and the ensuing confrontations have caused a large number of displacements. The vast majority of the inhabitants of Bocaranga and Niem took refuge in the bush, where they cannot access humanitarian assistance.
The Humanitarian Coordinator in the CAR, Najat Rochdi, warned that the operational capacities of the humanitarian community are already under intense pressure in a context marked by the underfunding of aid. The simultaneous emergence of new outbreaks of tension in several regions will undoubtedly exacerbate the already fragile situation of thousands of displaced people and the communities that are barely recovering from repeated crises, she added.
Nickolay Mladenov, the Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, today condemned the shooting attack today by a Palestinian in the Har Adar settlement, in which one Israeli policeman and two security guards were killed, and another was seriously wounded. His thoughts and prayers are with the families and friends of all the victims. He hopes for a full and speedy recovery of the wounded. Mr. Mladenov said that it is deplorable that Hamas and others continue to glorify such attacks, which undermine the possibility of a peaceful future for both Palestinians and Israelis. He urges all to condemn violence and stand up to terror.
In Brussels, the Director-General of the UN Migration Agency [IOM], William Lacy Swing, called on European countries to continue the European Union emergency relocation programme without interruption. The programme was set [up] two years ago to relocate some 106,000 asylum seekers that arrived in Greece and Italy. While today is its final day of registration, countries have until the end of the year to carry out relocations.
The Food and Agriculture Organization [FAO] called today for broader cattle vaccination to keep lumpy skin disease at bay in Eastern Europe and the Balkans. The disease is a cattle pox virus transmitted by insects that can be deadly for cattle, but does not impact humans.
Press conferences: I already mentioned at 2 p.m. David Shearer will brief you. And at 4 p.m., the President of the General Assembly [PGA] will hold a press briefing right here. He will have an announcement to make. He will also share his observations on the general debate, outlining what was achieved and laying out his expectations for the rest of the session. Because the PGA is briefing, Brenden [Varma] will not be here to brief you.
Lastly, today, we welcome Saint Kitts and Nevis to the Honour Roll. This brings us up to… how many countries having been paid in full?
Spokesman: 133. Close enough. You get a free ice cream and a question. Go ahead.
**Questions and Answers
Question: Thank you. I understand that the Secretary… Sec… Security Council will hold a meeting this afternoon on the… on the issue of Rohingya and that the Secretary‑General will address the Security [Council]. What is the… what… does the Security… does the Secretary‑General have a specific message to the Council? And what does he expect from that meeting? Thank you.
Spokesman: First of all, my understanding is that there may be a briefing in closed consultations today. I cannot confirm that the Secretary‑General will brief the Security Council this week. If… once we have something confirmed, we will announce it. Obviously, for the Secretary‑General, his message has been the same and is very simple, is a halt to the military and security operations in Rakhine State, humanitarian access for all humanitarian workers, and decisions to be made on the status of the Rohingyas, those who have no papers in Rakhine State. And I think, as for what he expects for the Council, I think he laid it out in his letter. Mr. Lee?
Question: Sure. I wanted to ask you about this… the meeting… well, something in Burundi and DRC [Democratic Republic of the Congo] and also about the meeting yesterday with the Foreign Minister of… of… of… of the DRC… of Burundi. Went up there and it… the readout does mention this killing of Burundian refugees in DRC, and I heard Kate Gilmore today speaking about it at the Human Rights Council. But, for people in the DRC, they’re saying that actually another camp full of Burundian refugees, Lusenda, is surrounded by the FARDC [Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo], that there’s… there’s live fire taking place. And I’m just wondering, beyond the sort of expressions of concern by the UN, is MONUSCO [United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo] doing anything to protect the refugees that were there…
Spokesman: I will check with MONUSCO.
Question: And on that… on that meeting, I guess, and in a number of the meetings, in terms of observing who’s there, it doesn’t seem like UN Human Rights, the New York office, the New York representative of the High Commissioner didn’t seem to be in on meetings that even seemed to implicate serious human rights concerns. Is there some… did Mr. [Andrew] Gilmour attend any of the bilats?
Spokesman: I don’t have Mr. Gilmour’s schedule. What I can tell you is that, just looking at who’s in the meeting, I think, is not the whole story. Obviously, whatever is discussed in the meeting and raised in the meeting represents the issues that are of concern of the house, whether they be political or human rights or humanitarian. And, obviously, people who need to be briefed on the meeting afterwards are briefed on the meeting.
Question: But I have just one more on readouts. The Cameroon readout didn’t mention the anglophone issue, certainly by name, and it seemed to refer to something called the… the political situation in the country, which, I think, one of your colleagues that works on 38 [floor] believed that the readout said something about the internal situation. But the Cameroonian coverage of that meeting has absolutely no mention of any human rights concern, anything. And so I’m wondering…
Spokesman: I think the Secretary‑General… I mean, the readouts offer a glimpse of… a broad glimpse of what was discussed. Obviously, other issues are discussed. And, I think, as the Secretary‑General will tell you, there is a time for public diplomacy, and there’s a time for private diplomacy. Yes, sir?
Question: After the referendum in the Kurdistan and Iraq, I… did you see these videos showing that the fabrication of voting, someone voting like 30 papers, signing them and putting them in the box, these are by… by social media, there have been such videos coming out. How does the United Nations… of course, you… you refuse the idea of referendum. But now, given that even the authorities there are fabricating the results, trying to influence the results…
Spokesman: I have no… we had no role on the organization, the planning, the holding of this vote. So, I have no… I haven’t seen the videos you mentioned, but I have no comment on the procedural aspects and of the vote. We made our political position, I think, clear. And I will leave it at that.
Question: With regard to Kirkuk, I mean there’s disputed territory there. UNAMI [United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq] has an idea about reconciliation. But, of course, if Kurdistan… they are considering this part of them, what would UNAMI do, I mean, to prevent a war or a conflict in that area?
Spokesman: Look, it’s clearly a time of heightened tensions in Iraq. I think we’ve noted, as we said yesterday in a note to correspondents, that this referendum was unilaterally declared and included areas under the control of the Peshmerga and was opposed by the Iraqi constitutional authorities, Iraq’s neighbours, and the international community. I think we regret that that the opportunities for dialogue prior to the vote were not seized for serious discussions between the Government in Baghdad, the national Government of Iraq in Baghdad and the Kurdistan Regional Government.
