LISBON (SPREP)— Genuine and durable partnerships, collective commitment and common action to achieve Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 14 targets were at the heart of a Pacific family talanoa at the United Nations Ocean Conference in Lisbon, Portugal, this week.

Organised by Samoa, the current Chair of the Pacific Small Island Developing States (PSIDS), the “Leveraging the SIDS Partnerships Framework to Achieve Action for

SDG 14” side event recognised the need for a renewed focus on the implementation of all SDG14 targets, including the targets that expired in 2020.

Permanent Representative of Samoa to the United Nations in New York, Fatumanava Dr Pa’olelei Luteru, set the platform for the conversation, pointing to the need for transformative change aimed at halting and reversing the decline in the health of ocean ecosystems, biodiversity and protecting and restoring its resilience and ecological integrity. 

“SDG14 is by far the least funded [of the SDGs] representing only 0.01% of all SDG funding, less than 2% from the Green Climate Fund, and 0.7% of Global Environmental Facility resources,” Fatumanava said.

“Clearly there is a mismatch, which needs to be urgently addressed, and appropriate partnerships secured, and actions taken.  All these initiatives cannot be seen as the responsibility of any one group, and passion alone will not get us over the line.”

The point was acknowledged by the Chief of the SIDS Unit under UN-DESA, Sai Naivoti, who moderated the session. Panellists included the President of the Republic of Palau, Surangel S. Whipps Jr., Tonga’s Prime Minister, Siaosi Sovaleni, Portugal’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, João Gomes Cravinho, Fiji’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Ambassador Satyendra Prasad, Director for Oceans and Private Sector Development, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Norway, Unni Kløvstad and the Pacific Ocean Commissioner and Secretary-General of Pacific Island Forum, Henry Puna.

Sustainable Development Goal 14 exists to conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development. But at the Lisbon Ocean Conference, it has been made explicitly clear that Our Ocean is in a crisis. The health of the ocean is under enormous strain – from pollution in its many forms, sea-level rise and the need to secure maritime zones, ocean warming and acidification, biodiversity loss and the over-exploitation of fish stock. 

Prime Minister Sovaleni welcomed the opportunity during the event to converse with partners on renewing commitment to SDG 14 targets. 

“Only through partnerships can we achieve the aspirations of SDG 14,” he said. “We need good partnerships to help the Pacific solve the problems we face, there are key areas the Pacific requires strong partnerships with donor countries and the private sector to address issues such as IUU fishing, overfishing and to discourage fishing subsidies.”

Ambassador Satyendra Prasad agreed but identified the need for the Pacific to shift gear when it comes to partnerships.

“There needs to be a better balance going forward in reflecting on the services the Blue Pacific provides and our own commitments given the level of resources, technical know-how and other capabilities. We need to have a substantial discussion about the scale and levels of partnerships that will help all of us deliver SDG14,” he said.

Referring to the expired targets, Ambassador Prasad said this tells a story, “…often in the Pacific we get asked to solve the globe’s problem but our contribution to plastic pollution is so minimum and that’s a big ask,” he shared.

The Pacific region contributes as little as 1.3% of global plastic pollution and does not produce plastic polymers, and yet the Pacific region is grossly and disproportionately affected by its impacts. The Second World Ocean Assessment states that the highest recorded quantity of floating plastics is in the South Pacific subtropical gyre.

“SDG14 targets are targets that we have all nationally agreed to. We are talking about one ocean, we are not talking about the Pacific Ocean, the Indian Ocean or the Atlantic Ocean, we are talking about what the ocean contributes to the whole of humanity. So SDG14 is the globe’s target, we need to make the case that this is the planet’s target and so the case for substantial and far-reaching partnerships.”

An example is Norway, Unni Kløvstad shared her country’s experience being a strong proponent of sustainable ocean planning and ocean management initiatives.  At the national level, Norway follows the Oceans for Development programme to promote a strengthened, sustainable and inclusive ocean economy in cooperating countries.

Internationally, Norway leads the way through the ‘Oceans for Development’ programme and co-chairs with Palau the High-Level Panel for Sustainable Ocean Development, but Kløvstad cautioned.

“The principles that apply in Norway may have relevance for other governments, but I hasten to say that there is no one size fit all, these kinds of management tools need to be adapted to the countries and areas they are supposed to be implemented,” she told the gathering.

Portugal is the Co-Chair of the Steering Committee on the SIDS Partnerships Framework. Established under the SAMOA Pathway, the Framework provides an opportunity to gain momentum for the Voluntary Commitments and SDG14.

The Framework has been used in over 6,000 partnerships across the goals, including 2,207 partnerships for SDG14. Portugal’s Foreign Affairs Minister, Hon. Cravinho, endorsed the call for stronger partnerships, noting that the challenges of today can only be met with a response that matches the problems.

“We very much believe that climate, biodiversity and ocean nexus is key to all of our SDGs. Only with a comprehensive approach can we achieve SDG14 and effectively tackle climate change and many of the other challenges that we face,” the Foreign Minister said.

“We have to consolidate ocean action in response to the climate crisis and the way to do this is by placing the sustainable blue economy at the centre, recognising and valuing marine capital as a tool for environmental action and sustainable economic growth. This should be the basis of our response.”

The Second UN Ocean Conference is hosted in Lisbon, Portugal from 27 June to 1 July 2022. The Pacific Islands are represented by a strong contingent, which includes the Leaders from Fiji, Palau and Tonga. Also present and engaged are the Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, French Polynesia, Kiribati, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Republic of the Marshall Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands, and Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu….PACNEWS

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