Towards the UN Ocean Conference | From Geneva to Lisbon
The 2022 UN Ocean Conference took place from 27 June to 1 July 2022 in Lisbon, providing a critical opportunity to mobilize partnerships and increase investment in science-driven approaches to achieve SDG 14. Organizations in Geneva actively contributed to this conference.
About the 2022 UN Ocean Conference
The ocean is our planet’s largest ecosystem. It is our life source, supporting humanity’s sustenance and that of every other organism on earth. It stabilizes climate, stores carbon, nurtures unimaginable biodiversity, and directly supports human well-being through food and energy resources, as well as by providing cultural and recreational services. Not to mention, the ocean is key to our economy with an estimated 40 million people being employed by ocean-based industries by 2030.
The 2022 UN Ocean Conference, co-hosted by the Governments of Kenya and Portugal, comes at a critical time as the world is strengthening its efforts to mobilize, create and drive solutions to realize the 17 Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. As one of the first milestones of UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ newly launched Decade of Action for the Sustainable Development Goals, the Conference aimed to propel much needed science-based innovative solutions aimed at starting a new chapter of global ocean action.
The first ocean conference in 2017 was a game changer in terms of waking the world up to the Ocean’s problems. I think this conference in Lisbon in June is going to be about providing the solutions to the problems that we’ve alerted the world to. And I’m very confident that those solutions emerge when we get there.
Peter Thomson, UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for the Ocean, 18 March 2022 (Source: UN News)
Programme and Side Events
The UN Ocean Conference focused on some of the major challenges and opportunities faced by the ocean today. The conference included plenaries, as well as a series of interactive dialogues on the following themes:
- Addressing Marine Pollution
- Promoting and strengthening sustainable ocean-based economies, in particular for Small Island Developing States and Least Developed Countries
- Managing, protecting, conserving and restoring marine and coastal ecosystems
- Minimizing and addressing ocean acidification, deoxygenation and ocean warming
- Making fisheries sustainable and providing access for small–scale artisanal fishers to marine resources and markets
- Enhancing the conservation and sustainable use of oceans and their resources by implementing international law, as reflected in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea
- Leveraging interlinkages between Sustainable Development Goal 14 and other Goals towards the implementation of the 2030 Agenda
Various side events, both in-person and online, were organized in the margins of the official meetings of the 2022 UN Ocean Conference. These events are organized by Member States, Intergovernmental Organizations (IGOs), UN entities and all other duly accredited and registered entities. Various institutions from international Geneva are proposing or joining the side events.
Official Side Events Program
- Side Events Program inside the Conference venue
- Side Events Program outside the Conference venue
- Virtual Side Events Program
Geneva Beat Plastic Pollution Dialogues @UNOC2022
Following the landmark resolution adopted at UNEA-5 to end plastic pollution and building on the outcomes of the first two series, the third series of the Geneva Beat Plastic Pollution Dialogues aims to encourage increased engagement of the Geneva community with future negotiations on plastic pollution. As this global issue is one of the key themes of the UN Ocean Conference, the dialogues engaged with stakeholders in Lisbon and beyond through two side events. Video recording and summary is available for both dialogues.
