Paris, France

11 April 2013

Secretary-General's message to La Haute Mer, Avenir de l'Humanite Conference [delivered by Ms. Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO]

Earth is sometimes called the Blue Planet, but oceans and seas are in danger.

The diversity of life in oceans is threatened by many sources of pollution and unsustainable exploitation.

And there is growing menace from climate change and ocean acidification.  Our oceans are heating up.  Ocean acidification is having negative impacts on ocean life; and sea level rise threatens to re-draw the global map at the expense of hundreds of millions of people, often the most vulnerable.

The world's oceans are critical for the health of our planet, for all life, and for the global economy.  A conduit for ninety per cent of global trade, oceans connect the world and support all of us.

It is time to take stronger, more pragmatic and more concerted effort to protect our oceans.

Following the landmark United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, or “Rio+20,” I proposed an Oceans Compact, an initiative to set out a strategic vision for the UN system to deliver on its ocean-related mandates, consistent with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, also known as “the Constitution of the oceans”, relevant General Assembly resolutions, and with the Rio+20 outcome document "The Future We Want."

We need practical, timely action at the national, regional and global levels to improve the health of the oceans, and to recover and sustain ocean resources.

The Oceans Compact is based on the understanding that all stakeholders must work together towards the common goal of "Healthy Oceans for Prosperity." 

Last year, I met with the crew from the Tara Expedition and Agnes B. when they docked in New York as part of their global research voyage to raise awareness and increase knowledge about oceans and the challenges they face.  I vividly remember my visit to the research vessel.  The Tara team and other civil society organizations are critical to raising global awareness of the importance of oceans and the challenges they face. 

If we work together – the United Nations system, governments and businesses, civil society actors and individuals – we can find sustainable ways to support life and protect our planet and our precious oceans.

I wish you a very successful conference on “La Haute mer, avenir de l'humanité.”