Making Waves at Immersed in Change

Highlights from the RISE UP Working Session and the High-Level Event on Ocean Action in San José, Costa Rica

Flora McMorrin, Campaign Director at RISE UP

From June 7-8, 2024, San José, Costa Rica, became a focal point for global ocean advocacy as it hosted the High-Level Event on Ocean Action. More than 1500 delegates from over 40 countries converged in the vibrant capital, including Heads of State, ministers, ocean experts, and leaders from international organizations and civil society. This gathering wasn’t just about discussions; it was about forging alliances and driving tangible change for our ocean.

Prior to the main event, RISE UP facilitated crucial preparatory sessions to align stakeholders on key issues of sustainable and equitable ocean protection, restoration, and governance. These sessions laid the groundwork for what would unfold during the main conference.

The RISE UP initiative kicked off with a dynamic working session on June 6. The morning saw a thought-provoking high-level discussion featuring Ambassador Peter Thomson, UNSG Special Envoy for the Ocean, who emphasized the pivotal role of civil society in catalyzing ocean conservation efforts. His words set the tone for the day, highlighting how collective action can drive meaningful change.

The afternoon session featured small-scale fishers from five Central American countries who joined the RISE UP Working Session along with other RISE UP network members and friends, including MarViva, the High Seas Alliance, AIDA, the Ocean and Climate Platform, Greenpeace, WWFUN FAO, and many more. The SSF organizations discussed their vital role in conservation efforts and emphasized the need for the 30×30 target to be implemented equitably and inclusively through a human rights-based approach to ensure its longevity and effectiveness. The session was truly eye-opening as it brought together a diverse array of voices, from grassroots organizations to global NGOs, fostering dialogue and identifying common goals.

Vivienne Solis Rivera, Director of CoopeSolidar, highlighted, “We need to think about small-scale fishers not as a threat but as an ally of marine conservation efforts.” Rebecca Hubbard, Executive Director of the High Seas Alliance, remarked, “It was a super workshop and I was really glad we were there and able to participate and to listen and share with the coastal fishers.” Jessie Turner, Executive Director of the International Alliance to Combat Ocean Acidification shared her feedback, saying, “I have never seen such a thoughtful discussion on this topic (associated with 30×30) in these traditionally heavy NGO and civil-society ocean conference spaces.” 

For a glimpse into the afternoon session, you can watch a brief video here.

Immersed in Change featured eight panel sessions, a high-level dialogue, and multiple side events designed to share knowledge and foster initiatives that support evidence-based ocean action. RISE UP co-hosted two of these.

The first was a Small-Scale Fisheries (SSF) event: Led by CoopeSoliDar, this event powerfully uplifted the voices of systematically marginalized small-scale fishers from central american countries advocating for human rights in ocean conservation and the blue economy. High level speakers included  Franz Tattenbach, Minister of Environment and Energy for Costa Rica, Manuel Barange, Assistant Director General of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization and Director of its Fisheries and Aquaculture Division and UN Ambassador for the Ocean, Peter Thomson. It was widely praised as “the best event of the conference,”  and received a standing ovation. 

Connecting this topic to another significant event at the conference organized by the “Let’s Be Nice to the Ocean” initiative, run by the Varda Group and supported by the Ocean and Climate Platform. This initiative emphasizes the Protection Principle: making ocean protection the norm rather than the exception and RISE UP is excited to be an associated stakeholder. At the packed side event, Olivier Poivre D’avor, French Ambassador for the Poles and the Ocean, stated, “At the UN Ocean Conference 2025, we need to include the people of the sea in the process.” Gina Guillen-Grillo, Ambassador and Director General for Foreign Policy, added, “We need to be disruptive … and to change our relationship with the ocean.”

These powerful statements underlined the need for inclusive, equitable and transformative approaches to ocean governance. At RISE UP, we are committed to ensuring this happens through and with our extensive network of over 600 organizations.

The second major event co-hosted by RISE UP was a Deep-Sea Mining Panel led by AIDA, a regional organization of environmental legal experts based in Latin America. The panel featured Herve Berville, Secretary of State for the Sea and Biodiversity of France, along with globally renowned scientists and Indigenous leaders, including Sol Kaho‘ohalahala, known as Uncle Sol, a seventh-generation resident of Lāna’i, Hawaii. Uncle Sol shared profound and captivating Indigenous wisdom that deeply engaged the audience. The panelists unanimously called for a moratorium on deep seabed mining. Gladys Martinez, Executive Director of AIDA, reminded us that, “with #DeepSeaMining, we are heading towards a situation where the benefit of the few will come at the burden of the many. This is something we cannot gamble on.”

The outcome document from Immersed in Change was the Peace for the Ocean Declaration, endorsed by over two dozen countries. This declaration commits to advancing transformative ocean actions that support nature-positive economies, leveraging the best available science, traditional knowledge, and innovation. It also reaffirms commitments to Sustainable Development Goal (SDG)14 (life below water) and sets out priority actions for the remaining six years under both the Ocean Decade and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

It can be easy to feel cynical about the outcomes of events like these, but the impact of this High-Level Event on Ocean Action goes beyond the commitments made. The true value lies in the partnerships forged during the event, which will ensure that the momentum carries forward into the Third UN Ocean Conference (UNOC3) in France in June 2025 and beyond. By bringing together diverse stakeholders, from Heads of State to grassroots organizations, these efforts aim to create a united front against the myriad threats facing our ocean. The goal is to implement sustainable solutions for our ocean that will benefit both marine ecosystems and the communities that depend on them for generations to come. 

If your organization would like to join the RISE UP Network and contribute to our joint efforts, you can sign up to the Blue Call to Action here. Together, we can make a difference by advocating for change that helps to protect, restore and equitably govern the ocean.

Posted on Categories Blogs
Date Published: 1st July 2024