May 16, 2019

UNGA Decides to Convene High-level Ocean Conference in 2020

News Source: SDG Knowledge Hub

Author(s): Catherine Benson Wahlén

The UN General Assembly (UNGA) decided to convene a high-level conference on the conservation and sustainable use of the oceans, seas and marine resources, within the context of the SDGs. The 2020 Conference follows the high-level UN Conference to Support the Implementation of SDG 14 (UN Ocean Conference), which took place in June 2017.

The 2017 UN Ocean Conference generated 1,300 voluntary commitments (and over 100 more after its conclusion) towards the sustainable use and conservation of the ocean, and resulted in an outcome document titled, ‘Our Ocean, Our Future: Call for Action.’ Following the Conference, the UN launched nine thematic, multi-stakeholder Communities of Action, which support collaboration across stakeholders implementing SDG 14 (life below water). The UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) published a summary and analysis of the voluntary commitments made at the Conference in support of SDG 14, which found that the most frequently addressed target was 14.2 (sustainable management and protection of marine and coastal ecosystems), followed by target 14.1 (preventing and reducing marine pollution by 2025).

Kenya introduced the draft text, saying that his country reaffirms the commitment of Portugal and Kenya to follow up on the 2017 Conference. He stressed that the world “cannot afford to rest on our laurels” but must renew efforts in support of SDG 14. He emphasized that “more efforts are necessary” to reverse the current cycle of decline of ocean and marine resources.

The UNGA adopted the draft resolution titled, ‘2020 UN Conference to Support the Implementation of SDG 14: Conserve and Sustainably Use the Oceans, Seas and Marine Resources for Sustainable Development’ (A/73/L.82) without a vote. The 2020 Conference will focus on the theme, ‘Scaling Up Ocean Action Based on Science and Innovation for the Implementation of Goal 14: Stocktaking, Partnerships and Solutions,’ and encourage participation at the highest level. The Conference will share experiences at all levels in implementing SDG 14 and identify obstacles and opportunities to support achievement of all SDG 14 targets. Member States will provide updates on the implementation of voluntary commitments made at the 2017 UN Ocean Conference, and are invited to present new voluntary commitments in support of SDG 14.

In the resolution, the UNGA decides that the 2020 Conference will adopt, by consensus, a “brief, concise, action-oriented and intergovernmentally agreed declaration.” The declaration is expected to focus on science-based and innovative areas of action to support implementation of SDG 14 as well as to adopt a list of voluntary commitments in support of achieving SDG 14. The Conference will also contribute to the follow-up and review process of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development by providing an input to the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF), including on opportunities to strengthen progress in the future.

The resolution notes the synergies between the 2030 Agenda, the Addis Ababa Action Agenda (AAAA), the Paris Agreement on climate change and the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) 2015-2030. In particular, the resolution acknowledges the importance of SDG 14 in delivering on the 2030 Agenda as a whole.

The Governments of Kenya and Portugal will co-host the 2020 Conference, which will take place from 2-6 June 2020 in Lisbon, Portugal. The Conference will feature plenary meetings and interactive dialogues. The President of the UNGA will organize a two-day preparatory meeting for the 2020 Conference in February 2020 at UN Headquarters in New York, US. As requested by the UNGA, the UN Secretary-General will prepare a background note for the preparatory meeting by January 2020, including a proposal for themes of the interactive dialogues.