Turning the Tide on Sustainable Development — the High-Level UN Conference to Support the Implementation of SDG 14

By Sarah Dayringer

President of the General Assembly (PGA) Peter Thomson, announced the 2017 High-Level United Nations Conference to Support the Implementation of SDG 14 at the 22nd Conference of Parties (COP22) for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), saying “we must ensure we have a global plan for the successful implementation of SDG 14”.

The “Oceans Conference”, as the meeting is colloquially referred to, will be co-hosted by Fiji and Sweden 5-9 June 2017 in New York, though it was originally planned to be held in Fiji. The overarching theme is “Our oceans, our future: partnering for the implementation of Sustainable Development Goal 14”.

The three proposed outcomes for the Oceans Conference are:

  1. A concise inter-governmental declaration or “Call for Action” to support the implementation of SDG 14: Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development;
  2. A report of seven partnership dialogues, which aim to provide a scientific update on gaps and challenges for each theme chosen, and focus on solutions; and
  3. A list of voluntary commitments from governments and multi-stakeholder partnerships to implement SDG 14, which will provide a clear map of what different stakeholders are bringing to and taking away from the table.

Co-Presidents will work with an advisory group, led by UN Office of Legal Affairs Under Secretary-General and UN Oceans Focal Point, Miguel de Serpa Soares, to incorporate all relevant parts of the UN system and facilitate interagency cooperation in preparation for the Oceans Conference. A background note will be prepared for the preparatory meeting, to be held on 15 -16 February 2017 in New York, and at which, co-Chairs, the Permanent Representatives of Portugal and Singapore, will consider themes for the seven partnership dialogues and elements for the “Call for Action” declaration.

The purpose of the partnership dialogues is to provide a space for partnerships to form and, in turn, make voluntary commitments to implement SDG 14 targets. Once formed, these partnerships will have the opportunity to announce pledges of action during the Oceans Conference. “These voluntary commitments will amount to our moments of accountability, wherein we undertake meaningful initiatives to reverse the decline of the Ocean’s health.”

The UN Foundation is taking part in preparations for the Oceans Conference, holding conference calls every month leading up to the conference in order to link different stakeholders and facilitate discussions about partnership arrangements. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) is also taking part in preparations by formulating voluntary commitments with governments on the ground. Additionally, UNDP plans to launch an online knowledge hub to encourage stakeholder engagement, which aims to inspire action, share resources, and showcase existing initiatives and partnerships.

The Oceans Conference aims to strengthen partnerships to advance the implementation of SDG 14. However, there are issues yet to be addressed, including how the Oceans Conference will take into account other processes targeting SDG 14 such as the “Our Oceans Conference” to be held in Malta in 2017 and the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). Another question is how the Oceans Conference will feed into the 2017 High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) and reflect collaboration or cohesion with other UN forums and processes working to implement SDG 14.

Additionally, the 2017 Oceans Conference will be funded through extra budgetary sources only. Member States “in a position to do” have been encouraged to contribute to a trust fund set up by the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) to support the preparations for this conference and the participation of representatives from developing countries.

Both the Oceans Conference and the preparatory meeting are open to all stakeholders. More information on registration, including pre-registration and registration of side events (deadline 15 Jan) for both the 15-16 February preparatory meeting and the 5-9 June Ocean Conference are/will be posted on the conference website (https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/topics/oceans/SDG14Conference).

View the full webcast of the PGA briefing on the ongoing preparations for the 2017 Ocean Conference at http://webtv.un.org/watch/informal-briefing-by-the-president-of-the-general-assembly-on-the-oceans-conference/5246554677001#full-text.


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