The President of the General Assembly will convene a high-level thematic debate on the ocean and Sustainable Development Goal 14: Life Below Water on Tuesday, 1 June 2021, at United Nations Headquarters in New York. With the support of the Governments of Portugal and Kenya – co-hosts of the 2nd United Nations Ocean Conference, as well as H.E. Mr. Peter Thomson, Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for the Ocean, this gathering will serve as a drumbeat to generate momentum towards the Conference in Lisbon, when public health safety measures allow.

Coastal and marine ecosystems provide food, livelihoods, and coastal protection to more than a billion people worldwide. The value of the ocean related economic activities are already in excess of $1.5 trillion USD annually. The abundance of our ocean and its resources is an imperative to protect, not just for the enjoyment of future generations, but for the well-being, prosperity and resilience of the present generation. Ocean acidification driven by CO2 emissions and pollution threaten marine environments and ecosystem services. A 100-150% rise in ocean acidity is projected by 2100, affecting half of all marine life. In addition, it is expected that the metric weight of plastic in the ocean will exceed the metric weight of fish by 2050 if current pollution trends continue.

It has been more than three years since the first UN Ocean Conference. With the second Conference still delayed due to the ongoing pandemic, and four SDG14 targets having matured in 2020, Member States and the international community will benefit from a progress update on the achievement of SDG14, and the ocean related goals. As such, the President of the General Assembly will convene a high-level thematic debate at United Nations Headquarters on 1 June 2021, to support the positive momentum of implementation of SDG14.


The one-day high-level thematic debate will feature four multi-stakeholder panels. Each multi-stakeholder panel will seek to address progress on relevant targets of SDG14 and the 2030 Agenda more broadly. The panels will also provide an opportunity for UN Member States to engage in an interactive discussion with representatives from the relevant funds, programmes and agencies of the UN System that are delivering on the vision for a healthy ocean, for people and for planet.

The panels will be enhanced with five, one-minute long transition videos from a variety of stakeholders to share solutions, best practices, lessons learnt, and innovative developments from across all actors in the ocean space.

Where to watch

Watch the High-level thematic debate on the ocean and Sustainable Development Goal 14: Life Below Water at 

Stakeholder Registration

Non-Governmental Stakeholders are asked to register their participation by 27th May, 2021 at


10:00-10:50 am
Opening Segment 

H.E. Volkan Bozkir, President of the General Assembly
H.E. Mr. Ricardo Serrao Santos, Minister of the Sea, Portugal
H.E. Ms. Raychelle Omamo, Cabinet Secretary for Foreign Affairs, Kenya
H.E. Mr. Peter Thomson, UN Special Envoy for Oceans
Ms. Maggie Q, Award winning Actress, SDG14 Advocate, activist, Founder of QEEP UP™

10:50 -11:50 am
Panel 1: Bringing together UN processes on the Ocean

This panel will start with an overview of key UN Ocean processes and explore the
synergies and interlinkages across the 2030 Agenda and complementary global and
regional policy frameworks to ensure our ocean remains as plentiful, as abundant, and
as healthy as possible and thus be able to contribute to the 2030 Agenda. It will: (i)
investigate challenges that have been encountered to date, (ii) examine the enabling
factors to improve synergies, and (iii) hear from those actors that need to be engaged in
discussions. This will include a discussion of progress towards SDG target 14.a to increase
scientific knowledge, research capacity and transfer marine technology to improve ocean
health and to enhance the contribution of marine biodiversity to the development of
developing countries, in particular small island developing States (SIDS) and least
developed countries (LDCs). As a cross-cutting theme, this panel will explore the ways in
which the COVID-19 pandemic has affected – for better and for worse – the functioning
of UN ocean processes and draw lessons for the future.