Question: How about the support coming from Israel to such referendum and independence of Kurdistan? Have you…
Spokesman: I have no… that’s your statement. I don’t know how to… I have no information to that. Linda?
Question: It’s not a statement… there were statements by Israelis. [inaudible]
Spokesman: Linda, Linda. We’ll come back to you… [inaudible] … I will come back to you. Linda?
Question: Thank you, Steph. I hope I didn’t miss this at some previous time, but this is regarding the Rohingya. I know there’s a dire situation, humanitarian situation, now in Bangladesh where they fled. But my question is about the Rohingya militants. I mean, the… Myanmar has… has said that, you know, that they… this conflict began after militants attacked various police border crossings across big — I don’t know — a number of them. But my question is, does the UN have any kind of assessment of who the militants are, how many are there, what they’re doing now if… you know, if they’re involved in… currently involved in the conflict?
Spokesman: We strongly condemned those attacks when they took place by these militant group. There was no excuse for it. We have no one on the ground, nor do we have the capacity to monitor, analyse, the movements of these armed groups in Rakhine State.
Question: But just to follow up, is there a sense that they’re still involved in, perhaps, fighting with the Government?
Spokesman: You know, it’s… I can only… the analysis we have at this point is really based on the press coverage. As I said, our physical presence in Rakhine State, especially in the areas where conflict is still going on, is extremely limited. Yep?
Question: Yesterday, Mr. Mladenov in his weekly… or his monthly briefing to the Security Council on the situation in the… in the Middle East, he said settlement activity by Israel makes it more and more unlikely for the two‑State solution to be implemented. I mean, what’s the Secretary… the Secretary‑General’s position on this? What’s… what’s his recommendation to the Security Council on this… on this issue?
Spokesman: Well, it’s… the Secretary‑General shares that assessment. He said in the past, Mr. Mladenov is there as the Secretary‑General’s representative in reporting to the Security Council. I think it’s not so much a message to the Security Council but as to both… the parties involved that it’s time for direct face-to-face discussions. Mr. Bays and then…
Question: A question, which is really guidance for our diaries. We’re all awaiting the Children and Armed Conflict report.
Question: Have you got any news on what day… could it be this week? What day it might be. And just, on that, last year we got the Secretary‑General on the day it came out, coming and briefing us at the stakeout. Are you expecting the…
Spokesman: Last year was quite a unique time if… really… you’re talking about the release in 2017… in 2016?
Question: Yes. Are you expecting similar things this year?
Spokesman: No, I understand. I have… just about everything, I have very little expectations about anything, but I will try to get you some guidance diary-wise at least. Yes, ma’am?
Question: So, this is a little off… maybe an off-topic question, but there is a… a petition out by some environmental activists who have declared the part of the ocean where all the trash is gathered, the plastic… the Trash Isles and they have apparently… they say they have sent a petition to the United Nations for being accepted as a country to the United Nations, which, obviously, I know all the rules of this body, but it’s obviously a way to get attention to this topic. So, I was wondering if you have any reaction. Has the petition been received, and what’s your take on it?
Spokesman: I’m not aware the petition’s been received, but I think it’s a very innovative and creative way to bring attention to a problem that is often not seen, given the location of these piles of trash, but a problem of polluting the oceans, killing the life in the oceans is a very important one. So, I… as I said, I think it’s creative and innovative. But the chances of it being accepted are fairly nil. I think we’ll go to Mr. Lee, Nizar. I’m looking at you, but I’m thinking of Mr. Lee. Go ahead. And it looks like it’s a Periscope question.
Correspondent: It is, actually.
Spokesman: So it’s a bonus question.
Correspondent: We’ll just rev it up.
Spokesman: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Question: Actually, this has to do with the… with the… with the… the deaths of Michael Sharp and Zaida Catalán. I wanted to ask you, I heard today, actually, again, in the Human Rights Council, Kate Gilmore was saying that… offering her condolences for Mr. Sharp, Ms. Catalan, and Betu Tshintela, the interpreter. And, as you may know, there’s now some controversy about whether he, in fact, was killed, what his role in it was. I know it’s come up in here before, so I wanted to ask you, it seems like enough time has gone by. Is it the UN’s understanding that Betu Tshintela was, in fact, killed in this attack? And, if so, given that even the Government of DRC said the body’s never been found, what’s the basis of the UN saying that he was killed?
Spokesman: I really have nothing more to add to the investigation than what was shared with you in the executive summary of the Board of Inquiry. We’re, obviously, saddened by the loss of life of our colleagues and others that may have died as well in the attack.
Question: And given the pretty… the now pretty detailed criticism of the… the… the Board of Inquiry, that they were only there nine days, that they ignored a lot of the video and other evidence… and audio evidence that exists, I guess, what’s the… what’s the response to that criticism? And what steps have been taken since the Secretary‑General said that the UN will somehow embed with or work with the DRC’s own investigation…?
Spokesman: That process is ongoing. We hope to have something to announce shortly. Nizar and then Jordan.
Question: Yeah, on Yemen, the outbreak of cholera, is it abating, or is it still… is there any update on it?
Spokesman: I’ll give you some figures. My sense is that’s not abating, but I will try to get you some updated figures for tomorrow or later today.
Question: Also, Mr. Walid Al-Moualem, the Deputy Prime Minister of Syria, called on Syrians to return to Syria, especially that 80 per cent of Syria is now back in the hands of the Syrian Government. And he guarantees their safety. How does the United Nations react to such a call? And does it feel safe for the people to return?
Spokesman: The decision to return is one best left in the hands of the people themselves. Jordan?
Question: Are those people… sorry, follow-up on that. These people need, of course, help to…
Spokesman: Of course, they need help, but people… we are not in the business of forcing people to come home… go home or telling them what to do. People need to make those decisions for themselves.
Question: I have a question on North Korea and the SG. I know the SG has met two days ago with the Foreign Minister of North Korea, as he met with all delegations. Is there any possibility that the SG will be going to North Korea during the year to calm the situation?
