2019 World Oceans Day: Gender and the Ocean

During the 1992 Earth Summit in Brazil, the Ocean Institute of Canada and the Canadian International Centre for Ocean Development promoted the idea of establishing an internationally recognized World Oceans Day. Since the 1992 summit, this day has been observed annually on June 8th. Throughout the conference, it was noted that among all of the earth’s sectors, the oceans were the most neglected. Thus, the initial purpose of World Oceans Day was to shift the world’s oceans to the center of the discussion for NGOs and government organizations.

Today, the health of the world’s marine ecology is deteriorating at an unprecedented rate, with some 7 million tons of litter discharged into the oceans annually, 50% of which is composed of non-degradable, long-lasting plastic. Thousands of underwater animals, such as sea turtles and blue whales, encounter painful deaths from ingesting, or being tangled up in plastic. For instance, fish in the North Pacific region engulf an average of 12 to 24 thousand tons of plastic every year, thus resulting in severe intestinal injury, deaths, and the eventual transference of the plastic up the food chain. Due to this dire pollution, 200 “dead zones” are completely deprived of oxygen and marine life. The number of these zones has doubled every 10 years since the 1960s. Other detrimental effects include eutrophication, coral bleaching and toxic algal blooms.

Though a significant percentage of women are engaged in the maritime, fishing, and other ocean-related industries, administrative and decision-making bodies notably lack female representation. Thus, the theme of this year’s celebration was not only to highlight and raise awareness regarding this critically important absence, but to prioritize action towards its resolution. The integration of women, as has been empirically proven, is overwhelmingly beneficial for effective change. With insight into how oceanic degradation impacts local societies, women are well-equipped to produce creative and community-oriented responses such as providing necessary environmental education of future generations. Further, empowering women’s voices and granting them access to resources for large-scale projects opens the opportunity for increased overall support for the oceans’ cause and the consequent fortification of global efforts to battle climate change and related environmental issues.

During this year’s celebration of World Oceans Day, the United Nations hosted a series of events to spread awareness about the multidimensional issues associated with the world’s oceans and to applaud past successes in addressing these issues. On June 7th, 2019, the UN hosted the World Oceans Day Conference in which speakers were invited to present on the theme of “Gender and Ocean” and to tell inspiring stories about their relationships with the ocean. Furthermore, the President of the General Assembly launched the “Play It Out” campaign with the goal of combating plastic pollution on a global scale. To conclude the celebration, the World Oceans Day Photo Competition fully unleashed the story-telling power of photos and effectively shared the message of ocean preservation.

One of the stories elaborated upon during the June 7th conference highlighted the acute problem of slavery at sea. As fish stocks have diminished due to over fishing along with an increased global demand for seafood, some fishing operations have resorted to the trafficking of fishermen, threatening them to work for the operations under inhumane conditions. At the conference, Mr Tun Lin, a fisherman from Myanmar, detailed how he was enslaved on an Indonesian fishing boat for 11 years, thus exposing the appalling truth of some international fisheries – that the seafood exported to other countries and eventually brought to our plates is often a result of blood, sweat and lives. “For years,” Mr. Tun Lin expressed, “I was enslaved and my rights were violated.” He urged the UN and the world’s governments to promote the rights of fishermen by regulating policy and implementing laws to combat against slavery so as to protect fishermen from severe forms of human rights abuses.

Ms. Angelique Pouponneau, native of the Seychelles, followed Mr. Tun Lin’s story with an uplifting narrative about her many successes as a woman, and her meaningful relationship with the ocean. Pouponneau, having grown up in the matriarchal society of the Seychelles, was surprised upon traveling abroad to be trained as a lawyer as she found that she was expected to take on male attributes in order to be considered a serious professional. Following her training, she began a career grounded on the ideals of sustainable development. Her many accomplishments include the founding of an NGO dubbed SIDS Youth focused on implementing sustainable development goals in small island developing nations, setting up training workshops for female negotiators, and becoming the first female CEO of the Seychelles Conservation and Climate Adaption Trust.

