Distinguished delegates and Honorable participants,
I would like to start by thanking the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO for hosting this important conference.
At ESCAP, we understand and value the importance of the ocean for the peoples and communities.
At least 200 million people in our region depend on the ocean for their livelihood. Our ocean is fundamental to harnessing economic development opportunities and to bringing harmony between people and the planet.
But land-based pollutants, including marine debris and other human activities, threaten coastal habitats and marine ecosystems. Increasing acidification is damaging marine life and hampering the ocean’s role in moderating climate change.
Extreme sea level rises that used to happen once per century could occur every year by mid-century in many regions. This phenomenon will continue to happen faster than expected and with more catastrophic consequences than previously estimated.
Our most recent SDG Progress Report for Asia and the Pacific shows that the region is regressing on the delivery of Sustainable Development Goal 14. Asia and the Pacific is currently not on track to reach key targets, including those for marine pollution, the conservation of coastal areas and marine resources for small island developing States and Least Developed Countries.
To tackle these issues, it is my pleasure to announce that ESCAP, in collaboration with other UN agencies, has developed a “Regional Decade Programme” to support the implementation of the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development in Asia-Pacific.
The Programme will engage a variety of key stakeholders, to support the development of the science we need for the ocean we want in the region.
Last year, member States reinforced our mandate to work on the ocean by adopting 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.”
Throughout the Ocean Decade, we will continue to host this multi-stakeholder dialogue platform, to support systematic regional dialogue and enhance regional cooperation by promoting experience-sharing, technology transfer and capacity-building.
I would like to highlight three areas of focus in our future work on the ocean:
Only 3 out of 10 targets for SDG 14 on life below water are measurable in the Asia-Pacific region. Therefore, ESCAP as a co-chair of the Global Ocean Accounts Partnership (GOAP), will continue to conduct capacity development on ocean data, statistics and environmental-economic accounts. Efforts will also be undertaken to ensure complementarity and synergy with global and regional developments in disaster and climate change-related statistics.
Through the Closing the Loop project, funded by the Government of Japan, we have been advancing cooperation on measuring, monitoring and developing data platforms for marine plastic waste. We will continue to support initiatives that encourage remote sensing of marine debris, in line with efforts to improve waste management and reduce and eliminate marine pollution.
We developed an Accelerator Methodology for the implementation of SDG14. This methodology helps identify challenges and issues related to the delivery of SDG14 targets, where the strategic allocation of resources could have a positive accelerator effect with appropriate needs identification and the implementation of inclusive policies.
COVID-19 has exacerbated challenges that existed before the pandemic, including environmental issues around marine ecosystems. As we recover from the pandemic, we must embrace and protect the benefits of a sustainable blue economy.
We must accelerate actions to recover better together…and bluer. We cordially invite Governments to join the activities in our regional Decade Programme. Likewise, we would like to extend this invitation to all stakeholders participating today.
Together, we can catalyze actions in the region to meet SDG14 targets, as well as the objectives of the Ocean Decade.
We look forward to collaborating with you throughout the Ocean Decade.
Thank you very much.