The Invisible Global Crisis: Exceeding the Limits of the Pollution Planetary Boundary – New Science and Opportunities to Tackle Threats to Human and Marine Life
International Pollutants Elimination Network, University of Gothenburg, Swedish Institute for Marine Environment, Western Indian Ocean Marine Science Association and Geneva Environment Network | FIL & Online | 27 June 2022, 14:30–16:00 CEST (13:30-15:00 WEST)
How Plastic Waste Shipments Undermine Real Solutions to Ocean Plastic Pollution
European Environmental Bureau, Break Free From Plastic, and Geneva Environment Network | Online | 8 June 2022, 14:00–15:30 CEST
International Geneva @UNOC2022
Organizations in Geneva are actively contributing to the conference and the numerous side events and parallel events taking place in Lisbon and virtually. In addition to the two Beat Plastic Pollution Dialogues, organized as official side events to the UN Ocean Conference in Geneva, find here a selection of events involving Geneva actors:
- The Invisible Global Crisis: Exceeding the Limits of the Pollution Planetary Boundary – New Science and Opportunities to Tackle Threats to Human and Marine Life | IPEN, University of Gothenburg, Swedish Institute for Marine Environment and Western Indian Ocean Marine Science Association, GEN | FIL, Auditorium 1 | 27 June 2022, 14:30–16:00 CEST (13:30-15:00 WEST)
- From Ambition to Action: Ending Plastic Pollution in All Environments | EIA, Common Seas, CIEL | Ikonik Hotel | 27 June, 18:30-20:00 WEST
- How Plastic Waste Shipments Undermine Real Solutions to Ocean Plastic Pollution | EEB, Break Free From Plastic & GEN | 28 June 2022, 14:00–15:30 CEST (13:00-14:30 WEST)
- Depolluting oceans through controlling trade in plastic wastes and combatting illegal traffic under the Basel Convention | BRS MEAs | Altice Arena, Room 2 | 28 June 2022, 16:00-17:15 WEST (17:00-18:15 CEST)
- Welcome Outside Box! Launch of The Lisbon Addendum to the paper From Blue Food for Thought to Blue Food for Action | Vara, Bertarelli Foundation and others | FIL, Auditorium 3 | 28 June 2022, 16:00-17:30 WEST
- Ocean Sand: Risks & Opportunities for Sustainability & Equity | UNEP FI, UNEP/GRID-Geneva & others | FIL, Auditorium 5 | 29 June 2022, 9:00-10:30 WEST
- I’s On the Ocean: Integration, Implementation & Impact | WWF & Friends of Ocean Action | Knowledge Pavilion, Auditório José Mariano Gago | 30 June 2022, 8:15-9:45 WEST
- Marine Justice and Right to Science | SR toxics Marcos Orellana as a speaker | 30 June 2022, 17:00 WEST
- Promoting implementation of CITES towards sustainable and traceable ocean trade: Spotlight on the UNCTAD–OECS Blue BioTrade project | UNCTAD, CITES, OECS & EU | Altice Arena, Interactive Dialogue Room | 1 July 2022, 17:30-18:45 WEST
- Reef Action Hub Agenda | Global Funds for Coral Reefs (globalfundcoralreefs.org) | GFCR and ICRI, with the participation of IUCN & many more | 27 June – 1 July
Outcomes and Political Declaration
From 27 June to 1 July, around 6,500 representatives, including 24 Heads of State and Government and 2,000 among intergovernmental organizations and representatives of civil society organizations met in Lisbon. The Conference concluded with the adoption of the political declaration titled “Our Ocean, Our Future, Our Responsibility”. Drafts and inputs from Member States can be found here.
Cognizant of the “collective failure” to address the state of the Ocean, the Declaration pledges to achieve SDG14 (life below water), taking bold action to protect the ocean from marine pollution, harmful fishing practices, biodiversity loss, rising sea levels, acidification and more.
Besides the Declaration, other outcomes include member States voluntarily committing to preserving at least 30 percent of the global ocean within Marine Protected Areas, and other effective area-based conservation measures, by 2030.
In Lisbon, it was also confirmed that Costa Rica and France will be hosting the Third UN Ocean Conference in 2025. The United Nations General Assembly will be receiving the outcome document for endorsement at its seventy-sixth session.
Call for Voluntary Commitments
An on-line registry was established for the voluntary commitments – an array of ocean action that covers all of the targets of SDG14. Over 1,700 ocean voluntary commitments have been submitted.
I call upon all willing parties to now mobilize your institutions, constituencies and networks to register existing and new ocean action initiatives as voluntary commitments.
Peter Thomson, UNSG’s Special Envoy for the Ocean
Preparatory Events in Geneva
Various events are taking place around the world to prepare the UN Ocean Conference. Events in Geneva in preparation of this major event are listed in this section.
Geneva Blue Talks
Pursuant to General Assembly decision 75/578, the 2022 UN Ocean Conference will be held from 27 June to 1 July 2022 in Lisbon. The conference will be co-hosted by Portugal and Kenya under the theme “Scaling up the ocean action based on science and innovation for the implementation of Goal 14: stocktaking, partnerships and solutions”. It will provide a critical opportunity to mobilize partnerships and increase investment in science-driven approaches to achieve SDG 14.
In the run-up to the conference, “Blue Talks” are taking place around the world, to discuss the core issues that will be addressed at the conference, contextualizing the debate with an overview of the status quo while underlining the urgency of finding solutions to the challenges identified. The objective is to trigger the debate and wide interest in Ocean related issues and by extend active participation in the UN Ocean Conference, to promote SDG 14, the sharing of experiences and innovative approaches, and to identify opportunities to mobilize the public and private sectors.
