Mr. Eliott Harris Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development and Chief Economist

Opening Remarks
at the United Nations Open-ended Informal Consultative Process on Oceans and the Law of the Sea: Nineteenth Meeting

Distinguished Delegates,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am honoured to join you today.

At the outset, I wish to congratulate Her Excellency Ms. Pennelope Anthea Beckles of Trinidad and Tobago and His Excellency Mr. Komelios Korneliou of Cyprus on their appointment as the Co-Chairs of the nineteenth meeting of the Informal Consultative Process.

I am confident that their experience and leadership will steer this meeting towards a successful conclusion.

Distinguished delegates,

The Department of Economic and Social Affairs welcomes the opportunity to address this meeting under the topic “Anthropogenic underwater noise”, which is both important and timely.

As you are aware, human activities in the oceans are responsible for generating increasing levels of underwater noise.  There is growing concern regarding the potential threat to marine living resources posed by noise proliferation, as well as possible impacts on the people that rely on the affected marine species for their livelihood.

In fact, the United Nations Ocean Conference held in June 2017, shone a spotlight on the urgency of the need to address this issue.

The political declaration “Our ocean, our future: call for action”, adopted at the Conference, calls for taking urgent action to “[accelerate] actions to prevent and significantly reduce marine pollution of all kinds, […]as well as to address, as appropriate, the adverse impacts of other human-related activities on the ocean and on marine life, such as […] underwater noise”.

In this regard, it is encouraging to note that a number of actions have already been undertaken at the global, regional and national levels.

Of particular importance are the voluntary commitments made at the Ocean Conference to advance the implementation of SDG 14 and related targets.  Of the over 1.400 voluntary commitments made in connection with the Conference, over 20 commitments were made by governments, intergovernmental organizations and non-governmental organizations to address the issue of “Anthropogenic underwater noise”.

Distinguished delegates,

These concrete actions demonstrate that there is growing global momentum for an effective follow-up to the Ocean Conference.

In this regard, I am pleased to inform you that the Department of Economic and Social Affairs worked closely with the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for the Ocean, Ambassador Peter Thomson, to establish nine new multi-stakeholder Communities of Ocean Action, to follow-up on the over 1,400 voluntary commitments.

Many of this Communities – including on “Marine and coastal ecosystems management”, “Marine pollution” and Scientific knowledge, research capacity development and transfer of marine technology” – aim to address anthropogenic underwater noise by exchanging best practices and lessons learned, identifying gaps in existing commitments and generating new commitments.

I wish to call on interested governments and other stakeholders to register additional voluntary commitments to address adverse impacts of anthropogenic underwater noise and join the relevant Communities of Ocean Action.

Distinguished delegates,

It is critical to the achievement of the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals, that the United Nations system provides effective support to Member States in an integrated manner.

In fact, in the “Call for Action”, States strongly called on the Secretary-General to continue his efforts to support implementation of Goal 14, in particular by enhancing inter-agency coordination and coherence throughout the United Nations system on ocean issues, taking into consideration the work of UN-Oceans.

I am pleased to note that UN-Oceans members have already started collaborating in this regard, as demonstrated by its 2018 work programme.

UN-Oceans will:

  • Contribute to the efforts of the Secretary-General to support the implementation of SDG 14 in the context of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development;
  • Implement the UN-Oceans voluntary commitment; and
  • Support the activities of the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy of the Ocean, to lead the United Nations advocacy and public outreach efforts around the outcomes of the Ocean Conference.

The Department of Economic and Social Affairs looks forward to working with other members of UN-Oceans to discharge these important mandates.

Distinguished delegates,

The Informal Consultative Process offers an excellent opportunity to consider the issue of coordination and cooperation.  I look forward to constructive discussions at this meeting on how best to enhance inter-agency coordination and coherence throughout the United Nations system.  Let us work together to deliver effective assistance and support to Member States in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and ocean-related SDGs.

I wish you a very successful meeting.

Thank you.

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