The United Nations Ocean Conference (UNOC), co-organized by Portugal and Kenya from 27 June to 1 July 2022 in Lisbon, Portugal, was a landmark ocean event to bring together decision-makers, innovators, private sector actors and stakeholders to implement SDG Goal 14 and Aspiration 1.6 of Africa’s Agenda 2063, both of which relate to the management of the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development.
The week-long conference reportedly gathered around 6,500 participants and was opened by United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres. The United Nations Secretary-General (UNSG or SG) is the chief executive officer of the United Nations and head of the United Nations Secretariat. Among them were high-ranking African representatives.
António Guterres warned in his speech that the state of the oceans will continue to deteriorate unless nations overcome short-term territorial and resource concerns. Describing “the artificial dichotomy” between jobs and healthy oceans as one of the key challenges, the Secretary-General called for strong political leadership, new partnerships and concrete steps.
On behalf of Moussa Faki Mahamat, Chair of the African Union (AU) Commission, Amb. Josefa Leonel Correia Sacko, Commissioner for Agriculture, Rural Development, Blue Economy and Sustainable Environment (ARBE) at the African Union (AU) Commission the AU delegation to the 2022 United Nations Ocean Conference (UNOC).
He was accompanied by Ambassador Fatima Kyari Mohammed, African Union Permanent Observer to the United Nations in New York (USA); Harsen Nyambe Nyambe, Director Sustainable Environment and Blue Economy; and dr Bernice Mclean, Head of Blue Economy at AUDA-NEPAD in South Africa, representative of REC, and other staff of the AFrican Union Commission.
The President of Kenya, HE Uhuru Kenyatta, and the President of Portugal, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, were elected Presidents of the Conference by acclamation, with statements made by each President. Also taking place on the fringes of the UNOC was the meeting of the African Leaders’ Committee on Climate Change (CAHOSCC), where the African Union Commission sent a strong signal of Africa’s willingness to protect and sustainably develop its marine resources.
The AUC delegation at the conference presented steps to boost Africa’s blue economy and sent a strong signal of Africa’s willingness to protect and sustainably develop its marine resources, as well as its contribution to the global ocean debate by focusing on realizing Africa’s potential for innovative, knowledge-based and high-revenue sectors while promoting sustainability and private sector activity, which places a further focus on the inclusion of women, youth and the African scientific community in the blue economy.
In addition, AUC has co-organized various side events, including two major Africa-focused events: the first event co-organized with IOC and UNESCO on “Accelerating Innovation, Science and Technology and Encouraging the Participation of Women and Youth in Africa’s Oceans and Seas in the context of the Decade of the Oceans” took place on June 29th. It was about the need to address cultural norms and stereotypes on the one hand and resource scarcity on the other hand and to strengthen the participation of women and youth in the blue economy.
The second focus of the event, “Shaping a sustainable Blue Economy in Africa”, co-organized with AUDA-NEPAD, took place on June 30th and emphasized Africa’s vast amount of marine resources, which are of great importance for global ecosystem services and need to be managed appropriately for benefit of the citizens.
AUC also co-sponsored the following side events for three consecutive days:
(i) “Blue innovation for multifunctional marine spatial planning”, together with the Stockholm Environment Institute and the Government of Sweden and Kenya on 28 June. It stressed the importance of ensuring that Africa has access to and ownership of marine data and ensuring that Africa must develop its own marine spatial planning that will help fill data gaps;
(ii) “Promoting international and regional cooperation in support of the sustainable development of the blue economy in LDCs, LLDCs and SIDS”, together with the International Seabed Authority, on 29 June;
(iii) “Promoting the empowerment and leadership of women in marine scientific research in support of an inclusive sustainable ocean governance”, jointly with the International Seabed Authority on 30 June.
In addition, the AUC issued a statement during the plenary session emphasizing the crucial role that the African continent must play in the global ocean agenda, given the vast marine resources over which it exercises sovereignty.
With women and youth on board, the AUC shows its commitment to protecting and developing marine resources. “Women and youth represent Africa’s most underutilized resources, so the African Union Commission is committed to finding ways to fully encourage their inclusion in the blue wealth talks,” AU Commissioner Josepha Sacko told the gathering.
Sharing that the AUC is in the process of implementing the blue economy across sectors, Sacko stressed that “…we need to improve traditional ocean-based sectors like fisheries and tourism so that they contribute to the livelihoods of the coastal communities that depend on them.” At the same time, however, Africa must move to a knowledge-based model for the development of marine science and ocean-based technologies. We have the ideas, the vision and the ambition to do it.”
The Group of African States also stressed at the plenary session that Africa is committed to sustainably exploiting the enormous potential of its maritime realm and accelerating economic transformation and the opportunities offered by the oceans. In order to achieve sustainable ocean-based development, the African Group emphasizes the need to promote collaborative efforts to address inherent financial and infrastructural gaps that prevent the full potential of Africa’s marine resources from being exploited.
The African Group also emphasized that the oceans are a common heritage of humanity, including landlocked African countries. Achieving Sustainable Development Goal 14 (life below water) and preserving ocean and marine ecosystems requires a bold and ambitious partnership, mobilizing significant financial resources, access to technology and innovation, capacity building and effective governance arrangements .
In addition, together with key partners including the RECs, NGOs, WIMAfrica, fisheries and aquaculture associations, the delegation attended various other side events and discussed with innovators, policy makers and stakeholders on a range of topics including environmental protection, sustainable marine economy and Capacity building, as well as institutional and policy design and implementation, NGOs and research and civil society organisations, legal instruments.
On July 1st, the Republic of Mauritius hosted the side event “Science Consideration for Protection of Marine Ecosystems in Chagos Archipelago” aimed at advocating for the full decolonization of the Chagos Archipelago. It was an opportunity that the Office of the Legal Adviser of the African Union seized to reiterate its unconditional support to the Government of Mauritius until the completion of the decolonization of Chagos is achieved and enjoyed by the citizens of Mauritius in accordance with established principles of international law and the relevant decisions and resolutions of the Organization of African Unity (OAU)/African Union (AU) and the United Nations.
The United Nations is trying to identify ways in which the private sector can provide practical solutions to address the problems, e.g. B. by improving energy efficiency, waste management and introducing market-based instruments to shift investments, subsidies and production; made it necessary to mobilize action for the conservation and sustainable use of the oceans, seas and marine resources through the establishment of the United Nations Ocean Conference.