“Taking stock of ongoing ocean-related initiatives in light of the COVID-19 pandemic: toward enhanced inter-agency coordination and cooperation on ocean and coastal issues beyond 2020”

Distinguished Participants,
Dear Colleagues,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

I thank the UN Legal Counsel and DOALOS for organizing this UN-Oceans high-level meeting. This is an important opportunity to reflect upon our work on ocean issues in light of the COVID19 pandemic.

2020 has been an unprecedented challenging year for the world. The pandemic has devasted the world economy, deepened inequalities, and reversed development gains.

Developing countries – in particular, LDCs, SIDS and African countries – will likely emerge worse off than they were prior to the pandemic. 

At the same time, global efforts to tackle climate change and safeguard our planet, have been disrupted. Oceans and ocean-based economies were not spared. 

We have seen the fishing industry and aquaculture sector suffer due to disrupted market and supply chain worldwide. 

We have seen coastal and maritime tourism – as the largest sector of blue economy – take a severe hit as a result of travel restrictions. 

And, although the drastic reduction of human activities has resulted in less greenhouse gas emissions into the air – there has already been reduction in commitment to climate change. Countries are reallocating their resources to rebuild the economy in the post-pandemic recovery. This will bring new challenges to our efforts in tackling ocean warming and acidification. 

Dear Colleagues,

The postponement of the UN Ocean Conference allows us time to adjust to the new reality. We have the opportunity to reassess ocean’s key role in the achievement of sustainable development, through the lens of nature and humanity. 

To keep up the momentum for ocean action, UN DESA has organized a webinar series to engage different stakeholder groups on SDG14 implementation. It has offered them a place to network and inspire new partnerships.

Five webinars of the “Keeping the Momentum for Ocean Action” series were held between May and November 2020. Various partners participated, including UN entities and well-recognized stakeholder networks. 

We have mobilized stakeholders from different sectors, and collected ideas to strengthen their engagement in the UN Ocean Conference process.

To leverage the synergies between ocean and biodiversity, UN DESA – in collaboration with the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for the Ocean – organized a high-level side event on “Biodiversity: the Ocean’s Role” in the margins of the UN Biodiversity Summit in September. 

I take this opportunity to thank the UN-Oceans colleagues for your support and participation in these events. And I invite you to participate in the upcoming webinars UN DESA plans to organize in 2021. 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

COVID-19 is forcing us to rethink our economies as well as our relationship to the ocean and the natural world.

How we respond to COVID-19 – beyond the critical recovery of health and livelihoods – may also determine whether we will reach SDG 14, and how sustainable the world of tomorrow will be. 

Scaling up investments for sustainable resources management will be necessary. For instance, as trillions of dollars are spent rebuilding economies around the globe, the case for investing in sustainable resources management, is clear. 

Goods and services from the ocean generate about $2.5 trillion each year, and contributed over 31 million direct full-time jobs before the pandemic. A green-blue economy offers a much-needed solution. It can bring economic benefits and create jobs, while safeguarding marine ecosystems and protecting the ocean.

Yet, here we are in the last month of 2020, and it is now certain that we will not deliver on our commitments to the four targets of SDG14, which are maturing this year.

Therefore, as we usher in the post-pandemic era in 2021, the following five areas of action will be key going forward:

1.    Keep and strengthen the momentum of ocean actions in the lead up to the UN Ocean Conference in Lisbon in 2021;

2.    Build a more visible synergy among the Ocean Conference in Lisbon, CBD COP15 in Kunming, and COP 26 in Glasgow. These processes are interlinked and, thus, a coordinated nature-based strategy to better inform the global policy making of sustainable development, will be key;

3.    Remind the international community of the critical role that ocean plays in poverty reduction, food security, climate change, biodiversity, health, jobs, and social inclusion and equity; 

4.    Scale up policy research and capacity building programmes, anchored in data and science to help countries – in particular SIDS and coastal African states – to transition to sustainable ocean economies; and

5.    Ensure that ocean issues are placed at the front and center in the global efforts to recover better.

Dear Colleagues,

Inter-agency cooperation and coordination is one of the strongest suits of UN-Oceans. In line with the Secretary-General’s Data strategy, UNDESA is planning to conduct a mapping exercise on existing ocean databases.  Your support, inputs and cooperation will be crucial in defining parameters, developing tools and ensuring the inclusiveness and transparency of the exercise.

UN-Oceans should scale up policy research and capacity building programmes, to help countries to transition to a sustainable ocean economy.  

In this respect, particular care is needed to ensure that women and girls and vulnerable populations are included, and challenges faced by LDCs, LLDCs and SIDS are addressed.

In closing, UN DESA stands ready to collaborate with all UN-Oceans members towards our common goal in 2021 and beyond.

I thank you.

File date: 
Thursday, December 10, 2020

Mr. Liu