UN Ocean Conference: Scientific community delivers statement to the General Assembly

Orcas swim off the coast of Vancouver, Canada. Photo: timnutt via Flickr
In a statement today to the United Nations General Assembly, Future Earth's Craig Starger said that saving the ocean means understanding the "web of complex interactions" among a range of sustainability goals.

Craig Starger, research liaison officer for Future Earth, delivered a statement today at the United Nations General Assembly, addressing how the research community can help the world to meet targets for a sustainable ocean. The statement coincided with the UN Ocean Conference, an international event held this week in New York. It was delivered on behalf of the Scientific and Technological Community Major Group and the International Council for Science (ICSU).

The statement focused on how nations around the world can meet the 14th Sustainable Development Goal (SDG14), a set of targets for improving the health of the ocean. Starger drew on a recent report from ICSU that argues that to meet this ambition, researchers must first understand how ocean health is connected to other sustainability endeavours – from curbing climate change to shifting consumption behaviours. Read more about this report in a recent blog.

Starger also highlighted the Ocean Knowledge-Action Network, a new research collaboration for building solutions to the problems facing the ocean today.

See the full statement below. Also watch an interview with Starger from UN Web TV in which he discusses how partnerships, both across the research community and with businesses, will be key to improving ocean health:

Future Earth's Craig Starger speaks at the United Nations General Assembly. Photo: Paul Holthus

Thank you very much Mr. President, Co-Facilitators and Distinguished Delegates:

I am speaking on behalf of the Scientific and Technological Community Major Group.

The scientific community welcomes the initiative to hold a first international gathering dedicated to a specific Sustainable Development Goal, and is keen to contribute to the implementation of SDG14, and to offer a dedicated platform to bring together all those touched by ocean issues.

As we have heard multiple times throughout the week, SDG14 cannot be implemented in isolation. More than ever before we need to understand the interlinkages with other goals and taragets.

We would like to draw your attention to important lessons from a new report from the International Council for Science, A Guide to SDG Interactions: from Science to Implementation. The report provides a blueprint to help countries achieve the SDGs by examining the interactions between the various goals and targets across the 2030 Agenda, and determining to what extent they reinforce or conflict with each other. This is just the beginning of what we hope will be a concerted effort by research, policy and practitioner communities.

We hope this blueprint can help deliver the tools needed to respond to the Call to Action.

The Scientific and Technological Community pledges to work at all levels – global, national and local – to promote ocean sustainability in support of SDG 14. We pledge to do this work in close collaboration with the policy and practitioner communities. That is why our Voluntary Commitment is a multi-stakeholder platform, the Ocean Knowledge-Action Network, which is supported by the international programmes Future Earth and its Global Research Projects; the World Climate Research Programme-CLIVAR; the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission-UNESCO; and the ICSU-Scientific Committee on Oceanic Research. The Ocean Knowledge-Action Network aims at advancing integrated ocean research globally to chart a course from knowledge of ocean systems to changes in policies, practices, governance and behaviours that will support sustaining those systems.

We are encouraged by the leadership shown at this conference by both Member States and stakeholder communities to create new and innovative partnerships needed to achieve sustainability and secure the health of our ocean. As representatives of the scientific community, we recognise the importance of cooperation and dialogue between regions and between the regional and the global level.

The scientific community has an important role to play to ensure that efforts to save our ocean take into account the web of complex interactions that make up the Earth system. The scientific community is here to provide actionable knowledge where it is most needed. We call on governments, civil society, the business community and all stakeholders to join the Ocean Knowledge-Action Network and start a dialogue to make sure knowledge will be used efficiently and effectively to make the decisions that will safeguard the ocean for future generations.