The United Nations Ocean Conference (UNOC) co-hosted by Portugal and Kenya from June 27 to July 1, 2022 in Lisbon, Portugal, was a landmark ocean event to bring together policy makers, innovators , private sector actors and stakeholders towards the implementation of Goal 14 of the SDGs. and Aspiration 1.6 of Africa’s Agenda 2063, both related to the management of oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development.
According to reports, the week-long conference was attended by some 6,500 participants and was opened by United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres. The United Nations Secretary-General (UNSG or SG) is the chief administrative officer of the United Nations and the head of the United Nations Secretariat. There were, among others, high-level African representatives.
In his speech, António Guterres warned that unless nations overcome their short-term territorial and resource interests, the state of the oceans will continue to deteriorate. The Secretary-General described the “artificial dichotomy” between jobs and ocean health as one of the key challenges and called for strong political leadership, new partnerships and concrete action.
On behalf of Moussa Faki Mahamat, Chairperson 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 led the AU delegation to the United Nations Ocean Conference 2022 (UNOC).
He was accompanied by Embassy Fatima Kyari Mohammed, Permanent Observer of the African Union to the United Nations in New York (USA); Harsen Nyambe Nyambe, Director of Sustainable Environment and Blue Economy; and Dr. Bernice Mclean, AUDA-NEPAD Blue Economy Officer in South Africa, REC representative and other African Union Commission staff.
The President of Kenya, HE Uhuru Kenyatta, and the President of Portugal, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, were elected by acclamation as Presidents of the Conference with statements made by each President accordingly. On the sidelines of ONUC, the meeting of the Committee of African Heads of State and Government on Climate Change (CAHOSCC) was also held, during which the African Union Commission sent a strong signal on Africa’s desire to protect and sustainably develop its ocean resources. .
The AUC delegation to the conference presented measures to promote Africa’s blue economy and send a strong signal of Africa’s commitment to protecting and sustainably developing its ocean resources as well as its contribution to the conversation World Oceans Conference focusing on unlocking Africa’s potential in innovative, knowledge-based and high-income sectors while promoting sustainability and private sector activity, which further puts the emphasis on the integration of women, young people and the African scientific community in the blue economy.
In addition, the AU Commission has co-organized various side events, including two major Africa-focused events: the first event co-organized with IOC-UNESCO on “Accelerating Innovation, science and technology, and the promotion of the involvement of women and young people in the oceans and seas within the framework of the decade of the oceans” was held on 29 June. He addressed the need to tackle cultural norms and stereotypes on the one hand, and to bridge the resource gap on the other hand, and to enhance the participation of women and youth in the blue economy.
The second event focusing on “Shaping a Sustainable Blue Economy in Africa”, co-organized with AUDA-NEPAD, was held on June 30 and highlighted Africa’s vast amount of marine resources which are very important for global ecosystem services and need to be managed properly. for the benefit of citizens.
The AUC also co-sponsored the following side events for three consecutive days:
(i) “Blue Innovation for Multifunctional Marine Spatial Planning”, in collaboration with the Stockholm Environment Institute and the governments of Sweden and Kenya on June 28. He underscored the importance of ensuring that Africa has access to and ownership of ocean data, and ensuring the need for Africa to develop its own marine spatial planning that will help address the data gaps;
(ii) “Fostering international and regional cooperation in support of the sustainable development of the blue economy in LDCs, LLDCs and SIDS”, in collaboration with the International Seabed Authority, on 29 June;
(iii) “Advancing women’s empowerment and leadership in marine scientific research to support inclusive and sustainable ocean governance”, in collaboration with the International Seabed Authority on 30 June.
In addition, the AU Commission delivered a statement during the plenary, highlighting 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 signals its commitment to protecting and developing ocean resources. “Women and youth represent Africa’s most underutilized assets, which is why the African Union Commission is committed to identifying ways to fully promote their inclusion in the blue wealth debate. “said AU Commissioner Josepha Sacko during the meeting.
Sacko informed that the AUC is in the process of implementing the blue economy, in various sectors, emphasizing that “…we need to improve the traditional ocean-based sectors like fisheries and tourism so that they contribute to the livelihoods of the coastal communities that depend on them. But, at the same time, Africa needs to shift to a knowledge-based model for developing ocean science and ocean technology. We have the ideas, the vision and the ambition to do so.
Furthermore, during the plenary session, the Group of African States emphasized that Africa is determined to sustainably harness the vast potential of its maritime domain and accelerate economic transformation and the opportunities offered by the oceans. To achieve sustainable ocean-based development, the African Group stresses the need to promote collective efforts to address the inherent financial and infrastructural gaps that prevent the realization of the full potential of Africa’s marine resources.
The African Group further underscored that the oceans are a common heritage of humanity, including African landlocked states. Achieving Sustainable Development Goal 14 (life below water) and conserving ocean and marine ecosystems will require bold and ambitious partnership, mobilization of significant financial resources, access to technologies and innovations, strengthening capacities and effective governance mechanisms.
In addition, the delegation along with key partners including RECs, NGOs, WIMAfrica, fisheries and aquaculture associations participated in various other side events and engaged with innovators, policy makers and stakeholders. stakeholders on a range of issues including conservation, sustainable ocean economies and capacity building. , as well as institutional and policy development and implementation, NGOs and research and civil society organizations, legal instruments.
On July 1, the side event organized by the Republic of Mauritius “Scientific Consideration for the Protection of Marine Ecosystems in the Chagos Archipelago” which aimed to advocate for the full decolonization of the Chagos Archipelago. This was an opportunity seized by the Office of the Legal Counsel of the African Union to reiterate its unconditional support to the Government of Mauritius until the completion of the decolonization of Chagos is achieved and appreciated by the citizens of Mauritius in accordance with well-established principles. of international law. and relevant decisions and resolutions of the Organization of African Unity (OAU)/African Union (AU) and the United Nations.
The United Nations is trying to find ways in which the private sector provides practical solutions to problems, for example by improving energy efficiency, waste management and introducing market-based tools 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 by creating the United Nations Conference on the Oceans.