Spokesman: We have nothing to announce and we try… I have nothing to announce on that front.
Question: Sure. I’ve mentioned Kate Gilmore twice, and it’s for a reason. I wanted to know whether you can give any update on the UNFPA [United Nations Population Fund] process, both the candidacy of Ms. Gilmore and now of Alicia Bárcena? Are you aware… what’s the deadline for SG selection…
Spokesman: I’m not aware… the details of the process are one of the many things that I’m not aware of because, as you know, the announcement is made, and then the announcement of a job opening is made. People apply, and once the process is over, we announce who got the job.
Question: And I wanted to ask you, again, this is… I’ve asked you several times about Jeffrey Sachs, and each time you’ve said… statements that he’s made, you said, well, he’s only speaking when he’s in his capacity. So, now there’s an article in the Guardian, which says, “The world is moving on with or without Trump’s crude bravado – Jeffrey Sachs”. And the article is about the Sustainable Development Goals [SDGs], which I understand to be his job for the UN. So I guess I want to… it’s been a little unclear to me. You’ve tried… sometimes you’ve said… at one point, you said it would be communicated to him that it was inappropriate to give an endorsement…
Spokesman: What I’m saying to you is, if it… if he speaks… if he’s identified and speaking in his official capacity, then it is…
Question: Okay. So, can you look at the Guardian? Because he’s talking about the SDGs. And, again, many people share that view, but I wanted to know…
Spokesman: I think I’ve answered the question to my best of my ability, Counsellor. Jordan?
Correspondent: I know, but it just continues to happen and lower-down UN staff get in trouble for doing the same thing.
Question: Thank you. I have a question on Western Sahara. I know you issued a statement on behalf of the Special Envoy on 20 September, that he had some communications here at the UN, and he said he’s going to the region soon. Has he gone there or not yet and…
Spokesman: No, he’s not gone there. When we have a trip to announce, I’ll let you know. Thank you.Read More
Since the early 1990s, North Africa has served as a jumping point for migrants trying to reach Europe. Then, as now, these are mixed migration routes where refugees and asylum seekers travel side by side with migrants in search of better economic opportunities. But as the numbers increased, from thousands to tens of thousands a year, debates over EU responsibility to rescue and save these migrants from drowning have become more contentious.
At the center of the current debate are the humanitarian NGOs trying to fill the gap left by the EU’s increasingly draconian migration policies.
Following the tragic capsize of a boat off the coast of the Italian island of Lampedusa in 2013 that killed more than 300 migrants, Italy launched Operation Mare Nostrum in October 2013. Led by the Italian Navy, the operation had a specific search and rescue mandate and worked near the Libyan coast, enabling the ships to rescue thousands of refugees and migrants attempting the dangerous central Mediterranean crossing. But the cost of the operation – estimated at 9 million Euros a month – fell solely to Italy. Despite repeated requests for additional funding from other EU member states, no funding emerged and Italy shut down Mare Nostrum in October 2014, just a year after it launched.
As the number of refugees and migrants crossing into Europe spiked in 2015, this debate over search and rescue continued. The head of Frontex, the EU border agency, explicitly stated that saving migrant lives was not a priority for the agency even as the number of deaths soared. In fact, the Frontex-led Operation Triton that replaced Italy’s Mare Nostrum specifically placed its mandate with border security rather than search and rescue. Likewise, none of the other three major EU and NATO operations taking place in the Mediterranean have a specific search and rescue mandate. Instead the Italian-led Operation Mare Sicuro is focused on protecting energy assets, NATO’s Operation Sea Guardian is focused on counter-terrorism and the EU’s Operation Sophia is mandated with battling human trafficking by targeting smuggling assets like boats — and thus stopping migrants before they can cross.
Because maritime law requires ships to respond to any other ship in distress, it is more than possible that migrants will be saved by ships participating in these various operations, particularly with Operation Sophia. But in the end, search and rescue remains a secondary concern and that is by design.
For many politicians throughout the EU, search and rescue operations are seen as encouraging migrant numbers while a higher death toll, as unfortunate as it may be, could serve as an effective deterrent.
In this setting, several NGOs stepped up to provide search and rescue operations within the international waters of the Mediterranean. The first project came about with the Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS) created by an Italian-American couple in 2014 who converted a fishing boat into a search and rescue boat operating off the Libyan coast. In the spring and summer of 2015 when the number of refugees crossing between Turkey and Greece spiked, several other NGOs followed the model, including the Belgian and Dutch chapters of Doctors Without Borders and Sea-Watch, a small German NGO. In 2016 as migrants increasingly opted for the more dangerous Central Mediterranean crossing over the Eastern route between Turkey and Greece, more European and international NGOs have joined in offering search and rescue services off the North African coast.
As a result, NGOs have saved tens of thousands of migrants who likely would have died, an estimated 41 per cent of those rescued according to UNHCR. Over Easter weekend this year alone, search and rescue boats saved more than 8,000 people from drowning. But even while alleviating the responsibility of governments to save migrants, the politics of search and rescue remain controversial and now those same NGOs find themselves in the crossfire.
Both European and Libyan officials have likened the NGO ship to “migrant taxis”, blaming the search and rescue operations for the continued crossings. Some Italian politicians and Frontex officials have gone as far as to accuse the NGOs as colluding with human traffickers even though a subsequent investigation found no evidence of this. In fact, a recent report warns that if NGOs are forced to stop search and rescue operations, a humanitarian catastrophe will most certainly result.
In the midst of this political quarrel is still Italy. Despite no longer conducting its own widespread search and rescue operation as it did with Mare Nostrum, Italian ports are still the primary destination for migrants rescued by NGOs. That is because most other EU member states have closed their borders, both by land and by sea. In the case of those picked up by Frontex as part of Operation Triton, they are required to go to Italian ports as part of the protocol initially agreed upon in 2014. As a result, Italy is at the center of the entire rescue framework. According to the International Organization for Migration by mid-July more than 93,000 migrants arrived in Italy in 2017 out of 111,000 migrant arrivals in the entire Mediterranean. And much like Greece before, the strain on Italy’s government and social service system is unsustainable.
