March 15, 2017

Ocean Conference Registry Receives First Commitments

News Source: SDG Knowledge Hub
Author: Catherine Benson Wahlén

15 March 2017: In advance of the UN Ocean Conference, the UN has issued guidelines for registering voluntary commitments in the Ocean Conference Registry of Commitments. The Registry, located on the Conference website, will be one of three outcomes from the ‘high-level UN Oceans Conference to Support the Implementation of SDG 14: Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development,’ convening in June 2017.

According to the UN’s guidelines for registering voluntary commitments, commitments should: advance implementation of SDG 14 (life below water) and its targets, also reflecting interlinkages with other SDGs; reflect UN principles and the legal framework for the oceans; build on existing successful efforts or introduce a new one; introduce means of implementation (MOI), such as capacity building or finance, to ensure the initiative’s sustainability and longevity; and follow criteria that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Resource-based, with Time-based deliverables (SMART). The guidelines note that submissions can include commitments made since the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

A list of voluntary commitments will be produced at the end of the Conference, and included in the final report. Following the Conference, the Registry will remain open for users to access details on the commitments. The first three commitments submitted to the Registry are: a Peaceboat initiative on minimizing the impacts of ocean acidification; the UN Environment Programme’s Clean Seas global campaign on plastic pollution and other marine litter; and Sweden’s commitment to reach its Marine Protected Area (MPA) target by 2017. These early commitments are showcased in a March 2017 newsletter from the Conference Co-Presidents, Fiji and Sweden.

In support of the Clean Seas initiative, on 15 March 2017, the Government of Kenya announced a ban on the use, manufacture and import of plastic bags, to take effect in six months. According to UN Environment, plastic bags are the primary challenge for urban waste disposal in Kenya and contribute to 8 million tonnes of plastic that enter into the ocean annually. Plastic bags kill birds, fish and other animals that mistake them for food, damage the environment and agricultural lands, and contribute to health problems. In Africa, Morocco and Rwanda have already banned plastic bags. Kenya is the 11th country to take action under the campaign. Other commitments include: bans on microbeads in cosmetics by New Zealand, the UK and the US; Canada’s addition of microbeads to its list of toxic substances; a commitment by Indonesia to decrease marine litter by 70%; and Morocco and Rwanda’s bans on plastic bags.

Also seeking to advance preparations for the Conference, the Ocean Action Hub launched a series of online discussions on the Conference’s seven Partnership Dialogue themes, aiming to engage stakeholders in assessing opportunities and challenges related to implementing and achieving SDG 14 and to stimulate cooperation, partnerships and action towards voluntary commitments. Expert moderators from the UN and civil society are facilitating the discussions, each of which focuses on one of the agreed Partnership Dialogue themes and implementation of relevant SDG targets. For example, the discussion on ocean acidification is expected to consider strategies to address and minimize ocean acidification and its impacts, in line with SDG target 14.3 (minimize and address the impacts of ocean acidification, including through enhanced scientific cooperation at all levels). Discussions run from 6 March to 21 April 2017. Discussion results will be summarized in individual reports and published on the Ocean Action Hub, with final summary reports shared with Conference co-facilitators, UN Member States and others as inputs to the Call for Action, Voluntary Commitments and Partnership Dialogues processes.

At the regional level, UN Environment’s Pacific office and the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) launched a series of factsheets and a website to support Pacific Islands in their preparation for the Conference, and to help build Pacific capacity to participate in the Conference, such as by illustrating how to combine science-based evidence with Pacific cultural narratives on the ocean to advocate for ocean conservation. The 27 factsheets focus on five areas relevant to Pacific biodiversity: climate and ocean; economic opportunity; knowledge and management; ocean biodiversity conservation; and pollution and debris. The website, ‘Our Pacific Voyage to the UN Oceans Conference,’ provides briefing notes on Pacific marine issues, a timeline of events leading up to the Conference and a link to the commitments registry. SPREP Director General, Kosi Latu, explained “we want to ensure that as many of our Pacific communities as possible are part of this discussion that will ultimately help ensure our ocean is protected and conserved. The ocean belongs to us all, and the more we all know about it, the better informed we are to actively take part in the discussions and actions to conserve it.” [Guidelines on Voluntary Commitments] [The Ocean Conference Registry of Voluntary Commitments] [Ocean Forum Discussions] [SPREP Press Release] [Pacific Voyage to the UN Website] [Pacific Factsheets] [UNEP Press Release on Kenya Plastic Ban] [Clean Seas Initiative] [The Ocean Conference Newsletter] [SDG Knowledge Hub Story on Partnership Dialogue Preparations] [SDG Knowledge Hub Story on Call for Action Zero Draft]