UN Secretary General Calls for Action to Protect World's Oceans

9 February 2020

Addis Ababa — United Nations Secretary General, António Guterres, on Saturday called on the international community to protect the oceans from further abuse, and enable humankind to live in harmony with the oceans that sustain them.

Speaking at a Blue Economy event organized by Seychelles on the margins of the African Union Summit in Addis Ababa Saturday night, Mr. Guterres said for its part the United Nations will in June convene the Oceans Conference in Lisbon to ensure nations comes together to safeguard the world's oceans and maritime environments.

The Lisbon conference follows the first one that was co-hosted by the Republic of Kenya in Nairobi in 2018.

"We hope for bold action that will safeguard marine ecosystems and resources, advance progress across all the sustainable development goals and help us address the worsening climate crisis," the UN Chief said.

"I know that many African countries and regional bodies are increasing their cooperation in order to increase knowledge about the blue economy and adopt the policies that can help reap its immense potential. The United Nations, including the Economic Commission for Africa, will continue to support those efforts."

Mr. Guterres said the world's oceans were a massive resource for sustainable development and a crucial buffer against climate change.

The Blue Economy has been described as the "new frontier of African Renaissance", with the potential to create wealth, promote trade, generate economic growth and transform lives.

Africa has 38 coastal and island States and is well-placed to reap these benefits, said the UN Secretary General.

The annual value of the African maritime industry is estimated to have reached $1 trillion.

"Yet oceans everywhere are under assault from pollution, overfishing, plastic waste and a warming world. Indeed, climate change the single biggest risk facing the growth of the blue economy," said Mr. Guterres, adding last year, ocean heat and mean sea level reached their highest on record.

"Scientists tell us that ocean temperatures are now rising at the equivalent of five Hiroshima bombs a second," he said in a call for action against climate change.

Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, also spoke about climate change and the need for the international community to cooperate in dealing with illegal fishing.

"It is all about harvesting the potential of our seas and rivers in a way that is sustainable," he said, adding Canada was ready to work together with the rest of the world to protect the world's oceans and maritime environments for future generations.

Norwegian Prime Minister, Erna Solberg, for her part, urged the need for the international community to find the right balance between protection of the world's maritime resources and production to ensure nations benefited fully from the Blue Economy.

"We need active partnerships by all to achieve results. Good governance is critical if we are to use our oceans sustainably for our future generations," she said, adding tighter controls of ports and transparency were also crucial.

For his part, AUC deputy Chairperson, Thomas Quartey Kwesi, said Africa was well endowed with abundant resources, the youngest population in the world and was ready to make the Blue Economy "a vehicle of change that will carry Africa to the next frontier".

"We must also unite, collaborate and overcome challenges we are facing together in the management and use of our maritime resources. Our goal is common and achievable," said Mr. Kwesi.

Mr. Nangolo Mbumba, the Vice-President of the Republic of Namibia, reaffirmed his government's commitment to the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, and called for concerted efforts to ensure that the multilateral gains made in mitigating climate change are not reversed.

The event was organised by Seychelles.

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