Working together, ‘we can ensure that our oceans remain healthy as our blue home’

Working together, ‘we can ensure that our oceans remain healthy as our blue home’

The future of the planet’s oceans is burdened by threats such as climate change, pollution and destructive fishing practices – and the lack of capacities to address these threats – United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres has said, calling for joint global action to ensure “that our oceans are peaceful, safe and bountiful, and remain healthy as our blue home.”

On this World Oceans Day, we look to the future. Caring for, and using, our oceans in sustainable ways is critical to achieve ecological and economic goals for communities everywhere,” said Mr. Guterres in a message on the Day.

This year, World Oceans Day is being celebrated alongside the first-ever The Ocean Conference, which has been under way in New York since Monday and wraps up tomorrow, aiming to strengthen commitments to Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), particularly Goal 14 – to conserve and viably use the ocean.

Mr. Guterres said the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is an ambitious framework which, together, the international community will use to address these threats and improve people’s lives. “World Oceans Day provides an important opportunity to advocate for a sustainable future,” he said, adding that governments, intergovernmental organizations, and civil society in New York are ready to launch a call for action to support implementation of SDG 14.

“Looking forward, the conservation and sustainable use of oceans can be achieved only if we manage to address effectively the threats that oceans face,” the Secretary-General said, stressing that “our future will thus be determined by our collective resolve to share information and find solutions to common problems.”

‘Unite for the ocean we need, for the future we want’ – UNECSO chief

A healthy ocean requires robust global knowledge of ocean science, the head of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has said, marking the Day with a strong call to mobilize and harness the best scientific knowledge to protect our planet’s vital oceans.

“We cannot manage what we cannot measure, and no single country is able to measure the myriad changes taking place in the ocean. From Fiji to Sweden, from Namibia to the Arctic, all Governments and partners must share knowledge to craft common science-based policies,” UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova said in her message commemorating the Day.

According to UNESCO, oceans give humankind the keys to its survival, from oxygen to a well-functioning climate, to key elements of our natural and human heritage. “For this, we must nurture, mobilize and harness the best scientific knowledge,” she stressed.

Pointing to the Global Ocean Science Report, which UNESCO launched at The Ocean Conference, she said “[It] records for the first time where and how existing ocean science capacities are empowering society, sustaining the environment and generating knowledge to conserve ocean resources for all. Our message is clear – much has been done to promote and finance ocean science, but much more is required to fill the capacity gaps,” she explained.

With this in mid, she said that UNESCO and partners are calling for 2021-2030 to become the International Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development “to provide Governments, the scientific community, civil society and all other actors with a framework for coordinating and consolidating the observations and research needed to achieve SDG14.”

‘We can ride the waves of change to a more positive outcome for the oceans’

Cristiana Pasca Palmer, Executive Secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) said: “The future of the world’s oceans is our future. Yet the present state of the oceans is troubling.” Indeed, people she has met this week at The Ocean Conference, from places as far flung as Sweden, Fiji, and Costa Rica, told stories of how the ocean they see today is a shadow of its former self.

“Populations of fish, corals and other living creatures have suffered, and there is a great deal more plastic in our oceans. Ocean acidification, marine pollution, and damaging fisheries practices – they are all the result of human activities,” she said, but added: “Humans can also make a difference. And they are.”

Noting that earlier this week, she had reported that as far as marine protected areas coverage is concerned, the world is on track to achieve the global Aichi Biodiversity Target of 10 per cent conservation of coastal and marine areas by 2020. The world can now take the steps to ensure that these areas are effectively managed, representative, and support equitable and inclusive sustainable development.

Ms. Pasca Palmer said that here in New York, she sensed the same enthusiasm, energy and political will that was seen during the negotiations for the Paris Agreement on climate change.

“We are at a point where we can change the tide on the oceans. The discussions this week are about working rowing together, connecting our actions, and learning from each other. We can ride the waves of change to a more positive outcome for the oceans, and the future we want,” she stated.

Statement on the US decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement

Statement on the US decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement

Statement attributable to the Spokesman for the Secretary-General on the US decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement

The decision by the United States to withdraw from the Paris Agreement on climate change is a major disappointment for global efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and promote global security.
The Paris Agreement was adopted by all the world’s nations in 2015 because they recognize the immense harm that climate change is already causing and the enormous opportunity that climate action presents. It offers a meaningful yet flexible framework for action by all countries.

The transformation envisaged in the Paris Agreement is already underway. The Secretary-General remains confident that cities, states and businesses within the United States — along with other countries — will continue to demonstrate vision and leadership by working for the low-carbon, resilient economic growth that will create quality jobs and markets for 21st century prosperity.

It is crucial that the United States remains a leader on environmental issues.

The Secretary-General looks forward to engaging with the American government and all actors in the United States and around the world to build the sustainable future on which our grandchildren depend.

Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesman for the Secretary-General

New York, 1 June 2017

Climate action ‘a necessity and an opportunity,’ says UN chief, urging world to rally behind Paris accord

Climate action ‘a necessity and an opportunity,’ says UN chief, urging world to rally behind Paris accord

Highlighting the seriousness of the impact of climate change on the planet and its inhabitants, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres today called for sustained action to meet the global challenge and to ensure a peaceful and sustainable future for all.

“The effects of climate change are dangerous and they are accelerating,” Secretary-General Guterres told a gathering of students, business leaders and academics at the New York University Stern School of Business.

“It is absolutely essential that the world implements the Paris Agreement [on climate change] – and that we fulfil that duty with increased ambition,” he underscored, recalling the ground-breaking agreement that entered into force last November.

The Agreement calls on countries to combat climate change and to accelerate and intensify the actions and investments needed for a sustainable low carbon future, and to adapt to the increasing impacts of climate change.