The disproportionate nature of this burden led to Italy threatening to close its ports to all rescue ships late last month. The lack of burden sharing throughout the EU has been a repeated issue since migrant numbers first spiked in 2015. But despite multiple conferences, meetings, policy proposals and legal agreements, countries on the Mediterranean such as Italy and Greece are left to cope with the crisis themselves. And so the focus of anger and frustration falls back onto the NGOs who are bringing these migrants into port after rescuing them at sea.
Earlier this month the European Commission released an action plan designed to “support Italy, reduce pressure along the Central Mediterranean Route and increase solidarity.” The central tenants of the plan include stepping up support for the Libyan government to police its borders, expanding the number of detention beds and length of detention for migrants in Italy, and improving efforts to deport migrants. However one of the more controversial parts of the proposal is the new plan requiring NGOs to sign and abide by a “code of conduct” drafted by Italy in order to gain access to its ports. Once the proposed code went public last week, several NGOs and human rights groups warned it would led to further casualties rather than an improvement of the situation.
That is because the new code appears to extends the civil-military approach favored by the EU to NGOs who clearly laid out their humanitarian approach in their own voluntary code of conduct released earlier this year. It also places new burdens on smaller NGOs which make up six of the thirteen NGO ships currently operating in the Mediterranean. Ships of these smaller NGOs lack the capacity for full-scale complex search and rescue operations, and instead coordinate with other vessels – both civilian and military – in the area. By forcing them to operate alone, the new proposal will likely eliminate them from the picture and thus cut available search and rescue services by almost half.
The proposal is also being condemned by the UN. UNHCR’s Special Envoy for the Central Mediterranean Route Vincent Cochetel voiced his disapproval shortly after the proposal aired. “If we want to talk about a code of conduct, no problem – but let’s have a code of conduct for everybody,” he said. Referring to allegations that commercial vessels are increasingly turning off their own transponders to avoid their obligations to respond to ships in distress, Cochetel instead proposes that any code of conduct should apply to all civilian and military ships in the area rather than just targeting NGOs.
For now, it is unclear what will happen next regarding the NGOs and their search and rescue operations. The political debate over search and rescue is not new, and in the Mediterranean it even predates the Lampedusa disaster. Any real solution will require political will that has been noticeably lacking in Europe for years.
Instead, the EU seems destined to continue pursuing half measures such as this week’s odd proposal to limit the sale of rubber boats to countries that may then export them to Libya. With or without those rubber boats, migrants will continue to try and cross the Mediterranean. The only question is who, if anyone, will be there to save them when they fail.
Speakers emphasized the urgency of expanding protected coastal and marine areas — one of the targets of Goal 14 of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development — as well as tackling the problem of ocean acidification during partnership dialogues on the second day of the United Nations Ocean Conference.
Tommy Remengesau, President of Palau and co-chair of a morning discussion on the theme “Managing, protecting, conserving and restoring marine and coastal ecosystems”, said “we should increase our ambition” and protect at least 30 per cent of coastal and marine areas by 2030 — compared with the 10 per cent set out in the Sustainable Development Goals.
He said that for his Pacific island country, the best option was to set aside 80 per cent of its waters — 190 square miles of ocean — as a marine sanctuary, with the remaining 20 per cent available for domestic fishing.
Within that setting, however, Palau still had to deal with management, monitoring, protection and restoration issues, he noted, adding that multi-country and multi-stakeholder partnerships were needed in order to tackle illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing, human and drug trafficking and harmful fisheries subsidies.
Silvia Velo, Under-Secretary of State in the Ministry of Environment, Land and Sea of Italy, co-chairing the same meeting, said that while marine protected area coverage had grown over the decade, their geographic distribution was uneven, with more needed in Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, South-East Asia and in small island developing States.
Cristiana Paşca Palmer, Executive Secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity, said during a panel discussion that the world was well on the way to achieving the 10 per cent target, noting that since the agreement came into force in 1993, such areas had increased 10 fold to 5.7 per cent today. Much remained to be done, however, to improve the management of those areas and ensure that they were representative of many ocean ecosystems, she added.
In an ensuing interactive debate, participants from States and civil society touched upon a broad range of measures for creating and sustaining protected areas, with the Prime Minister of Palau announcing that, upon his return home, its Parliament would set aside 16 per cent of its exclusive economic zone as a marine protected area in which no industrial activity would be permitted.
From Latin America and the Caribbean, the representative of Grenada told how conservation was being mainstreamed into its wider economic strategy, with the private sector playing a key role as demonstrated by an underwater sculpture park described by National Geographic as a wonder of the world.
France’s delegate — a sailor who said she felt responsible for the rubbish she encountered on every one of her sea voyages — said the good health of the oceans depended on implementation of the Paris Agreement, given their acknowledged role in regulating climate.
From civil society, the representative of the Drammeh Institute advocated enshrining the eco-theological beliefs of more than 200 million people in Haiti, Cameroon, the United States and Ghana into marine management issues.
The afternoon featured a partnership dialogue on minimizing and addressing ocean acidification — a phenomenon with a potential for considerable ecological and socioeconomic consequences running alongside other climate-driven changes such as ocean warming, sea-level rise and deoxygenation.
Prince Albert II of Monaco, who co-chaired the session alongside Agostinho Mondlane, Minister of the Sea, Inland Waters and Fisheries, Mozambique, said acidification, while not a well-known phenomenon, had severe consequences. Noting that his country was home to the Ocean Acidification International Coordination Centre, he said understanding acidification required global and local approaches to decision-making. He added that limiting greenhouse gas emissions towards a carbon-free economy should be a common goal, as the effects of such efforts on acidification would be a slow process. Indeed, climate change and acidification must be fought holistically, he emphasized.
Mr. Mondlane, noting that Mozambique had one of the world’s longest coastlines, said increased acidification, with its adverse impacts on marine resources, had brought about a huge awakening, as it affected people’s survival. “The solutions must come from us,” he said, adding that the phenomenon risked undermining his country’s efforts to develop mussels, bivalves and prawns as a means of alternative livelihoods for its people.
The Conference — officially titled the United Nations Conference to Support the Implementation of Sustainable Development Goal 14: Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development — will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, 7 June.