There are many ways through which the world’s oceans can be protected, including academic research and the private sector. Researchers and corporate investments have the potential to catalyze technological advancements that could aid in the improvement of pollution tracing, cleaning waste and discovering sustainable product life cycles. Multi-sector collaboration is also an essential element of the formula to save the world’s oceans. This vital aspect was exemplified by the corporate synergy from Adidas and Parley as this collaboration showcased how plastic products could be reused and incorporated into the production of new sneakers.

Written by: WIT Summer Interns 2019

Meeting of States Parties to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea – Meeting 28



Source: https://www.technocracy.news/back-un-convention-law-sea-unclos/

This meeting is the first session of the annual meeting of states to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). The meeting began with the opening remarks given by Mr. Miguel de Serpa Soares. He gave the background of UNCLOS and reiterated the role of it as the constitution of the seas. He then emphasized the main objective of the counsel, which is to dedicate to the conservation of the oceans and the sustainable use of the resources in the seas, as outlined in SDG 14.

Following the introduction, the meeting went on to focus on the annual report of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) in 2017. The newly elected president of ITLOS firstly announced and congratulated the seven elected judges as members of the Tribunal. Additionally, he highlighted the judicial work of ITLOS on the dispute between Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana on the delimitation of maritime boundary. Seeing the non-existence of agreement, the Tribunal delimited the boundary for territorial sea, the exclusive economic area and the continental shelf between the Parties. Also, the Tribunal rejected Côte d’Ivoire’s claim that Ghana violated its sovereign rights. As for the case of the disputes between Panama and Italy, the Tribunal announced that it has not reached the final decisions. Apart from the judicial matters, Mr. Paik highlighted the capacity-building activities to empower developing countries with personnel and expertise on the law of the sea.

The second half of the meeting centered on the annual report of the International Seabed Authority (ISA). The Secretary General summarized three major ongoing developments in the Authority, namely, the strategic plan, the Mining Code, and the Regional Environmental Management Plans (REMPs). Having recognized the decreased contribution of the member states, Mr. Michael Lodge called for continuing budgetary commitments.

Meeting: Meeting of States Parties to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea – Meeting 28

Date/Location: Monday 11th June 2018; 10:00 to 13:00; Conference Room 1, United Nations Headquarters, New York, NY


Mr. Miguel de Serpa Soares, Under-Secretary-General for Legal Affairs and the Legal Counsel of the United Nations

Mr. Jin-Hyun Paik, President of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS)

Mr. Michael W Lodge, Secretary-General of the International Seabed Authority (ISA)

Written By: WIT Representative Vivian Wang

The Blue Economy: Perspectives from the private sector

One important side event during the Ocean Conference held last week at the United Nations was the meeting co-organised by the Ocean Foundation and Rockefeller & Co. on the topic “The Blue Economy”.

The meeting started with a speech from Mr Mark J. Spalding’s, who highlighted that the ocean generated economic values that were not usually quantified, and that we should stop taking the ocean for granted. He further stated that the old ocean economy, such as offshore oil and gas, was short-sighted and unsustainable. Mr. Spalding has worked with the Ocean Foundation to identifying business activities that comprise a sustainable blue economy.

In addition to the discussions, Mr Rolando F. Morillo presented the concept of ‘circular economy’: a restorative and regenerative model which emphasizes on reducing, reusing and recycling. It can enable increased value while reducing dependence on scarce resources. Mr. Rolando has faced challenges at the Rockefeller Foundation on how to crack the linear mindset as some companies may felt ‘locked in’.

Meeting: The Blue Economy (Perspectives from the private sector)

Date/Location: Thursday, June 8, 2017; 18:15-19:30; Conference Room 7, United Nations Headquarters,NewYork,NY
Speakers:  Mr Mark J. Spalding, the President of the Ocean Foundation; Mr Rolando F. Morillo, Vice President and Equity Analyst for the Sustainability and Impact Investing Team, Rockefeller & Co.

