AU-IBAR, through the Conserving Aquatic Biodiversity in African Blue Economy Project, funded by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA) supported some Member States to interact and support common positions relevant to Africa marine and aquatic biodiversity, blue economy, and climate change during the UN Ocean Conference held in Altice Arena, Lisbon, Portugal from 27 June to 1 July 2022. The conference, held under the theme “Save our Ocean, Protect our Future” was co-hosted by the Governments of Portugal and Kenya, and builds on the concept of sustainability and recognizing the implementation of Sustainable Development Goal (SDG 14: Life below water).
The opening was officiated by President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya and Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, President of Portugal. High level participation included Emmanuel Macron, President of France, John F. Kerry, USA Special Envoy for Climate, Ambassador Sako, AU Commissioner among other dignitaries.
Conference attendees included both State and non-State actors deliberating on issues affecting the health of the ocean and seeking solutions on how to protect, conserve and manage the oceans including marine, aquatic biodiversity and coastal ecosystems. The delegates spent time in both the plenary and side events, to engage in general deliberations towards concluding with specific recommendations and commitments. The interactive dialogues were convened in the morning and afternoon hours to enhance consultations and caucuses. In parallel, side events and special sessions were arranged, organized, and coordinated throughout the conference period in Lisbon, Portugal.
It is noted that the ocean is responsible for 50% of the oxygen we breathe, provides food, livelihoods, and mineral and energy resources to billions of people around the world, and is a home to a multitude of flora and fauna with potential for carbon sequestration, marine and aquatic biodiversity, coastal ecosystems, and marine habitats with ability to moderate and regulate climate change. However, this rich resource is under threat.
In the general debate, where non-state actors shared their views, participants raised concern and called for a moratorium on deep seabed mining, noting that the risks would outweigh any potential economic benefits. Other issues of concern appealing for calls were on issues regarding, among others: the ratification of the Agreement on Port State Measures to address the problem of Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing, including the need to stop bottom trawling, and the importance of meeting the Sustainable Development Goal 14 (SDG 14) target on designating 30% of the Maine as protected areas.
Issues on micro plastic and plastic pollution caught attention of many participants who appealed for a strong Agreement and Commitment to deal with the problem of marine and ocean pollution.
Issues on integrating women and youth in marine and ocean science, technology and innovation became highly deliberated with participants calling upon governments to take full responsibility in ensuring policy articulation to support formulation of programmes and activities that will be inclusive and favourable to gender equality. This issue was appropriately embraced in the interactive dialogue on increasing scientific knowledge and developing research capacity and transfer of marine technology. The enhancement of marine scientific knowledge, research capacity and transfer of marine technology to small island developing States (SIDS), underdeveloped, and developing countries considered most vulnerable to disaster risk and climate change effects would benefit from technologies for marine spatial planning, marine control surveillance systems and the need to include Indigenous and Coastal Communities in participatory decision-making process in the ocean and blue economy.
Other issues considered the views that ocean law is about protecting human well-being. Therefore, enhancing the conservation and sustainable use of oceans and their resources by implementing international law, as reflected in the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), the oceans need to be discussed in real practical life away from theoretical thinking and frameworks.
Countries are encouraged to take up more commitments and targets considered under SDG-14 implementation beyond 30% for Marine Protected Areas by the year 2030.
President Emmanuel Macron, President of France, who supported the conclusion of negotiations towards a new agreement on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction (BBNJ), announced that France would co-host the third UN Ocean Conference with Costa Rica in 2025.
Subject on availability of resources more AU-MSs will be supported to engage in the upcoming international conferences.
Above: AU-IBAR Staff with Amb. Josefa Sacko, Commissioner for Agriculture, Rural Development, Blue Economy and Sustainable Environment (ARBE)
Read more about Conference on event website