NOTE: This guest post was written by Morgan McMichen. Morgan is a graduate student at the Seton Hall School of Diplomacy and International Relations. Her specializations are in International Organizations and Global Negotiations and Conflict Management. Morgan’s interests are the function of international institutions in a global society and negotiation as a means of deterring conflict among multinational actors.
Last week, seven heads of state as well as two UN officials, and a handful of representatives from civil society, regional organizations, and the business sector gathered to discuss sustainable use of our oceans and marine resources. The high level speakers included: HE MS. Erna Solberg, Prime Minister of Norway, HE Mr. Tommy Remengesau, President of the Republic of Palau, HE Ms. Michelle Bachelet, President of the Republic of Chile, HE Mr. Frank Bainimarama, Prime Minister of the Republic of Fiji, HE Mr. Antonio Costa, Prime Minister of the Republic of Portugal, HE Mr. Yusuf Kalla, Vice President of the Republic of Indonesia, HE Ms. Amina Mohammed, UN Deputy Secretary General, and HE Mr. Erik Solheim, Executive Director of UN Environment.
The Prime Minister of Portugal explained that “the ocean is the primary regulator of the climate…it connects our populations and markets…and the way in which we decide to address the oceans will dictate our reality for decades to come.” Perhaps those affected most by climate change and the health of our oceans are the small island developing states (SIDS). Much of their economy is based on the ocean and its resources. But as the Vice President of Indonesia said, “Caring for the ocean is not only about economic development, it is also about survival. That is we are all affected by the health of our oceans whether we are a big state, small state, rich or poor, landlocked or surrounded by water. As the Prime Minister of Norway put it, “Without the ocean there would be no life on our planet. The ocean makes all our lives possible.” The Chilean President added, “You do not have to be big and rich to contribute to the health of the oceans-take all the Chile has done for example.” She is exactly right. As we are all beings of planet earth, we are all responsible for her oceans. Every day activities and choices can help with the care and future of our waters. This was made most clear by Ms. Baylee Ritter, World Ocean Day Youth Advisory Council. Baylee, like myself, is from a landlocked state in the Midwest region of the US. For many of us who are from landlocked states, it is hard to imagine how we can directly contribute to preserving our oceans. But like she explained, we only need to make small simple changes such as choosing a reusable bottle for our water instead of plastic ones. She was firm in convicting that just because we are from a state that does not touch the ocean does not mean that its well-being is not our problem. It is very much our problem. It is all of our problem and collectively we can all help to maintain its abundance.
So what is next for promoting SDG 14? The President of Palau pointed out that “we have the commitment, but we have to keep the momentum going.” Many times in these meetings the talks get everyone anxious to become involved and to educate others on the issues. However, sometimes, without a concrete plan, these efforts can soon die out as we all get back to our daily lives and routines. The Norwegian Prime Minister made sure that this would not be the case for this meeting. She said “I believe closer cooperation will be the key. We must go beyond the talks, so let make a To-Do list.” Her “To-Do” list is helping words and feelings turn in to concrete actions. Action is what we need from all sectors of society as exemplified by SDG 17. The sharing of knowledge to create better solutions and the closer coordination between various ocean initiatives and actors will be crucial in the realization of SDG 14.