Written by: WIT Representative Brady Leung

How scientific knowledge on oceans contributes to the implementation of national action plans on climate and human-induced changes

Oceans Conference

The Ocean Conference held at the United Nations from 5-8 June, 2017 brought together many experts on oceans, civil societies and governments to organize different side events. Some of these events were co-organized and facilitated by the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) with Governments and relevant organizations  by sharing on-the-ground experiences, lessons learned, and insights into transformative actions and partnerships, including partnerships through the Sustainable Ocean Initiative.

One of the first side events on June 5th, organized to bring in marine scientists and discuss the contribution of scientific knowledge on oceans to the implementation of national action plans on climate and human-induced changes. The moderator Jessica Faieta from UNDP opened the meeting by reminding the audience that the deadlines for achieving the SDG 14 (Oceans) were 2020 and 2025. Considering how pressing the issue was, she said, this side event was crucial to identify knowledge gaps and contribute towards ocean national action plans. Echoing Faieta’s view, representatives of the Dominican Republic, Argentina, and UNDP shared the challenges their countries and organization were facing, and their work in this area.

Marine experts also shared their knowledge about the ocean, including its importance, the impact of its change on the ecosystem, and the way the ocean works. In addition, Dr. Alberto Piola and Dr. Jose Muelbert highlighted that the warmer the ocean is, the lower would be the ability of the ocean to absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Also, because the speed of ocean warming differs in different countries, some countries’ oceans are warming much faster as a result. Due to the fact that 40 percent of the global population live near the ocean, and 11 percent of the largest cities are very close to the ocean, the implications of warming causes a considerable impact on the human population, and the ecosystems. “Life started in the ocean,” Muelbert cautioned, “if we are not careful, life will end because of changes in the ocean.”

Meeting: How scientific knowledge on oceans can contribute to the implementation of national action plans on climate and human-induced changes

Date/Location: Monday, June 5, 2017; 09:00-10:30; Conference Room 6, United Nations Headquarters, New York, NY


Ms. Jessica Faieta, Assistant Secretary-General and Director, Regional Bureau for Latin America and the Caribbean, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP); H.E Francisco Domínguez Brito, Minister of Environment and Natural Resources, Government of Dominican Republic; H.E. Diego Moreno, Vice Minister, National Secretary of Environment, Climate Change and Sustainable Development, Government of Argentina; Dr. Alberto Piola, Southern Ocean Carbon and Climate Observations and Modeling project (SOCCOM), and Inter-American Institute for Global Change Research (IAI);  Dr. Jose Muelbert, Universidade Federal do Rio Grande and IAI;  Dr. Rebecca Klaus, Senior advisor and expert in Marine Spatial Planning and Marine Protected Areas, Cousteau Society;  Mr. Nik Sekhran, Director for Sustainable Development, Bureau for Policy and Programme Support, UNDP.

Written By: WIT Representative Jadice Lau

SDG 14: Call to Action




In this informal briefing on the ongoing preparations for the United Nations Ocean Conference, the President of the General Assembly, the Under Secretary-General, a special advisor to the conference co-presidents, and the Permanent Representatives of Sweden and Fiji discussed the implementation of Sustainable Development Goal 14: to conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development. They expressed that without clean and healthy oceans our, and all life’s, place on the planet would be in grave jeopardy. Since 1970, there has been a 49% decline in marine species. By 2050, the ocean is expected to contain more plastic than fish. Representatives discussed specific and necessary targets within SDG 14. They reviewed relevant dates for the upcoming global conference and other plenary meetings and stressed the need to strengthen and replicate current efforts. Moreover, representatives expressed the need to form new partnerships that involve all relevant stakeholders (including governments, the UN system, NGOs, the private sector, etc.) in the spirit of widespread, global, and inclusive participation.