It also aims to strengthen the ability of countries to deal with the impacts of climate change and calls for scaled up financial flows, a new technology framework and an enhanced capacity-building framework to support action by developing countries and the most vulnerable countries in line with their own national objectives.

Science ‘is beyond doubt’

Underlining that science behind climate change “is beyond doubt,” Mr. Guterres said:

“As the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change put it: ‘Human influence on the climate system is clear. The more we disrupt our climate, the more we risk severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts,’” he said, recalling that global temperatures have been rising, year after year, and that that last year was the hottest on record.

Furthermore, there are fears that the melt of sea ice and glaciers due to rising temperatures will have deep and far reaching impact: droughts and dry spells will last longer, while natural disasters like floods and hurricanes will be even more destructive.

Impacts of these catastrophic events, Mr. Guterres noted, would be felt in all corners of the world and in all sectors of the economy.

Informing of his intention to convene a dedicated climate summit in 2019 to reach the critical first review of implementation of the Paris Agreement, the UN chief called on all, including those who might hold divergent perspectives on climate change to engage with him on the way forward.

VIDEO: UN Secretary-General António Guterres issues call to action to meet the global climate challenge during an address to students, business leaders and academics at New York University.

Green business is good business

He also pointed to the opportunities that climate action can provide, such as through the creation of jobs and increased economic growth. It is thus, not surprising, that many private corporations, including major oil and gas companies have adopted climate action.

“They know that green business is good business. It is not just the right thing to do, it is the smart thing to do,” he highlighted.

Five-point action plan

Laying out a five-point action plan to mobilize the world for climate action, the UN chief underscored that he will intensify political engagement with countries to increase efforts to limit temperature rise to well below 2 degree-Celsius and as close as possible to 1.5 degree-Celsius, the first point.

He also said that he would engage more with Governments and major actors, including the coal, oil and gas industries, to accelerate the global transition to sustainable energy, and committed stronger support by the entire UN development system to Governments as they strive to meet climate commitments and achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), especially at the country level.

“That is where true change will be achieved,” he said.

The UN chief also said that he will work to with UN Member States mobilize national and international resources for adaptation, resilience, and the implementation of national climate action plans, and called for new and strengthened partnerships, including with the private sector and through North-South, South-South and triangular cooperation.

Further in his remarks, the Secretary-General cautioned that failure to act on combatting climate change would in turn harm the countries themselves for their inaction.

“Those who fail to bet on the green economy will be living in a grey future [but] those who embrace green technologies will set the gold standard for economic leadership in the twenty-first century,” he said.

UN Peacekeeping: A Good Investment for the U.S.

UN Peacekeeping: A Good Investment for the U.S.

On May 29, the world honors the sacrifices of the men and women that serve in UN Peacekeeping missions with the International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers. This day allows us to honor all those that have served, including the more than 100,000 troops, police and civilians in the 16 active UN peacekeeping missions around the world, as well as those that have served in the more than 50 missions that have completed their mandates since UN peacekeeping began nearly seventy years ago.  It also allows us to pay our highest respects to the more than 3,500 peacekeepers who have lost their lives in the service of peace.

UN Peacekeeping is an investment in global peace, security and properity

Making the U.S More Secure

Additionally, this day provides an opportunity to consider the important role UN peacekeeping plays in U.S. security interests.  UN peacekeeping operates in spaces which left alone would be ungoverned and ripe for the creation and growth of terrorist organizations. Northern Mali is just one example where terrorist groups are on the rise and have made UN peacekeepers a target.  With UN peacekeeping, the U.S. and all UN member governments benefit from multinational forces that provide critical protection of civilians, human rights monitoring, and reliable information on the state of combatants and non-combatants within the mission’s mandate area.  All of this support U.S. interests and values. And while the U.S. provides roughly a quarter of the financial resources for UN peacekeeping, this is a bargain when compared to the cost of putting U.S. troops on the ground.

While it is always important to search for ways that UN peacekeeping can do better – and Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is committed to doing that – we should also remember that UN peacekeeping has been, and continues to be, an invaluable tool in bringing peace, security and stability to numerous countries over the years.  Successful operations have been completed in Namibia, Cambodia, Angola, Croatia, Timor Leste, Sierra Leone, El Salvador and Guatemala, among others.  These countries, many once in throes of conflict, are now stable, and some have even become troop contributors to UN peacekeeping.  Two more successful missions – in Liberia and Cote d’Ivoire – are expected to complete their work and close within the coming year.

Ongoing UN peacekeeping missions will continue to help countries transition from conflict to stability.  After UN peacekeepers helped stop a looming ‘genocide’ in the Central African Republic when they were first deployed in 2014, the mission in CAR then oversaw a democratic election process.  In South Sudan, peacekeepers have been saving hundreds of thousands of lives since a conflict erupted between the government and opposition in December 2014, and the mission is currently protecting more than 220,000 people at Protection of Civilian sites around the country.  Long-standing observer missions, such as in Kashmir and Cyprus, provide trusted, neutral monitoring and information to help parties and the UN Security Council make informed decisions on next steps toward sustained peace and political agreement.

All of this should, and does matter to the U.S.  As we know all too well, conflicts in seemingly far-away places have an impact here.

Global Value

I have had the opportunity to visit several UN peacekeeping missions and have seen first-hand the value of these forces. From patrolling a post-earthquake tent camp in Haiti with female troops from Bangladesh, to meeting with Indian and Nigerian soldiers in Liberia, I have seen the desire in these men and women to succeed in their missions. Helping the people of the countries in which they serve return to normal lives, free from the threat of war, means a great deal to these global soldiers, police, and civilians. It should to us as well.

On May 29, please remember UN Peacekeepers.

Robb Skinner, Director – UN Information Center

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Peacekeeping Missions
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