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2020 END OF THE YEAR MESSAGE FROM THE UN SECRETARY-GENERAL’S SPECIAL ENVOY FOR THE OCEAN

In his State of the Planet address at Colombia University on 2 December, Secretary-General Guterres said that humanity is waging war on Nature, and that it’s time for us to instead advance peace with Nature as our top priority. From pollution to habitat destruction, from unsustainable exploitation to lack of adequate protection, nowhere is this truer than in our relationship with the Ocean.

2020 was to have been a super year for a rebalancing of our relationship with Nature, through the great conferences on Biodiversity, the Ocean and Climate Change. But the Covid-19 pandemic forced worldwide postponements, and for the good of all, we were forced into virtual formats of meeting and conferring.

With all these changes, it would have been understandable if momentum was lost in 2020; but as we adapted to our new virtual formats, we found it possible to keep the wheel of progress turning, and in some cases, to make it turn more efficiently. Throughout 2020, DESA has organised a highly valuable series, still ongoing, of “Keeping the Momentum” webinars on a range of subjects relevant to SDG14’s implementation. During 2020, UN Global Compact has convened a number of big Ocean events to motivate the private sector’s commitment to the sustainability of the Blue Economy. Meanwhile in June, the Friends of Ocean Action and the World Economic Forum hosted the Virtual Ocean Dialogues, with truly amazing numbers of virtual participants, to connect communities across the world seeking innovation and action for a healthy and thriving Ocean.

At the beginning of December, in a seminal moment in international efforts to conserve and sustainably use the Ocean’s resources, the High-Level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy released the results of two years of intense research and analysis by over two hundred experts from fifty countries. Its findings lay down a cornerstone for governments and organizations to cement the Ocean’s place at the center of global policymaking, whether that be in relation to food security and Biodiversity loss, or renewable energy and Climate Change.

The lesson that philosophers have imparted since ancient times, was proved true in 2020: that everything is connected, human to human, human to Nature, Nature to Climate, all in a “One Health” world. If we have learnt anything from this dreadful pandemic, we have taken that lesson of connectivity to heart. And from the lesson comes the reality, as we emerge from the pandemic, that it is the Blue-Green recovery road we must now take.