The United Nations Ocean Conference will be held from June 5-9, 2017. It will follow a two-day preparatory meeting, February 15-16, 2017, chaired by the Permanent Representative of Portugal and the Permanent Representative of Singapore. The meeting will discuss partnership dialogues themes and elements for the “Call for Action.” The June conference will assess challenges, identify opportunities for action, strengthen current partnerships and forge new ones. It will be comprised of 8 plenary meetings, 7 partnership dialogues, and an additional special event commemorating World Oceans Day. The conference will also adopt an intergovernmental consensus declaration and a report with co-chairs’ summaries of partnership dialogues. Finally, a list of voluntary commitments for the implementation of SDG14 will be announced at the conference in June.

Meeting: “Briefing on the UN Conference to Support the Implementation of SDG 14”

Date/Location: Tuesday, 13 December 2016; 15:00 to 18:00; UN Headquarters, Trusteeship Council Chamber

Speakers: President of the General Assembly; H.E. Ambassador Olof Skoog of the Permanent Mission of Sweden to the UN; H.E. Ambassador Luke Daunivalu of the Permanent Mission of Fiji to the UN; Mr. Wu Hongbo (USG DESA); Mr. Miguel de Serpa Soares (USG OLA): Ms. Catherine Pollard (USG DGACM)

Written By: Renée S. Landzberg, WIT Representative




In his opening remarks, H.E. Tommy E. Remengesau, Jr., President of the Republic of Palau, addressed the issue of environmental justice with regard to rising sea levels, ocean temperature rise, and fishery decline – all of which pose increasing threats to the wellbeing and livelihoods of Pacific island nations whose actions towards global climate change have remained minimal. Palau calls upon stronger global partnerships that allow for a united mobilization towards SDG 14: Life Below Water, as well as funding to help island nations face the challenges they will come across in the upcoming years.

During the keynote address, Mr. Nainoa Thompson shared his first-hand experiences whilst aboard the Mãlama Hanua Worldwide Voyage, Polynesian Voyaging Society, and their visitation to 27 countries. Bringing awareness on the environmental issues faced by island nations, as well as expressing their values and indigenous knowledge, the organization seeks to connect with diverse communities and scientific practices in order to strengthen innovation and capacity building. Inspiring the world to navigate toward sustainability, the Voyage reminds us of our ‘Island Earth’ and the responsibilities we have to protect it. By understanding and caring for our natural environment we can set it as a priority, and only then, develop an economy around it. The Voyage articulates an identity based on the ocean, and calls upon leaders to not simply read and sign declarations but to commit to solutions, foster innovation, and use entrepreneurship to support and achieve SDG14.

Meeting: Permanent Mission of the Republic of Palau to the United Nations: World Oceans Day – Voyaging to a Sustainable Planet

Date/Time/Location: Wednesday, June 8, 2016; 15:30 – 18:00; Conference Room 1

Speakers: H.E Tommy E. Remengesau, Jr., President of the Republic of Palau; Pomai Bertelmannn; Nainoa Thompson, Master Navigator and President, Polynesian Voyaging Society; U’ilani Hayes Halau Ku Mana; Dr. Caleb Otto, Permanent Representative of Palau to the UN

Written By: WIT Representative, Lena Courcol

Edited By: WIT Administrator, Modou Cham

UN Working Group Meets to Discuss the Conservation and Sustainable Use of Marine Biodiversity

With a view to provide recommendations to the UN General Assembly, the eighth meeting of the Ad Hoc Open-ended Informal Working Group was convened today to discuss issues relating to the conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity beyond areas of national jurisdiction (ABNJ). This meeting was the second of the three meetings to discuss the scope, parameters and feasibility of a possible new international instrument.

During the opening session this morning, Co-Chair Ms. Lijnzaad delivered an opening remark to encourage the Working Group to move forward together in achieving an effective legal framework for the conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity in ABNJ, and reassured the necessity of a new international instrument. She mentioned the need to address legal, regulatory and implementation gaps such as addressing fragmentation in governance, and to develop a benefit-sharing regime for marine genetic resources.