In this context, the Geneva Environment Network collaborated with Portugal and Kenya to propose the Geneva Blue Talks, addressing issues that are both at the heart of International Geneva and of the UN Ocean Conference, thus highlighting the contribution of Geneva to the global ocean agenda. Geneva is indeed a major hub for global environmental governance, were questions regarding the sustainability of our ocean are addressed in various processes and negotiations. Protecting our ecosystems from pollution or climate change, developing a sustainable blue economy, providing data and science solutions to help decision-making processes, or creating synergies for achieving SDG14, are some of the topics discussed in Geneva that could contribute to help implementing measure to achieve SDG14.
Global Ocean and Coastal Observation: From Science to Decision to Making
17 May 2022, 15:00-16:30 CEST
New Disciplines on Fisheries Subsidies to Achieve SDG14 and Improve Ocean Governance
24 May 2022, 15:00-16:30 CEST
4th Oceans Forum on trade-related aspects of Sustainable Development Goal 14
6 – 8 April 2022 | Palais des Nations (Room XXVI) & Online | UNCTAD, FAO, UNEP, Commonwealth Secretariat, OACPS, CAF and IOI with the support of the Missions of Kenya and Portugal
Life Below Water and Microplastic Pollution: From Science to Policy | RFSD2022
6 Apr 2022, 13:15 – 14:45 | Online | UNIGE, Norway, Switzerland and GEN | RFSD2022 side event & Geneva Beat Plastic Pollution Dialogues
Role of Geneva
While Geneva is in a land-locked country with little direct connection to the ocean, the challenges and opportunities faced by the ocean remain high on the agenda of several Geneva-based organizations. Plastic pollution, overfishing, climate change impacts, marine biodiversity, blue economy and many relevant issues are at the heart of Geneva’s work on ocean governance.
- Pollution: as one of the global clusters for chemicals and waste governance, Geneva is playing a key role on the issue of marine litter and plastic pollution. Geneva hosted the first ever Ministerial Conference on Marine Litter and Plastic Pollution in September 2021, and helped build momentum to launch the process toward a international legally-binding agreement on plastic pollution.
- Ecosystem restoration: Several Geneva-based institutions are actively working to protect, conserve and restore marine ecosystems. These include some of the major international conservation organizations, such as the World Wildlife Fund for Nature (WWF) and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
- Acidification and warming: Geneva hosts the World Meterological Organization (WMO) and the highest scientific authority on climate change, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which provides extensive work on the impacts of climate change on the ocean.
- Overfishing: over the past decades, this topic has been a core issue of environmental governance in Geneva, as negotiations on fisheries subsidies are led at the World Trade Organization (WTO). These negotiations are supported by additional actors in the region such as the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD). The United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) is also actively working to stop Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated fishing practices through data sharing and guidance.
- Scientific knowledge: Geneva is also actively advancing sound scientific understanding of the ocean, its ecosystems, and its connections with all spheres of human activity, most notably through the work of the WMO, the IPCC and the Group on Earth Observations (GEO).
- Sustainable Use of Ocean Resources: several organizations are working on the issues of blue economy and blue finance, such as the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD)
- Implementing Sea Law: Geneva hosts the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), which regulates trade for various marine species.
- World Leaders Pledge Greater Action to Save Oceans from Existing, Future Threats, Adopting Sweeping Political Declaration as Lisbon Conference Concludes | Meeting Coverage | UN Ocean Conference | 1 July 2022
- UN Ocean Conference ends with call for greater global commitment to address dire state of the ocean | UN News | 1 July 2022
- Summary | Earth Negotiations Bulletin
- Reflections on the closing of the 2022 UN Ocean Conference | IUCN | 04 July 2022
- IPEN Urges UN Oceans Conference to Address Chemical Threats | IPEN | 22 June 2022
- 5 global actions needed to build a sustainable ocean economy | UNCTAD | 3 May 2022
- UN Ocean Conference 2022: ‘Fleet’ of solutions to be launched | UN News | 18 March 2022
- 100 days until the Ocean Conference kicks-off in Lisbon | UN | 17 March 2022
- Portugal: UN oceans conference in Lisbon will be major step towards global ocean agenda – government | Macau Business | 17 March 2022