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Environment and Development

Protecting the Ocean

Asia-Pacific is home to the most biologically diverse and productive marine ecosystems on Earth. From fisheries to marine-based tourism, our ocean is a vital source of livelihood, employment, nutrition and economic growth and is essential in balancing our climate. Marine and coastal ecosystems are the first line of defense from saltwater inundation and storms. Yet, rampant marine pollution, ocean acidification and warming, destructive fishing practices, unsustainable trade and transport, and inadequate coastal and marine governance threaten the health of our ocean and its capacity to nurture sustainable development. Countries in Asia-Pacific are both major sources of ocean degradation and highly vulnerable to its impacts.

At the global level, Sustainable Development Goal 14 – Life below water – offers a framework on how countries can conserve and sustainably use the ocean, seas and marine resources for development. The United Nations Ocean Conference recently committed to halting and reversing the decline in the health and productivity of the ocean and its ecosystems and to protect and restore its resilience and ecological integrity. It also recognized that the well-being of present and future generations is inextricably linked to the health and productivity of the oceans; and stressed the importance of enhancing understanding of the health and role of the oceans, including through assessments on the state of the ocean, based on science and on traditional knowledge systems.

ESCAP member States ratified their commitment to the protection of the ocean, through Resolution 76/1 on “Strengthening cooperation to promote the conservation and sustainable use of the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development in Asia and the Pacific”.

Knowledge products and learning tools

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Changing Sails: Accelerating Regional Actions for Sustainable Oceans in Asia and the Pacific, the theme study for the seventy-sixth session of the Commission, presents four key focus areas for urgent action to halt and reverse the declining health of oceans and marine ecosystems. The lack of data on oceans, growing demand for inclusive and green maritime shipping, deteriorating fish stocks and gaps in fishery management and the mounting pressure of marine plastic pollution are highlighted in the study. The theme study calls for enhanced sharing of ocean data and stronger investment in national statistical systems for collecting and harmonizing ocean data. In addition, the need for enforcing international conventions, norms and standards in relation to maritime shipping, sustainable fisheries and marine pollution. As such, strengthening regional platforms such as Asia Pacific Day for the Ocean are proposed for facilitating knowledge, data-sharing and uphold global agreements.


Accelerating SDG 14

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Accelerating the implementation of SDG 14

Inadequate marine governance is threatening ocean and coastal ecosystems in the Asia-Pacific region. Countries with the greatest needs have little capacity to apply existing knowledge on the ocean into their policy decisions. Therefore, ESCAP has developed a methodology to help prioritize needs, identify entry points and existing frameworks that can be leveraged to accelerate implementation of SDG 14 and its targets, and support follow-up and review processes: “SDG 14 in Asia and the Pacific: An accelerator Approach for Implementation.

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Ocean Cities Unplanned urbanization in island States threatens resilience, increases vulnerability and further degrades coastal and marine ecosystems. ESCAP has worked with Pacific island States to design an ocean focused climate responsive policy guide for urban development. This approach bridges the gap between the built and natural environment to protect ocean-based livelihoods in island systems. ESCAP’s initiative on ‘Adapting Sustainable Urban Development to Island Systems’ in partnership with Pacific island developing States aimed to develop an integrated policy approach for ocean-focused and climate-responsive urban development adapted to island systems. The approach integrated nature-based solutions, coastal zone conservation and marine spatial planning in island settlements, promoting urban resilience and protecting ocean-based livelihoods. A series of “Oceans Cities” concise policy briefs bridge the built and natural environment for urban development in island States in line with Pacific priorities, including issues of urban planning and coastal zone management, nature-based solutions, and community resilience. The ocean cities regional policy guide ‘Delivering Resilient Solutions in Pacific Island Settlements’ based on the policy briefs is tailor-made for challenges in island systems and includes concrete policy recommendations and practical guidance for local and national governments to apply an integrated approach. As a companion document to the ocean cities regional policy guide, the ‘Ocean Cities Snapshot for Policy-makers’ provides an executive summary of the Ocean Cities concept, the context, challenges and opportunities of Ocean Cities. It also outlines several policy recommendations for the implementation of solutions for simultaneously achieving urban climate resilience, improved sustainability of ocean resources and better integration of landscape and seascape planning.

Intergovernmental processes and regional dialogues

Asia-Pacific Day for the Ocean

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Member States reinforced ESCAP’s mandate on the ocean-related work, strengthening current partnerships and developing new partnerships for the conservation and sustainable use of the oceans, seas and marine resources, including through participatory, multi-stakeholder dialogue platforms. In line with this mandate, ESCAP hosts the annual Asia-Pacific Day for the Ocean to promote the engagement of all stakeholders, including civil society, the youth, academia, the private sector and the scientific community. Visit the event’s website for more information:


  1. First Asia-Pacific Day for the Ocean (20 November 2018)
  2. Second Asia-Pacific Day for the Ocean (8 November 2019)
  3. Third Asia-Pacific Day for the Ocean (29 October 2020)
  4. Fourth Asia-Pacific Day for the Ocean (27 October 2021)