‘Healthy Oceans Critical to Maintaining Life on Planet’

Human Wrongs Watch

Addressing a gathering on laws affecting the world’s oceans, the United Nations Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson on 27 June 2016 underscored that healthy oceans are critical to maintaining life on the planet, while also noting their connection to broader sustainable development aims.


Plastic bottles and garbage waste from a village in Timor-Leste wash on the shores of a river and then spill into the sea. UN Photo/Martine Perret

In his remarks to the opening of the 40th annual Conference of the Centre for Oceans Law and Policy, the UN official also emphasized that oceans are fundamental to meeting many of the world’s most pressing challenges, such as fighting hunger, providing clean energy and countering climate change.

“They regulate the climate and provide an incredible range of natural resources, nutritious food, and jobs that benefit billions of people,” he said, while cautioning that humans’ impact on oceans and seas is taking a heavy toll. “Many marine species are at serious risk from ocean warming and over-fishing.”

Eliasson drew attention to the threats posed by rising sea levels to small island nations, which “bear so little responsibility for climate change but are on the frontlines of its imprint on their nations and people.”


Healthy oceans have a central role to play in solving one of the biggest problems of the 21st century – how to feed 9 billion people by 2050. Photo: FAO

The Conference, organized in cooperation with the UN Office of Legal Affairs, focuses on the legal order for the world’s oceans and the regime under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.

It is also the first annual conference since the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and Paris Agreement.

Noting the importance of oceans in the 2030 Agenda, as reflected in the 14th Sustainable Development Goal (SDG), which focuses on the conservation and sustainable use of oceans, seas and marine resources, Eliasson asked everyone to reflect on the intersections between the rule of law and the SDGs.

He also welcomed the international conference to be held in Fiji in June 2017 on oceans and SDG 14.


A school of Moorish Idols cruise over the coral reef, Ha’apai, Tonga. Photo: UNEP GRID Arendal/Glenn Edney

The Deputy Secretary-General further noted the importance of rule of law in sustainable development and said that “the right balance” must be struck between rights and responsibilities. He while taking benefits from natural resources, they should also be taken care of so that these resources can provide for the future generations.

“The decisions we make now on the sustainable use of ocean resources stand to benefit millions of people, for generations to come,” he said, adding, “We must renew our efforts to protect our oceans and use their resources peacefully, equitably and sustainably for generations to come.” (Source: UN).

2016 Human Wrongs Watch

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