Partnership Dialogue I
In the morning, the Ocean Conference held a partnership dialogue on the topic “Managing, protecting, conserving and restoring marine and coastal ecosystems”. Moderated by Martha Rojas-Urrego, Secretary General, Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, and co-chaired by Tommy Esang Remengesau Jr., President of Palau, and Cristiana Paşca Palmer, Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Environment, Land and Sea, Italy, it featured a panel discussion by Lin Shanqing, Deputy Administrator, State Oceanic Administration, China; Cristiana Paşca Palmer, Executive Secretary, Convention on Biological Diversity; Jake Rice, Chief Scientist Emeritus, Fisheries and Oceans Canada; and Cyrie Sendashonga, Global Director, Program and Policy Group, International Union for Conservation of Nature.
Opening the discussion, Mr. REMENGESAU said Governments were faced with the “monumental” task of developing a new model of ocean governance to replace a failed one that had allowed unlimited human activity to damage marine ecosystems. There was now the forum and the obligation to develop a sustainable approach to the management, protection, conservation and restoration of marine and coastal ecosystems. He encouraged delegates to keep an open mind and maintain transparency in implementing the sometimes contradictory — but necessary — objectives. For Palau, the best option was to create a large marine protected area, setting aside 80 per cent of its waters — 190 square miles of ocean — as a marine sanctuary, with the remaining 20 per cent available for domestic fishing. Within that setting, Palau still had to deal with management, monitoring, protection and restoration. In line with the Convention on Biological Diversity, stakeholders must work together to establish by 2020 an effectively managed set of marine protected areas, beyond areas of national jurisdiction, covering 10 per cent of marine and coastal areas.
“We should increase our ambition” and protect at least 30 per cent of such areas by 2030, he said, noting that States must also consider sustainable development and create opportunities for food security initiatives by enhancing small-scale and artisanal fisheries, as well as building tourism and aquaculture. Multi-country and multi-stakeholder partnerships must tackle illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing, human and drug trafficking and harmful fisheries subsidies. He urged all States to ratify the Port State Measures Agreement, stressing that connections must be made to funding mechanisms — such as the Green Climate Fund, Global Environmental Facility, World Bank and Asian Development Bank — with new and unique funding mechanisms focused solely on oceans identified. He objected to funding mechanisms that were impossible for least developed countries and small island developing States to access, based on a perceived lack of capacity.
Ms. VELO said that Italy in 2010 had introduced measures for the management of marine protected areas, a multi-stakeholder model that mapped habitats and protected space. Italy had adopted a methodology for the allocation of financial resources, based on objective criteria and performance indicators, with assessments conducted in areas such as conservation and human-impact free management. Italy could count 29 marine protected areas within a European Union network, which overall accounted for the protection of nearly 20 per cent of its territorial waters.
At the global level, she said that while marine protected area coverage had grown over the decade, the geographic distribution was uneven, with more needed in Africa, Latin American and the Caribbean, South-East Asia and in small island developing States, which depended more heavily on protected marine systems. Noting that Italy was chair of the Ocean Sanctuary Alliance, along with Kenya, Bahamas, Palau and Poland, she said the group was working to mobilize efforts to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 14.5 and identify globally significant areas as candidates for additional marine protected area development. Italy also had increased its engagement with small island developing States, focusing on capacity-building and the establishment and maintenance of marine protected areas. It also had partnered with Palau on the implementation of marine sanctuaries, and more broadly, was ready to support its partners in moving towards more sustainable ocean-based economies.
Ms. ROJAS-URREGO said the topic under discussion went to the heart of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands. Conservation management and restoring marine ecosystems were prerequisite for achieving Sustainable Development Goal 14 as well as other Goals. Many communities, especially in developing countries, depended on marine ecosystems for food and water. Such ecosystems also played a critical role in the context of climate change by mitigating disasters and serving as carbon sinks, she said. However, marine ecosystems were being lost at an unprecedented rate, she added, noting for example that 90 per cent of coral reefs had suffered damage. Measures were being taken by States and stakeholders, but there was still a long way to go, she said, adding that the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development was an opportunity to put the preservation of marine ecosystems at the heart of development.
Mr. LIN said the Government of China paid great attention to environmental protection, with the marine space being a critical part of its overall environmental plan. Since the turn of the century, China had promulgated and amended ocean-related laws and regulation, creating a comprehensive legal system for marine protection. It also sought to move towards a payment system through which the State regulated royalties, with revenue going towards conservation efforts. The percentage of marine protected areas and reserves was being increased, he said, adding that China was also introducing an ecological monitoring system that went beyond measuring pollution alone.
Ms. PAŞCA PALMER said conservation efforts had failed to put a dent on the loss of species or the degradation of marine ecosystem functions. The consequences would be severe, particularly for those who relied on the oceans for their livelihood and nutrition. Noting that adherence to the Convention on Biological Diversity was near-universal, she said Goal 14 represented a critical opportunity to build on political will and experience. An integrated and holistic approach was a must, however. She said the world was well on the way to achieving the target of conserving at least 10 per cent of coastal and marine areas, noting that since the Convention came into force in 1993, such areas had increased 10 fold to 5.7 per cent today. But there remained much to do to improve the management of those areas and to ensure that they were representative of many ocean ecosystems. In that regard, the Sustainable Ocean Initiative produced by the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity addressed the question of capacity-building, especially for developing countries. Going forward, she emphasized the critical importance of having clear targets and political commitments, as well as basing actions on a scientific understanding of the ecological and biological value of marine biodiversity.
Ms. SENDASHONGA said that since the 2016 World Conservation Congress, the International Union for Conservation of Nature had included a new membership category for indigenous peoples’ organizations. More broadly, its structure involved 16,000 experts in six commissions and many of its projects were implemented with local communities. Sharing lessons learned in working with those communities, she said success was about ensuring the resilience of ecosystems, and, in turn, the communities that depended on them. The “Mangroves for the Future” project was being carried out in South and South-East Asia across 11 countries by bringing together all stakeholders. Through a “resilience approach” the project was examining socioecological systems, exploring the dynamics and interactions associated with the ecological system. “You can’t do that without involving all the stakeholders,” she said, stressing that local communities understood their context best. Another project called “Biodiversity and Ecosystems Services in Territories of European Overseas” was funded by the European Commission across five regions. In terms of alternative livelihoods, her organization had learned to take a holistic view of an ecosystem and create a framework of jobs that aligned with the goods and services produced by the marine or coastal ecosystem at hand. The conditions for equitable benefit sharing included empowering the community with knowledge and establishing good governance. Projects that allowed all voices to be heard, promoted local ownership and fostered opportunities for collaboration were those that succeeded.
