Last updated: 24 May 2022

The 2022 UN Ocean Conference will be held from 27 June to 1 July 2022 in Lisbon. It will provide a critical opportunity to mobilize partnerships and increase investment in science-driven approaches to achieve SDG 14. Organizations in Geneva are actively supporting processes in the run-up to the 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 will 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 will focus on some of the major challenges and opportunities faced by the ocean today. The conference will include 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 smallscale 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, will be 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.

Political Declaration

The conference is expected to adopt a political declaration on “Our ocean, our future, our responsibility“. Drafts and inputs from Member States can be found here.

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 is collaborating 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.

Other events

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.

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