Remarks by H.E. Mr Peter Thomson, President of the 71st Session of the General Assembly,at High Level Segment of Pacific Regional Preparatory Meeting for the Ocean Conference
17 March 2017
Ladies and Gentlemen
It is a great pleasure to be back here in my hometown today to address you in my capacity as President of the United Nations General Assembly.
On behalf of the United Nations, I would like to thank the Government and people of Fiji for hosting this meeting, and to thank all the other members of our Pacific family present for attending in such a strong show of solidarity.
The Ocean Conference is the best chance we have of saving life as we know it in the Ocean. The Conference will be an historic coming together of Ocean stakeholders from across the world to drive global action for the sustainability of the Ocean and its resources.
As the only universal forum equipped to address the Ocean’s problems, mandated as it is by all 193 UN Member States, The Ocean Conference is uniquely positioned to mobilize commitments, partnerships and action on the scale necessary to reverse the cycle of decline in which the Ocean is currently caught.
For Pacific Small Island Developing States, the stakes could not be higher.
With the Ocean making up almost 98 percent of our region’s area, with our cultures, heritage and traditions entwined with the Ocean, and with it’s resources serving as a critical source of our food security, prosperity, and well-being, the Ocean is central to our way of life.
But with generations of unrestrained human activity having pushed the Ocean’s health into serious decline, that way of life is under threat.
The remedying of the woes we have put upon the Ocean, closely coupled with Climate Change, is one of the great challenges facing humanity in the 21st Century.
While Pacific nations rightly identify ourselves as stewards of the Ocean, the fact is we cannot save life in the Ocean on our own. Collective global effort is required.
The scale of problems afflicting the Ocean is immense. Rampant marine pollution, ocean acidification, ocean warming, depleting fish stocks and species, illegal and destructive fishing practices, degraded coastal ecosystems, inadequate ocean governance, the list of problems goes on. But just as all of these problems are caused by human activity, it is humanity that has the power to provide the solutions.
That is what The Ocean Conference is based upon, Excellencies, a clear enunciation from global authorities of the problems besetting the Ocean, and a global response of solutions, so that we have a communal work plan for remedial action in the years ahead.
Taken together, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and the Paris Climate Agreement, provide us with a universal masterplan to create a sustainable way of life for humanity on this planet. Here I pause to congratulate the Government and People of Fiji for the leadership Fiji is taking as Chair of COP23 and as Co-President of The Ocean Conference. In the face of mighty global challenges, Fiji is at the front line of remedial action.
Through Sustainable Development Goal 14, world leaders have committed to restoring the Ocean’s health and ensuring the sustainability of its resources.
But as the President of Palau said earlier this week, the time has come for this commitment to be converted from words into action.
It is in this context that this Regional Preparatory Meeting takes on particular importance for it is an integral part of the Call for Action.
Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,
It was the steadfast commitment and leadership of Pacific Small Island Developing States that led to the inclusion of SDG 14 in the 2030 Agenda. Again it was the Pacific that demanded a process of accountability so that the world stayed true to the noble aims of SDG14.
Now we must be at the forefront of ensuring the success of The Ocean Conference.
This includes by promoting the Conference, by participating at the highest possible levels, and by helping to mobilise high-level attendance from nations beyond those traditionally engaged on the Ocean.
And this includes our leading efforts to shape the three structured outcomes of the Ocean Conference, so that they have a lasting impact on the health of the Ocean.
Regarding the Ocean Conference’s Call for Action document, I urge the PSIDS to continue close engagement in the negotiations, so that we are able to secure a universal, ambitious and succinct text that mobilizes Ocean action, follow up and review. The real work starts after the Conference.
You have been made aware of the central importance of the Registry of Voluntary Commitments now open on the Conference website. The breadth and scope of the commitments on the register will be the main reference tool to implement our work in support of SDG14 implementation in the years ahead.
I therefore encourage all PSIDS to lead by example by making bold commitments to action, registering your commitments now, and helping to build global momentum for action that pushes implementation of the 2030 Agenda, the Paris Climate Agreement, the SAMOA Pathway, and other relevant multilateral frameworks.
I also urge all PSIDS to encourage regional institutions, civil society organisations, the private sector, and other partners, to make and register voluntary Ocean commitments – either as individuals or in partnerships. The online register awaits your commitments to action.
Finally, on the Partnership Dialogues that will be held during the Conference, I encourage PSIDS to engage actively in each of these sessions. Pacific perspectives on each of these seven subjects must be reflected in the summaries of the Partnership Dialogue discussions.
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentleman
In order for The Ocean Conference to meet its transformational aims, it is essential that it is not a one-off gathering, but rather that it is a starting point to implementing universal action, follow-up and review. PSIDS should continue to demand that triennial Ocean Conferences hold the global community accountable to SDG14 as we push on through to fulfilment by 2030.
And we here in the Pacific must hold ourselves to the highest standards of accountability for the commitments that we make, so that we lead the world in staying true to the noble intent of SDG14.
Only then will we be able to say to our grandchildren that we have done everything within our powers to bequeath them with an Ocean still full of the joy and bounty that we have witnessed in our lives.
I thank you.