Charting our Course to the 2025 UN Ocean Conference

Keep Sustainable Development Goal 14 as our lodestar, and the UN Decade of Ocean Science as our chart, and we will be staying the course towards a healthy and equitable ocean

– By Ambassador Peter Thomson, UNSG’s Special Envoy for the Ocean

Credit: Jordan Robins / Ocean Image Bank

In early June 2025, on the shores of the Mediterranean in the beautiful French city of Nice, we will gather at the next UN Ocean Conference. This will be the third time a UN Ocean Conference has been held and the conference’s raison d’être remains the same: to support the implementation of Sustainable Development Goal 14, to conserve and sustainably use the ocean’s resources. Good progress has been made along SDG14’s course, but we still have many trials ahead and so much work to do.

There is no doubt that the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals depends upon an enhanced global partnership for sustainable development, bringing together governments, civil society, science, the private sector, the United Nations system and other actors; and in this regard a hallmark of the UN Ocean Conferences is their broad-minded inclusivity. Thus, RISE UP should gear up in preparation for the Nice conference, with a view to making a positive difference in the realization of SDG14 through the advancement of RISE UP’s core goals.

The wind is in RISE UP’s favour, for those core goals all have a firm place on the chart of SDG14. A case in point is the ratification and implementation of the High Seas (BBNJ) Treaty. Until it enters into force, this is just agreed language; but upon ratification by way of sixty signatories, the High Seas Treaty will be a game-changing set of international rules for the good governance of biodiversity beyond national jurisdictions. The treaty will be open for signature on 20th September this year at the United Nations in New York. Many countries are committed to signing that day, and the call is to your own countries to join the ratification process so that we can begin the implementation of the High Seas Treaty as soon as feasibly possible.

Credit: Toby Matthews / Ocean Image Bank

In Nice we will hold ourselves accountable to SDG14.b and the target therein of providing small-scale artisanal fishers with greater access to marine resources and markets. Implicit in that target is recognition of the critical socio-economic role played by small-scale fishers around the world. Thus advocating for equitable and preferential access is an area in which RISE UP can make a huge difference. This is not just about enabling livelihoods, it’s about respecting the connection these communities have nurtured with the ocean for generations and ensuring their insights and experiences shape policies that empower their communities and the countries and regions in which they dwell.

As we pursue our course towards a more sustainable future, we must acknowledge that the well-being of our ocean and the stability of our climate are intricately linked. The power of collective action lights our way when we embrace this nexus, uniting our efforts to make peace with nature, promoting science and logic, and building empathy and equity into the resilience we seek for the generations to come. As we sail toward the UN Ocean Conference, let the call be that we are rising up for the ocean. And let this be more than a call to action, let it become an anthem of hope, a testament to our commitment, and a promise to safeguard the ocean’s future.

Central to SDG14 and the UN Decade of Ocean Science is the conservation and protection of the ocean’s natural resources. UNCLOS is explicit about preventing damage to the flora and fauna of the marine environment and demands that effective protection for the marine environment shall be taken from such man-made threats as pollution arising from drilling, dredging, excavating, disposal of waste, construction and operation of installations, pipelines and other such activities. From the ocean’s darkest depths to the tideline of your favourite beach, from clear tropical lagoons to near-frozen Arctic waters, these provisions and responsibilities apply. Therefore, must we exercise all the precaution and good management that the best of our science presents us, in order to fulfil faithful stewardship of the ocean’s resources and of life itself.

Allow me a quote from Shakespeare that my father was fond of repeating at the family dinner table. “There is a tide in the affairs of men which taken at the flood leads on to fortune. Omitted, all the voyage of their life is bound in shallows and in miseries. On such a full sea are we now afloat. And we must take the current when it serves or lose our ventures.” And so fellow voyagers, let us rise up, take the current, and make the next twenty-one months count; for SDG14’s attainment is our universal destination, and the most important stop-off along the way will be harbourside in Nice in June 2025.

Ambassador Peter Thomson

UNSG Special Envoy for the Ocean

This is a guest blog and may not necessarily represent the views of other RISE UP network members or RISE UP as a whole. It is only through open dialogue and a diversity of ideas that we will arrive at the solutions necessary to restore Ocean health.

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Date Published: 7th September 2023