Beijing, China

03 September 2010

Secretary-General's message to Pacem in Maribus XXXIII International Conference on Oceans [delivered by Ms. Patricia O&#39Brien, Under-Secretary-General for Legal Affairs]

I am pleased to send greetings to the Pacem in Maribus XXXIII conference, which is celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO. I also wish to convey my appreciation to the Government of the People's Republic of China for the various important world events it has hosted this year.

The theme of this year's Conference, “Oceans, Climate Change and Sustainable Development”, highlights the centrality of the marine environment to human well-being. Perhaps most significant is the role that oceans play in regulating the global climate -- generating oxygen and absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

Among those on the front lines of climate change are coastal communities -- in particular people living in Small Island Developing States. Halting the decline of coastal ecosystems such as mangroves, salt marshes and seagrasses, can help to mitigate the adverse impacts of climate change while providing numerous social and economic benefits to hundreds of millions of people.

This Conference is an occasion to take stock of the many benefits that we derive from the oceans. As we are becoming increasingly aware, these benefits are not limitless. Indeed, in many cases, they are in peril.

Last year, I drew attention to the plight of the oceans, and our collective responsibility to protect them, in the inaugural message for World Oceans Day. With so many people depending on the oceans, it is vital that we pursue universal participation in the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, the world's “constitution for the oceans”. We need to preserve the productivity and essential ecosystem functions of the oceans as a basis for a prosperous and sustainable future for all.

I wish you a successful Conference.