Mr. RICE, describing technical measurement challenges, said “the ocean is not an easy place to sample” to create the iron-cast knowledge that justified management decisions. There must be a proper forum to translate that knowledge into advice for decision-makers in terms that could be understood. The conceptual challenges about what constituted progress — about the outcomes to seek, for example, or the costs and benefits involved — could be perceived differently. While the ocean had been “woefully” under-sampled, there was a huge scientific legacy, with the Convention on Biological Diversity and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) among the vast number of forums created. If anything, there was a turf war over who had the right to assess what, creating a travesty that allowed people with preconceived ideas of what answers should be to find the data that supported the answers they wanted. Those challenges must be overcome. “We need to discuss more”, he said, stressing that focusing on how much of the ocean should be put away in “pristine deposit boxes” of protection was insufficient. Several of the Sustainable Development Goals would not be achieved without using the ocean as a greater source of wealth. The issue of measuring progress was an equally great challenge, as costs and benefits were perceived by people with different world views. In terms of assessment, interest groups — those holding the knowledge and those whose lives would be forever altered by the decisions made — must participate in assessment processes. The vast knowledge of the ocean was not being used as effectively as it could be and he advocated using it more wisely.
In the ensuing discussion, participants discussed a range of initiatives being undertaken to manage, protect, conserve and restore marine and coastal ecosystems.
HENRY PUNA, Prime Minister of the Cook Islands, said that upon his return from the Conference, legislation would be tabled in his country’s Parliament that would establish 16 per cent of its exclusive economic zone as a marine protected area comprising 324,000 square kilometres in which no industrial activity would be permitted. The Cook Islands aimed to be a model of sustainability, but its efforts would be in vain if it was left to do it alone, he said, calling upon the international community to do more to control high-seas activities and to meet emissions commitments. He added that his country supported the immediate creation of a “blue fund” for sustaining conservation efforts.
A representative of the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme, which served 21 Pacific island countries and territories over an area almost twice the size of the Russian Federation, said its work currently focused on climate change resilience and environmental governance, among other topics. Noting that the region led the world in marine protected areas and sanctuaries totalling 3 million square kilometres, he emphasized the enormous strain and threat posed by climate change, overexploitation and pollution. He suggested that, with regards to the environment, the word “pristine” should be removed from the English language. He added that achieving Goal 14 would require a major ongoing commitment on the part of Pacific Island countries and partners.
The representative of French Polynesia called the ocean a link between people and cultures. Since 2002, French Polynesia had become one of the world’s largest sanctuaries for marine animals, where all shark species were protected. The Marquesas Islands had established the first six educational marine areas. In terms of resource management, French Polynesia had in 1996 stopped selling fishing licenses to foreign fleets to its exclusive economic zone. Fishing in the maritime area was reserved for Polynesian fishers and its exclusive economic zone would be reclassified as a marine protected area.
The representative of Tonga described lack of financing mechanisms to achieve long-term conservation goals, stressing the need to build the capacity for using financial and management tools. He saw the dialogue to build a unified path to achieving Goal 14. In Tonga, conservation efforts had been carried out to address challenges. It sought to enhance and foster new partnerships to support those efforts, which included a marine protected area as part of the “10 times 20” initiative between Tonga and Italy.
The representative of Monaco said his country had a long regional history in establishing the Pelagos Sanctuary, which today was seeing a new impetus with an agreement signed in April for the protection of marine mammals. Monaco was focused on creating new marine protected areas to achieve the Aichi Biodiversity Targets; developing regulatory and legal frameworks on national, regional and international levels; supporting scientific studies on the merits of such areas; and strengthening the management and financing for such areas.
ANTÓNIO DA CONCEIÇÃO, Minister for Commerce, Industry and Environment of Timor-Leste, said his country depended on the unique biodiversity of both Asia and Australia. Although it was a small developing country, it took its responsibilities seriously, as demonstrated in the Coral Triangle Initiative. Through traditional law, Timor-Leste had created marine protected areas that were co-managed with local communities, thus protecting biodiversity and improving food security while guarding against the effects of climate change. While Timor-Leste would do its part, it looked to the community of nations for partnerships, he said, adding that even the biggest countries could not go it alone.
The representative of Grenada said that without ocean health, there could be no ocean wealth. In his country, conservation was mainstreamed into the wider economic strategy, with the private sector playing a key role as demonstrated by an underwater sculpture park described by National Geographic as a wonder of the world. Emphasizing that Grenada was open to innovative partnerships, he said it had developed investment prospects of bankable projects that were environmentally sustainable.
The representative of France said that, as a sailor, she had never made a voyage without seeing garbage at sea. While that made her feel responsible, she hoped that an historic moment had come to raise awareness and take collective action. She added that, since the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP21) in Paris, the substantial role of the oceans in regulating climate was acknowledged. For that reason, France supported the Oceans and Climate Initiatives Alliance and affirmed that the good health of the oceans depended on implementation of the Paris Agreement on climate change.
The representative of the Seychelles addressed the problem of marine plastic pollution, stressing that his country was doing its best to ensure effective solid waste management and take targeted approaches to plastics. It had banned the import of plastic bags, utensils and other items, and was partnering on another strategy that sought to avoid their design. To implement such plans, effective partnerships were required.
The representative of the Pacific Community said more ocean data and better communication of ocean science was required for decision-making. She advocated knowledge- and skills-transfer, under the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, as well as funding for adequate monitoring. Her organization was committed to providing the best scientific and technical advice to Pacific islands and territories so they could make informed decisions.
A representative of the Drammeh Institute, explaining she was a Haitian voodoo priestess, advocated enshrining the eco-theological beliefs of more than 200 million people in Haiti, Cameroon, the United States and Ghana into marine management issues.
