United NationsDepartment of Economic and Social Affairs Sustainable Development


NEW YORK, N.Y. 10017
TEL. 212-832-1300 • FAX 212-751-6743
I congratulate warmly the· Governments of Fiji and Sweden for presiding over
this important high-level Conference, aimed at supporting the implementation of
Sustainable Development Goal 14.
I express Ghana's strong appreciation to His Excellency Peter Thompson,
President of the General Assembly, for his leadership, vision and advocacy of the
Oceans Conference, the first of its kind in history. My government acknowledges,
with thanks, the enormous amount of work undertaken by Member States and
other stakeholders, in preparing towards this Conference and in negotiating the
"Call for Action", which will be adopted at the end of our deliberations.
Since this is my first time of addressing the United Nations as President of the
Republic of Ghana, I want to congratulate Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on
his well-deserved election, and for the able manner in which he has steered the
affairs of the Organization since he assumed office in January this year. I am
grateful for the confidence he has reposed in Ghana's leaders, in enabling me to
succeed my predecessor, His Excellency John Dramani Mahama, as Co-Chair of
the SDG Advocacy Group, to mobilise political support for the UN 2030 Agenda
for Sustainable Development. The Ghanaian people are honoured by his trust.
Further, I want also to congratulate the redoubtable Fulani woman from the
mighty Federal Republic of Nigeria, Ms Amina Mohammed, on her appointment
as Deputy Secretary General of the Organisation in January. Ghana is confident
that she will discharge the responsibilities of her office, including her role in
seeing to the implementation of the SDGs, with distinction. We wish both of
them God's blessings in the performance of their important functions.
The health of our planet and our peoples is inextricably linked to the health of
our oceans. Oceans cover more than 70 per cent of Earth's surface, and account
for the very origins· of life, as we know it. The world's oceans provide food and
sustenance, mineral resources, energy, employment and livelihoods, transport
and recreation. The wealth of resources, that oceans provide, forms an
important part of the common heritage of mankind, and we owe it to ourselves
and to succeeding generations to conserve this natural heritage. My
government, therefore, welcomes the convening of this Conference, which is the
first to focus on the implementation of one specific SDG. Indeed, our success, in
dealing with this singularly critical and fundamental SDG Goal, will serve as a
standard, and will have a positive impact on the implementation of the other
linked SDG Goals and Targets. Tackling SDG 14 cannot be done in isolation, but
must involve the broader objectives of sustainable management of resources and
environmentally sound economic development.
For this reason, efforts to address the challenges of marine pollution and to
enhance the management, protection, conservation and restoration of marine
and coastal ecosystems are of extreme importance to Ghana. Ghana's marine
environment encompasses some 550 kilometers of coastline on the Gulf of
Guinea, extending to about 200 nautical miles seaward and making up a total
Exclusive Zone area of over 218,000 square kilometers. The marine area has
important resources, including fisheries, oil and gas reserves, precious minerals,
and is an important global reservoir of marine biodiversity, providing important
migration and nesting habitats for several marine species. Ghana has a beautiful
coastline with some 90 lagoons, including six internationally important wetlands.
We have designated 5 of our coastal wetlands that support internationally
important populations of 12 species of migratory waterbirds, as well as 3 species
of globally threatened marine turtles, as Ramsar sites.
Our beautiful coastal wetlands, however, are threatened by high volumes of
plastic and metal waste that choke breeding habitats for fish, birds and other
wildlife, which have an adverse impact on tourism. With respect to the Ocean
Health Index, Ghana. has performed above the global average in the areas of
carbon storage, coastal protection, coastal livelihoods and economies,
biodiversity and food provision. However, we lag behind the global average in
five areas, including tourism and recreation and clean waters. We are, thus,
deeply concerned about the alarming levels of plastic and micro-plastic pollution
of our oceans, their movement up the food chain, and their consequences for
animal and human health.
Domestically, Ghana has established a number of institutions, including the
Maritime Authority and the Environmental Protection Agency, to tackle these
issues, and ensure a clean marine environment. Our national institutions
continue to collaborate with in.ternational partners to protect the shipping routes
and ships, as well as the country's blue resources, towards ensuring a clean
maritime domain. We strongly advocate building effective partnerships, while
allowing developing countries to have access to technical and other support in
their efforts towards sustainable management of waste, and, in particular, in
dealing with the effects of plastics.
The West African region has one of the world's most productive fishing grounds,
which attract commercial vessels that supply the markets of Europe and Asia.