ImageMember states and parties to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) were invited to consider the organization of the work of the meeting. Norway remained open to negotiate a new implementing agreement that can add value to the existing international legal framework, and recommended a needs-based approach to identify legal gaps in the present regime. Norway also emphasized clarity, predictability and confidence among the Working Group, and pointed out practical needs were of great concern in which feasibility is a product of scope and parameters.

The European Union supported a new agreement and called for other parties to have strong political will to achieve the goals of marine conservation. The new agreement should also specify duties of parties in terms of identifying a practical solution and implementation in order to strengthen interaction and coordination across regions and sectors. Mexico and Austria pointed out it is not necessary to establish a new structure, rather the new agreement should be fully integrated into the established Law of the Sea architecture and in full compliance with the existing regimes, while avoiding redundancy. Mexico also pointed out that the legal framework should be functionally well defined to ensure greater coordination and capacity building. Lastly, Trinidad and Tobago stressed the need to take into account a precautionary principle, and Austria stressed the need for ecosystem-based management in the new agreement.


Meeting Title: Ad Hoc Open-ended Informal Working Group to study issues relating to the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity beyond areas of national jurisdiction
Speakers: Ms. Liesbeth Lijnzaad, Legal Adviser, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands; Mr. Miguel de Serpa Soares, Under-Secretary-General for Legal Affairs and UN Legal Counsel
Location: United Nations HQ, Conference Room 1, New York
Date: 16 June 2014
Written by WIT representative: Tracy Lau
Edited by WIT Representative: Marli Kasdan

Keeping Our Oceans and Seas Healthy

United Nations, New York Headquarters, 4 February 2014

The Delegate of Guinea opened the 4th meeting of the 8th session of the Open Working Group on SDGs and spoke on behalf of the African groups. He explained that African countries would like to emphasize the relations between oceans, seas, and biodiversity with poverty eradication. Plus, fishing is one of the main exports in Africa. Fishing supports sustainable living for over 10 million people in Africa and can generate sustainable economic growth for numerous African countries.

In the last decade, the African Union has taken steps to improve the health of oceans and seas, which inevitably expands the benefits to the fishing industry. The delegate of Guinea asked for the continuous support of the international community in dealing with the perseveration of oceans and seas. The Delegate of Uganda and Tanzania added that oceans and seas provide resources which over half the world’s population depend on.

The Delegate of Singapore spoke on behalf of Cyprus and the United Arab Emirates and recognized that some countries are landlocked and do not have to deal with issues of oceans, and seas, yet, they should support these universal issues. She asked for bio-diversity to be included in the new SDGs because bio-diversity is a cross-cutting issue.

The delegates of Bangladesh and Maldives advocated for healthy oceans because they produce half of the oxygen we critically need in our lives. They advocated for the implementation of healthy oceans, seas, and biodiversity in the new SDGs. The Delegate of Nepal recognized that the high seas have shrunken and this issue must be dealt with.


National Geographic

The Delegates from the Republic of Korea, Monaco, and New Zealand agreed that while the least developed countries are most vulnerable, oceans, seas, forests, and biodiversity are global issues. They deserve a stand-alone SDG because they coordinate with all three dimensions of Sustainable Development. The Delegate of Monaco elucidated that oceans are in the center of numerous national cultures and contribute significantly to their economics. She asked for better partnerships with private sectors, civil societies, and academia because, “we are all in the same boat.”

Meeting Title: 4th Meeting – 8th Session of the Open Working Group on Sustainable Development: Goals Continuation and conclusion of the interactive exchange on “Oceans and seas, forests, biodiversity”

Key Speakers: The Delegate of Guinea spoke on behalf of the African groups, Delegate from Singapore spoke on behalf on Cyprus and United Arab Emirates, Delegate of Iran, Maldives, Egypt, Tanzania, Uganda, Japan, New Zealand, Sweden, South Africa, and Senegal

Written by WIT Representative: Modou Cham