31 August 2009
Deputy Secretary-General

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Continuous Review Essential to Understanding Ecosystems, Deputy Secretary-General

Tells Ad Hoc Working Group on State of Marine Environment


Following are UN Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro’s remarks on the marine environment to the Ad Hoc Working Group of the Whole, in New York, today, 31 August:

I congratulate Ambassador [Hilario] Davide of the Philippines and Ambassador [Gunnar] Pálsson of Iceland on their appointment as Co-Chairpersons of the Ad Hoc Working Group of the Whole, which has been convened pursuant to General Assembly resolution 63/111 on the state of the marine environment.  I am confident that their experience, leadership and knowledge of the issues under consideration will contribute to a successful outcome of this important meeting.

Oceans and seas cover more than 70 per cent of the Earth’s surface.  Yet there are significant gaps in our understanding and management of the complex processes and trends at work with respect to the marine environment.  A number of factors contribute to this state of affairs, including a fragmented institutional landscape, a lack of capacity in some regions and a failure to integrate past and current assessments into a meaningful whole.

As you will recall, in 2002, the World Summit on Sustainable Development decided that oceans and seas should be kept under permanent review.  This commitment was reiterated by the General Assembly in its resolution 57/141.  Notably, by that resolution, the Assembly decided to establish a “regular process” under the United Nations for the global reporting and assessment of the state of the marine environment.  In 2005, the General Assembly launched the “Assessment of assessments” as a preparatory step towards that process.

Assessments play a crucial role in understanding ecosystems.  They help us to gauge the vulnerability, resilience and adaptability of ecosystems.  They show us the goods and services that ecosystems provide.  And they document the impact that human activities are having, thereby helping to identify, control and, where possible, avoid environmental risks.

Past assessments by the Group of Experts on the Scientific Aspects of Marine Environmental Protection have been very useful.  But they have not given us the continuous review we need.  Such a continuous review is essential if we are to reliably detect and predict indirect and cumulative effects of anthropogenic activities in the marine environment.

Your task this week, therefore, is to carry the regular process a step forward and ensure that its establishment can provide, at the global level, a continuous, comprehensive and integrated review of the problems facing the marine environment, including socio-economic aspects.  You will be helped in this effort by the report on the results of the “Assessment of assessments”, which was transmitted to the Secretary-General by the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

That document also contains the report of the fourth meeting of the Ad Hoc Steering Group and the findings of the Group of Experts.  It includes suggestions for a framework and options for a regular process, including options for institutional arrangements.

Finally, it includes information on several building blocks, such as capacity-building, and proposes some preliminary assessment products and cost estimates for carrying out various activities.

As you embark on this critical task, I wish you every success.

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For information media • not an official record