I was fortunate to join several thousand delegates in New York last week at the UN Conference to support the implementation of Sustainable Development Goal 14: Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development. SDG14 is in Agenda 2030 and is called ‘Life Below Water’ and often referred to as the “Pacific SDG”. This reflects the strong call by Pacific delegations during the formation of the SDGs to identify a specific goal on the protection of the oceans. This is not surprising given the fact that the Pacific Ocean is the largest ecosystem on the planet and the defining feature for Pacific people. The Pacific Ocean is our home and heritage.
The Conference was Co-chaired by Sweden and Fiji. There was a very strong presence of the Pacific throughout the week with most island nations represented by Prime Ministers and Presidents. The Fijian Prime Minister and Fijian delegation were particularly prominent commencing with a traditional yaqona ceremony held in the hallowed halls of the UN. I understand that this was the very first time that such an event took place at the UN.
I was also pleased to see most of the Heads of CROP agencies contributing in a major way to the Conference proceedings and various side events that took place during the week. I was able to contribute to the UNESCAP session of monitoring and reporting of SDG14. SPC was well represented at other events by Sylvie Goyet and Vuki Buadromo.
The Conference concentrated on trying to protect the health of the oceans and seas and adopted a ‘Call to Action’, which included various actions to be taken by relevant stakeholders. Sustainable fisheries and reducing pollution were prominent themes from Pacific delegations and supported by all other delegations. These concerns were compounded by climate change, environmental degradation and population growth. The ‘Call to Action’ is a comprehensive set of actions including a range of voluntary contributions from member states and other stakeholders.
Overall, it was a big meeting, which was well attended by leaders of the Pacific. An impressive array of commitments was pledged by Pacific leaders and expectations that these actions would be implemented. For me, the most important outcome was a renewed appreciation of the importance of oceans and commitments to act to protect the most important resource for Pacific people.