The representative of Togo described the creation of the High Council of the Sea, composed of public, private and civil society bodies, which regulated sea and coastal areas, and worked to strengthen regulations related to assessments.
The representative of Sri Lanka explained that coral reefs, mangroves, sand dunes and coastal wetlands played an important role in protecting his country from tidal waves. Marine protected areas covered 289,000 hectares and there were six marine sanctuaries. Sri Lanka aimed to increase its marine protected areas by 1,000 square kilometres by 2020.
The representative of Nepal said landlocked countries were catchment areas from where rivers eventually flowed into oceans. Welcoming the Call of Action that would emerge from the Conference, he said special support must be given to climate-vulnerable countries, both coastal and landlocked, to fight climate change in a smart manner. It was incumbent upon mankind to manage, protect, conserve and restore marine and coastal ecosystems and Nepal was on board that effort, he said.
Also speaking were Heads of Government, ministers and other senior officials and representatives of Samoa, United Arab Emirates, Sweden, Colombia, Philippines and Canada, as well as of the Holy See.
Also taking the floor were representatives of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), Union Nationale des Travailleurs Democrates and the Ocean Sanctuary Alliance.
Partnership Dialogue II
In the afternoon, the Conference held a partnership dialogue on “Minimizing and addressing ocean acidification”. Moderated by Petteri Taalas, Secretary-General, World Meteorological Organization, it featured presentations by Cardinal Peter Turkson, Head of the Dicastery for Integral Human Development, Holy See; Rahanna Juman, Deputy Director, Institute of Marine Affairs, Trinidad and Tobago; David Osborn, Director of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Environment Laboratories; and Carol Turley, Senior Scientist, Plymouth Marine Laboratory, United Kingdom. Prince Albert II of Monaco and Agostinho Mondlane, Minister of the Sea, Inland Waters and Fisheries, Mozambique, co-chaired the meeting.
Prince ALBERT II of Monaco said acidification, while not a well-known phenomenon, had severe consequences. Target 14.3 had established a framework for collective action to combat its affects, notably by strengthening scientific cooperation. Through the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, the Ocean Acidification International Coordination Centre had been established in Monaco, and action must focus on better understanding, adaptation and prevention. Noting that oceans absorbed 30 per cent of carbon dioxide and 80 per cent of excess heat, he said that at that pace oceans would no longer be able to act as climate regulators. Revenue loss related to sustainable tourism in coastal areas could be affected and 90 per cent of coral reefs could be threatened with extinction by 2030. Understanding acidification required global and local approaches to decision-making. On adaptation, he advocated working with local communities to devise solutions that strengthened the resilience of ecosystems. Calling prevention the most complex challenge, he said limiting greenhouse gas emissions towards a carbon-free economy should be a common goal, as the effects of such efforts on acidification would be a slow process. Indeed, climate change and acidification must be fought holistically. An inventory of good mitigation and adaptation practices would foster better responses to the challenges ahead.
Mr. MONDLANE, noting that 40 per cent of Mozambique’s territory lay within a marine environment, said his country had one of the world’s longest coastlines of 2,700 kilometres inhabited by 26 million people and hosting more than 70 per cent of the nation’s cities. Marine fisheries provided livelihoods for most coastal communities. That scenario highlighted the importance of oceans to Mozambique’s economy, he said, underscoring the need to maintain such resources so they could continue to serve society. Increased acidification, with its adverse impacts on marine resources, had brought about a huge awakening, as it affected people’s survival. “The solutions must come from us,” he said, noting that in addressing the exploitation of marine resources in Goal 14.6, Mozambique was keen to develop such marine cultures as mussels, bivalves and prawns to provide alternative livelihoods. The Government was finalizing a national action plan for aqua-culture, the implementation of which hinged on the health of the ocean. Acidification trends threatened those efforts, and the lack of action to address that phenomenon would lead to a failure to achieve objective Goal 14.6, rendering Mozambique unable to feed its people.
Mr. TAALAS said ocean acidification, while concentrated in tropical zones, was emerging at high latitudes, while concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere were at record-breaking levels. “We are not moving in the right direction” in implementing the Paris Agreement, he said. Stressing the importance of strengthened monitoring systems, he said successful implementation of the Agreement could stabilize greenhouse gas trends by 2060.
Ms. TURLEY said carbon dioxide emissions were a global issue that was being experienced very locally. While their economic impacts remained uncertain, they were indeed happening, she said, citing an 80 per cent mortality rate at oyster hatcheries in the Pacific North-West of the United States and costly efforts to respond to that development. Going forward, she said, the most important option was to mitigate the impact of acidification by reducing carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions, adopting sustainable practices and using infrastructure to protect ecosystems. Even if the Paris Agreement targets were fulfilled, she added, the impact would be there and the risks would be quite high.
Mr. OSBORN likened the oceans to a sophisticated Swiss watch that one never really owned, but passed along for future generations. Using radio isotopes and sensitive monitoring equipment, it was possible to monitor ocean acidification and even to measure past levels of acidity through the use of a pH proxy. He described a new project to collate data and encourage the training of experts in techniques for monitoring acidification at the local level. Science had revealed that changes due to acidification were not linear, but varied in terms of time and space, but the overall trend was a significant concern, with coral reefs being particularly susceptible. Some species would do better than others, but as the oceans — like a Swiss watch — was a finely tuned system, the collapse of one or two or three species would have a domino effect. He went on to emphasize the need to bridge a gap between science and policy, noting that international legal regimes currently did not address acidification.