Ms Dona Bertarelli, UNCTAD Special Advisor for the Blue Economy and co-chair of the Bertarelli Foundation


Mr. Liu Zhenmin, Under Secretary-General, UN Department for Economic and Social Affairs
Mr. Vladimir Ryabinin, Executive Secretary, Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission, Assistant Director General UNESCO
Ms. Rena Lee, Ambassador for Oceans and Law of the Sea Issues and Special Envoy of the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Singapore
Ms. Agnes Kalibata, Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for the Food Systems Summit

11:50-11:55 am
Video Transition 
11:55 am-12:55 pm
Panel 2: Towards a pollution-free, protected and climate stable ocean

Panel 2 will explore important barriers and enabling factors to support transformative ocean and coastal policy and management to tackle the triple planetary crisis of climate change, nature loss and pollution. Centered around SDG targets 14.1 (to reduce marine pollution), 14.2 (to protect and restore ecosystems), 14.3 (to reduce ocean acidification), and 14.5 (to create effective protected marine areas), it will take a comprehensive look at the environmental aspects underpinning ocean sustainability, with due consideration to social and economic sustainability, and measures needed to conserve, protect and restore some of our most fragile ecosystems as prerequisite for social and economic well-being and resilience. The panel will explore advancements in applied interdisciplinary research, decision-support and nature-based solutions and draw upon indigenous knowledge to develop transformation pathways and delivery plans for ocean sustainability. This includes knowledge generation for policy implementation, such like 6 the recent launch of the Natural Capital Accounting and Valuation of Ecosystem Services (NCAVES) which has now been adopted by the UN Statistics Division of DESA.

Ms. Ligia Nohonra, Assistant Secretary-General UN Environment Programme

Ms. Elizabeth Marema Mruma, Executive Secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity
Mr. Martin Stuchtey, Systemiq Earth
H.E. Ms. Haydee Rogriguez, Vice Minister of Water and Seas, Costa Rica, Lead Partner country of the GLOLitter Initiative

12:55-1:00 pm
Video Transition 
3:00-4:00 pm
Panel 3: Fisheries and Aquaculture

This third panel will discuss and explore opportunities and challenges to the implementation of targets 14.4 (sustainable fisheries), 14.6 (end harmful subsidies), and 14.b (support small scale fishers). It will also address actions to progress towards these targets and therefore contributing to other areas of the 2030 Agenda, especially SDG 1 (no poverty), SDG 2 (zero hunger), SDG 3 (good health), SDG 5 (gender equality), SDG 8 (decent work and economic growth), SDG 10 (reduced inequalities), SDG 12 (responsible consumption and production), SDG 13 (climate action), SDG 16 (peace, justice and strong institutions) and SDG 17 (strong partnerships).
In addition, the panel will discuss the recently endorsed Declaration for Sustainable Fisheries and Aquaculture of the FAO Committee on Fisheries and the UNCTAD-FAOUNEP Inter Agency Plan of Action on SDG 14. These instruments acknowledge the need to take action to ensure that our ocean is resilient, that fisheries and aquaculture activities and related trade are fully sustainable and meet growing demand for nutritious, safe and affordable food, while maintaining sustainable ecosystems, economies and societies that leave no one behind. 

Ms. Melanie Siggs, Director of Strategic Engagements, Global Seafood Alliance, UK


Mr. Maximo Torero, Chief Economist, Food and Agricultural Organization
Ms. Shakuntala Thilsted, Global Lead, Nutrition and Public Health, WorldFish, Malaysia
Mr. Yuvan Beejadhur, Senior Adviser to the Director-General, World Trade Organization

4:00-4:05 pm
Video Transition 
4:05-5:05 pm
Panel 4: A Sustainable Ocean Economy

Panel 4 will review the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the ocean economy and its
major pillars and highlight the opportunities and challenges of the next nine years in
order to achieve the 2030 Agenda.  

Ms Sanda Ojiambo, CEO and Executive Director, UN Global Compact

• Mr. Achim Steiner, Administrator, UN Development Programme
• Mr Atsushi Sunami, President and Executive Director, Ocean Policy Research Institute, Sasakawa Peace Foundation, Japan
• Mr. Carlos Rodriguez, Chief Executive Officer, Global Environment Facility
• H.E. Mr. Jens Frølich Holte, State Secretary of Norway, leader of the High Level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy

5:05-5:10 pm
Video Transition 
5:10-6:00 pm
Call to Action 

Mr. Cody Simpson, UNDP Ocean Advocate
UN Chamber Music Society of the United Nations Staff Recreation Council, Brenda Vongova, Artistic Director GEORGE FRIDERIC HANDEL (1685 – 1759) Water Music, Suite No.1, IV, Air