I thank the Republic of Seychelles for bringing us together to highlight the importance of – and threats to – the world’s oceans and maritime environments.
The world’s oceans are a massive resource for sustainable development and a crucial buffer against climate change.
The Blue Economy has been described as the “new frontier of African Renaissance”, with the potential to create wealth, promote trade, generate economic growth and transform lives.
Africa, with 38 coastal and island States, is well-placed to reap these benefits.
The annual value of the African maritime industry is estimated to have reached $1 trillion.
Yet oceans everywhere are under assault from pollution, overfishing, plastic waste and a warming world.
Indeed, climate change the single biggest risk facing the growth of the blue economy
Last year, ocean heat and mean sea level reached their highest on record.
Scientists tell us that ocean temperatures are now rising at the equivalent of five Hiroshima bombs a second.
We need to protect the oceans from further abuse, and enable humankind to live in harmony with the oceans that sustain us. That is why the United Nations will convene the Oceans Conference this June in Lisbon, following the Nairobi conference also co-hosted by the Republic of Kenya.
We hope for bold action that will safeguard marine ecosystems and resources, advance progress across all the Sustainable Development Goals and help us address the worsening climate crisis.
I know that many African countries and regional bodies are increasing their cooperation in order to increase knowledge about the blue economy and adopt the policies that can help reap its immense potential.
The United Nations, including the Economic Commission for Africa, will continue to support those efforts.
As a native of Portugal, I have a strong affinity with the oceans. With so much of humankind in and beyond Africa living near a coast, that affinity is widely shared. This is a cause for all.