Ms. JUMAN said coral reefs were responsible for one quarter of total fish catches in developing countries. They protected shorelines, coastal dwellings, land and beaches. Small island developing States would have fewer livelihoods if their reefs were damaged. At least 60 per cent of global coral reefs were already degraded, with tropical and subtropical corals expected to be the worst affected. More broadly, internationally-funded climate change projects addressed sea-level rise and ecosystem-based adaptation, with acidification considered only in the context of such issues as food security, rather than prioritized. Noting that donors had provided $55.5 billion to Caribbean and Pacific small island developing States between 1995 and 2015, she said those countries had also been able to leverage $460 million from the Green Climate Fund. The main challenges were around competition for aid, limited local human resource capacity, duplication of donor efforts, limited private-sector involvement and changing money flow and priorities. As small island developing States had limited ability to monitor the impacts of acidification, she recommended a number of measures. Those included enhancing research capacity through partnerships; developing indicators for Goal 14.3; rehabilitating coastal blue carbon ecosystems, like mangroves, that sequestered carbon dioxide; and advocating for reducing greenhouse gas emissions by meeting international obligations, targeting support for alternative livelihoods and increasing awareness about the benefits.
Mr. TURKSON underscored the importance of oceans and seas, providing food and raw materials, as well as essential environmental benefits such as air purification, a global carbon cycle, waste management, and maintenance of the food chains and habitats that were critical to life on Earth. Pope Francis regularly called for ecological citizenship, from a belief in a moral imperative to care for the environment, a gift entrusted to the current generation for stewardship. He had repeatedly affirmed that intergenerational solidarity was not optional, but rather, a question of justice. There was an obligation to conserve — or care — a word that invited people to be compassionate, sympathetic and to understand the state of the environment. Efforts to establish an effective regulatory framework to safeguard ocean health were often blocked by those profiting from marine resources and intent on maintaining their advantages, to the detriment of the poor. The Pope also advocated the principle of integral ecology, which captured the belief that “everything belongs together”. The environment was not regarded as something separate from ourselves. “We are part of it,” and thus, a crisis of environment was one for humanity. On the pontiff’s third principle — an integrated approach in seeking solutions to global problems — he said ethical considerations must be integrated into approaches to the environment. Technical solutions were never enough. “Leaving no one behind” was a call to solidarity that should spur everyone on to achieve the Goals, he said, stressing that the fourth principle centred on the role of education, all the more necessary where proper waste disposal was either scarce or non-existent, and the fifth principle on the need to collaborate at all levels to arrive at sustainable solutions.
ENELE SOSENE SOPOAGA, Prime Minister of Tuvalu, said studies on the impact of ocean acidification on his country were urgently needed. Everyone had a responsibility to address ocean acidification by dramatically reducing carbon dioxide output, he said, calling upon all nations to ratify the Paris Agreement and to urgently reduce their reliance of fossil fuels. He went on to propose a halt to the trade in sea cucumbers, which through their natural digestive systems made water more alkaline, mitigating the effects of acidification at a local level. Action under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora might be required in that regard, he said.
BJÖRT ÓLAFSDÓTTIR, Minister for the Environment and Natural Resources of Iceland, said that for an island State like hers, where sustainable fisheries were a backbone of society, acidification was very alarming. She expressed deep disappointment at the decision by the United States to pull out of the Paris Agreement, but celebrated the fact that some American states and cities would fulfil its goals. Noting that Iceland produced all of its energy from renewable sources, she said its efforts would further contribute to reducing acidification.
The representative of Palau said nutrient-poor ocean deserts had increased 15 per cent since the 1980s. Urgent steps were needed to boost ecosystem resilience and protect their capacity to provide vital goods and services. One of the most cost-effective strategies in that regard was the creation of marine protected areas.
The representative of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said the nexus between climate change and the ocean presented a challenge in terms of population displacement. According to the International Displacement Monitoring Centre, 22.5 million people had been displaced annually since 2008 due to adverse climate change. In 2016 alone, 24.2 million people had been displaced, most of whom from ocean coastal areas, small island developing States or areas or regions affected by “climate change fault lines”, such as the El Niño phenomenon. Some 40 million people were at risk for displacement, including 15 million living in the Ganges-Brahmaputra Delta of Bangladesh, due to sea-level rise. He advocated a whole-of-Government approach to solutions.
The representative of Peace Boat, noting that he was from Japan, described the “Eco-ship” project to design the most environmentally green ship using solar and wind power, as well as a closed-loop water system. A Finland shipyard had agreed to build the vessel. Efforts by the maritime industry were not enough; strong will must be generated to protect the oceans.
The representative of the International Chamber of Shipping said the association represented 80 per cent of the world’s merchant ships. Noting that shipping was responsible for 2.2 per cent of annual man-made carbon dioxide emissions, which contributed to acidification, he said Chamber members had reduced those emissions between 2008 and 2012, despite increased maritime trade. There was an incorrect perception that shipping might have escaped the Paris Agreement. However, in three weeks, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) would unveil a strategy to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from ships to match the ambition of the Paris accord. Global shipping would propose that IMO agree to keep total carbon dioxide emissions below 2008 levels, setting that year as the peak year for emissions, and then progressively cutting annual emissions by a percentage to be agreed by IMO member States by 2050. He clarified that it was not proposing a binding cap on such emissions.
The representative of the International Alliance to Combat Ocean Acidification said the group included the United States states of California, Oregon and Washington. It should not be confused with the United States Climate Alliance, formed recently in response to United States President’s decision to pull out of the Paris accord. The International Alliance included 12 states, along with Puerto Rico, representing 36 per cent of the United States. Its nearly 40 members had pledged to develop ocean acidification action plans to assist in the implementation of Goal 14.3. They sought to understand acidification, take actions against it, protect coasts from its impacts and build support for addressing that problem. It aimed to increase its membership to 60 members by June 2018 and support the development of action plans.
The representative of the United States, citing her role as co-chair of the Ocean Acidification Observing Network, drew attention to voluntary commitment 16542 and her group’s close work with international and intergovernmental partners, including the Ocean Foundation, the University of Gothenburg, the University of Washington, as well as IAEA and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). The group also had launched a mentorship programme, pairing scientists with researchers to new ocean acidification work.
The representative of Colombia said her country was considered one of the top five with the most marine diversity, which in turn, supported local populations. She underscored the need for gathering scientific information at the local level, including for ecosystem responses and socioeconomic impacts.
Also speaking in the interactive dialogue were representatives of Tuvalu, Iceland, Palau, New Zealand, Vanuatu, Finland, France, Argentina and Iran, as well as speakers from the European Investment Bank, Vision Tool, International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources, Scientific Centre of Monaco and the Ocean Foundation.Read More