The Chair noted that the critical role of oceans within the overall framework of sustainable development had been receiving heightened attention in international policy discussions. He recalled that UNESCO had played an important role in drawing the attention of CEB and HLCP to the issue of oceans, and the need to review UN-Oceans in the lead up to Rio+20. He underscored that the issue of oceans was also prominent in the Secretary-General’s Five-Year Action Agenda.
At the request of the Secretary-General, the HLCP Chair, in consultation with relevant agencies and programmes and the Office for Legal Affairs, had been tasked to commission a small group of independent experts to prepare a first draft of an “Oceans Compact” document. Based on the feedback received from HLCP members, a revised version of the document was now before the Committee for its review. It was hoped that the Oceans Compact would provide a basis for the Secretary-General to provide inputs to the Rio+20 Conference and beyond.
The Chair pointed out that the draft Oceans Compact was an initiative to provide a platform for multiple stakeholders to work together to address effectively the issues of declining ocean health, diminished productivity and weak management, and accelerate progress towards the achievement of the shared goal of “Healthy Oceans for Prosperity” through three inter-related objectives: (i) improving the health of the oceans; (ii) protecting, recovering and sustaining the oceans’ environment and natural resources; and (iii) strengthening the management of oceans.
These were areas where key actions would be required or where scaling up of current initiatives would accelerate needed transformative changes with regards to oceans. Institutional arrangements, policy frameworks, regulatory instruments, programmes, partnerships and activities are in place, at the global and regional levels, to use the vast potential wealth of the oceans to build a society that uses ocean resources wisely. However the results are not yet showing a reverse in negative trends. The Compact would assist Member States to implement and meet the provisions of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, and other relevant global and regional conventions and instruments, and would build upon the range of existing and ongoing activities of UN system organizations. In this regard, several members referred to the work being undertaken under the Global Partnership for Oceans.
In the ensuing discussion, HLCP members expressed appreciation for the Chair’s efforts and noted the urgency for action to reverse the rapid deterioration of the worlds’ oceans. Participants supported the initiative of the Secretary-General to develop an Oceans Compact and welcomed the Compact’s emphasis on supporting existing efforts, as well as enhancing coordination and cooperation at all levels. They noted that it was critical for the Compact to assist Member States in the implementation and meeting of the provisions of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, and other relevant global and regional conventions and instruments, and to build upon the range of existing and ongoing activities of UN system organizations. They stressed that the Compact should not duplicate existing global and regional legal oceans frameworks, but instead serve as a bridge across existing instruments advancing their implementation.
Several members stressed the need for the Oceans Compact to provide strategic guidance to all stakeholders and be accompanied by a detailed action plan with clear targets, benchmarks and timelines, to be developed through an open and inclusive process involving all relevant UN system organizations. It was suggested to create an Oceans Advisory Group to support the elaboration of an Oceans Compact action plan, facilitate dialogue among key stakeholders and promote action towards restoring the health, productivity and resilience of oceans. The Advisory Group would be comprised of policy makers, scientists and leading oceans experts, private sector representatives, and Executive Heads of relevant UN system organizations. It would also contribute to providing new impetus, focus and direction for the work of UN Oceans as the preeminent platform of the UN system for implementing the Oceans Compact and Action Plan.
Regarding the objectives outlined in the draft Oceans Compact, several participants stressed the need to enhance the social component of the Compact by more systematically addressing the impact of ocean degradation and marine hazards on the safety and livelihoods of people, in particular people living in coastal areas and people who depended on the oceans for their livelihoods. The importance of science, knowledge and capacity building also needed to be emphasized in the Compact. Other issues to be highlighted included ocean acidification, the role of the private sector and the economic contribution of the oceans. It was also emphasized that these objectives should focus on integration of all three pillars of sustainable development.
HLCP agreed to recommend the finalized draft Oceans Compact to CEB for endorsement at its Spring session (Annex IV).