With only a few weeks remaining until the 2022 UN Ocean Conference kicks off in Lisbon, Portugal, on 27 June, preparations for the event are in full swing. On 17 May, UN Member States gathered at UN Headquarters for a briefing about this pivotal milestone aimed at turning the tide to save our ocean.

“Despite the progress made in ocean actions, the health of our ocean is still deteriorating fast, due to multi-dimensional challenges of pollution, overfishing and climate change,” said UN DESA’s Under-Secretary-General and Conference Secretary-General Liu Zhenmin.

Briefing in the Trusteeship Council Chamber“The outcome of the 2022 UN Ocean Conference will therefore be critical,” he stressed, adding that the Conference “will seek to propel much needed science-based innovative solutions aimed at starting a new chapter of global ocean action”.

And a new chapter filled with innovations and actions is desperately needed. According to the new World Meteorological Organization (WMO) State of the Global Climate report released on 18 May, sea level rise, ocean heat and ocean acidification set new records in 2021.

The Conference, taking place under the theme of “Scaling up Ocean Action Based on Science and Innovation for the Implementation of Goal 14: Stocktaking, Partnerships and Solutions”, will feature nine plenary meetings and eight interactive dialogues. All official meetings will be broadcast live via UN Web TV.

During the briefing, Mr. Liu highlighted that in addition to the official programme, there will be special events focusing on youth, the sustainable blue economy, fresh- and saltwater interlinkages and on ocean action at local and regional levels. He also described the great interest shown for hosting side events at the Conference, with 500 applications now being reviewed and assessed by UN DESA.

The co-chairs of the Conference, Ambassadors and Permanent Representatives to the UN, Ana Paula Zacarias of Portugal and Ambassador Martin Kimani of Kenya, also took the stage at the briefing, providing information about the Conference and reiterating the commitments of their respective nations to making this a successful event.

“Let me take a step back to stress why Portugal and Kenya have accepted this task and what the UN Ocean Conference is all about,” said Ambassador Zacarias. “We took up this role because we are at a defining moment in terms of ocean action and in terms of addressing the crisis that is impacting the ocean and marine biodiversity,” she said.

Ambassador Kimani also stressed the role the ocean play in our lives. “We reiterate that oceans are about people and the communities that depend on oceans for survival,” he said. “No one must be left behind. I look forward to seeing you all in Lisbon.”

In addition to the adoption of an action-oriented and inter-governmentally agreed declaration and a Conference report, there is also the ambition that many new commitments will be made to save our ocean.

Since the first UN Ocean Conference in 2017, over 1,700 voluntary commitments have been registered via the online registry managed by UN DESA.

“I call upon all Governments to showcase your existing and new initiatives as voluntary commitments in the online registry […] to support the implementation of SDG14 in synergy with other ocean-related SDGs,” encouraged Mr. Liu.

Through a video screening, briefing participants were reminded that the future of the ocean will be decided at the Conference in Lisbon. This may well be the case, and a chance the global community cannot afford to miss, for the sake of present and future generations.

“It will offer an opportunity to give the ocean prime focus in the global efforts towards achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and our climate objectives,” concluded Mr. Liu.

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Photo credit [top]: 2021 Photo Competition - United Nations World Oceans Day / Renee Capozzola #UNWorldOceansDay
Photo credit [embedded]: UN DESA/Predrag Vasić