Fish is a preferred source of animal protein for the Ghanaian people, and the
fisheries sector supports livelihoods of some 10 percent of Ghana's population of
about 27 million people. However, most of Ghana's fishery resources are heavily
overexploited, and only a fraction of the country's annual fish requirements is
produced currently. Ghana has experienced a major decline in its fish stocks that
is linked to illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing (IUU) methods by foreignowned
The growing incidence of illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing is,
therefore, of significant concern to Ghana, as it contributes to overexploitation
and the depletion of fish stocks in our waters, as well as globally. To address
this problem at the national level, the Government of Ghana, with the assistance
of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, in May 2014, elaborated a Plan of
Action to Prevent, Deter and Eliminate Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated
Fishing, consisting of a 20-point action plan to address issues ranging from
regional fisheries management and market mechanisms, to the use of port and
flag state controls. We strongly advocate enhanced international cooperation for
effective monitoring and a severe san_ctions regime to address the problem.
Moreover, we intend to devote greater national resources to combat this menace
to our marine resources.
Unfair competition, in the form of fish subsidies and non-tariff measures, is
having a negative impact on trade in fish. For over 15 years, the wro has
grappled with the difficult process of finding agreement on fish subsidies. Ghana
calls for the swift conclusion of wro negotiations in addressing this issue, and
hopes that, in the interest of the health of our oceans and the sustainability of
the global fishing industry, subsidies that encourage overcapacity and overfishing
will be prohibited sooner rather than later. The speed, with which the world
community concludes such an agreement, will be a truer reflection of the
sincerity of the commitment to the preservation of the health of our oceans, than
any amount of words and official declarations in this regard.
The impact of climate change on the oceans is alarming, and likely to exacerbate
the existing impacts of anthropogenic activities in the marine environment. The
gradual warming of our oceans and increasing acidification, and their effects on
the marine environment and resources, need to be addressed through the
speedy implementation of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, which many
Member States have signed and ratified, including Ghana, and which represents
the blue print for global action to reverse this trend. The recent announcement
of the withdrawal of the USA from the agreement is a disturbing development,
which Ghana believes, like the majority of the global community, requires urgent
reconsideration by the new US administration. We have to work together to
protect our planet.
We would urge the international community to build on the various continental
and regional programmes that have led to significant progress in the protection
and preservation of the marine environment. Ghana believes that implementation
of SDG 14 must also encompass continental approaches, and build on
continental arrangements and initiatives, such as the AU's 2050 Africa Integrated
Maritime Strategy (2050 AIM Strategy) and the declaration of the Decade of
Africa's Seas and Oceans. Apart from protecting Africa's marine environment,
the strategy also seeks to enhance Africa's Blue Economy through job creation,
and to utilise effectively the common maritime and coastal resources.
Ghana has ratified the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, which
has at its core the integration of the environmental, social and economic
dimensions of ocean activities. We believe that the Convention provides a good
legal framework, within which our efforts towards the conservation and
sustainable use of the oceans and their resources can be situated. We urge
speedy implementation of the 35 year old Convention and assistance to states
parties to that end. The Fish Stock Agreement and the Agreement on Port State
Measures to Prevent, Deter and Eliminate Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated
Fishing are examples of instruments which can advance the conservation and
protection of marine resources, if they were to gain wider international
acceptance and ratification. Ghana has ratified both instruments.
This Conference must mark the turning point in the conservation and sustainable
use of our oceans for present and future generations. We must work hand in
hand to reverse the cycle of decline and restore the health, productivity and
resilience of oceans and marine ecosystems. We have no other option.
We support the inclusion of all relevant stakeholders, including Governments,
intergovernmental organizations, financial institutions, non-governmental and
civil society organizations, as well as academia and scientific communities, in
finding solutions, and in tackling collectively the critical problems related to our
oceans. Increasing scientific knowledge, and developing research capacity and
transfer of marine technology, will be critical.
The targets under the SDG 14 include prevention and significant reduction of
marine pollution of all kinds by 2025, and sustainably managing and protecting
marine and coastal ecosystems. The outputs expected from this Conference
include a list of voluntary commitments for the implementation of SDG 14. It is
my pleasure to announce that my government, on behalf of the people of Ghana,
is able to pledge two commitments towards the implementation of SDG 14:
1. we will eliminate pollution on the Ghana coast and significantly reduce
pollution in the marine ecosystem by 2025, by tackling the current
challenges posed by use of plastics and indiscriminate disposal of waste;
2. we will complete the assessment of ecologically sensitive areas along the
Ghana coast, and designate Ghana's first marine protected area by 2025,
to safeguard coastal and marine biodiversity.
Ghana is of the firm conviction that the successful implementation of SDG 14 will
facilitate the emergence of the new African civilisation that the African peoples
are determined to build, where there is accountable governance in which respect
for the rule of law, individual liberties and human rights, and the principles of
democratic accountability are guaranteed; where the economies of Africa look
beyond the production of commodities to position themselves at the high value
end of the global marketplace; and where Africans free themselves from a
mindset of dependence, aid, charity and handouts to mobilise the immeasurable
resources of Africa, including its enormous marine resou~ces, to resolve Africa's
problems of poverty and development.
Let us all put our hands to the wheel and take up the challenge for the sake of
our oceans, our planet and our common humanity.
I thank you for your attention.