Valparaiso, Chile

06 October 2015

Secretary-General's message for "Our Ocean" Conference [delivered by Ms. Alicia Barcena, Executive Secretary of the UN Economic Commission for Latin American and the Caribbean]

It is a pleasure to greet all the participants in this important event.  I congratulate the Foreign Minister of Chile, His Excellency Heraldo Muñoz, and the Secretary of State of the United States, His Excellency John Kerry, on mobilizing such a wide range of actors.

This is a defining year for our future and that of our oceans.  Governments have adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, “Transforming our world”. The Agenda includes a dedicated Goal 14 on the conservation and sustainable use of the oceans, seas and marine resources – testimony to the vital importance of healthy oceans for present and future generations. The sustainable use of oceans is, for example, of great relevance to, and underpins, the achievement of several other goals such as Goal 2 on food and hunger, Goal 8 on growth and trade, or Goal 12 on sustainable production patterns.

In December of this year in Paris, governments will seek to sustain momentum with an ambitious and universal agreement on climate change. This is also of critical importance for the world’s oceans, since they regulate the climate by absorbing a large portion of greenhouse gas emissions and because continued increases in emissions pose a great threat to ocean health and productivity.  Sea-levels are rising, with devastating effects on vulnerable communities, especially people living in small-island developing States.  Many marine species are also at risk from warmer temperatures and a more acidic environment, with consequent impacts on food security. Sustainability requires that we combat pollution, over-fishing and other harmful practices that threaten to exceed the carrying capacity of the oceans, in accordance with international instruments, in particular the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

The first Global Integrated Marine Assessment was completed this year, providing an authoritative baseline for the future.  Next year, a Resumed Review Conference will be convened on the United Nations Fish Stocks Agreement.  Furthermore, a preparatory committee will start to develop an international legally binding instrument under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction. 

Through these and other efforts, the United Nations will continue supporting efforts to enable States, in particular developing countries, to realize the benefits from the oceans in a sustainable manner and in accordance with their international obligations.

The oceans are vast -- but their capacity to withstand degradation is limited and this capacity has been reached in some cases.

Let us work together more concertedly towards a healthy future for our oceans and lives of dignity for all.

I wish you a successful conference.