United NationsDepartment of Economic and Social Affairs Sustainable Development

Mr. Wu Hongbo, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs

4 June 2017 cleared by the SG
New York, 5 June 2017
Your Excellency Mr. Frank Bainimarama [Prime Minister of Fiji}
Your Excellency Ms. Isabella Lovin [Minister for International Development
Cooperation and Climate, Deputy Prime Minister of Sweden}
Excellencies, _
Ladies and gentlemen
My thanks to the Governments ofFij.i and Swedep. for co-hosting this
Conference, and to everyone involved ~nits preparation.
We are here today to take decisive ac~ion to nurture and protect the lifeblood of
our planet.
Oceans and seas cover two-thirds of our home. Maybe we should change its
na,ne from "Planet Earth" to "Planet Water."
Oceans provide food, energy, water, jobs and economic benefits for people in
every country - even those that are landlocked. They are a crucial buffer against
climate change and a massive resource for sustainable development. The health
of our oceans and seas is inextricably linked with the health of our planet and all
life on earth.
Many nationalities, including mine, have a special relationship with the sea.
The tluth is, the sea has a special relationship with all of us.
It keeps us alive.
But that relationship is now under threat as never before.
Ladies and gentlemen,
· Pollution, overfishing and the effects of climate change are severely damaging
the health of our oceans. According to one recent study, plastic could outweigh
fish in our seas by 2050.
Rising sea levels threaten entire countries. Oceans are wanning and becoming
more acidic, causing coral bleaching and reducing biodiversity. Changing
currents will have a serious impact on weather patterns; we must prepare for
more frequent storms an_d droughts.
Fisheries in some places are collapsing. Dead zones - underwater deserts where
life cannot survive because of a lack of oxygen- are growing rapidly in extent
and number. Some species could be extinct within decades.
Conflicting demands from industry, fishing, shipping, mining and tourism are
creating unsustainable levels of stress on coastal ecosystems ..
Numerous reports, global commissions and scientific assessments have
described the serious damage to our most vitai life support system - but the
situation is getting worse. Governments are not making full use of the tools
available to them, including the Convention on the Law of the Sea, and UN
We are here today to turn the tide.
We created these problems. With decisive, coordinated global actjon, we can
solve them.
Sustainable Development Goal 14 must be our roadmap to clean, healthy
The essential· first step is ending the artificial dichotomy between economic
demands and the health of our seas.
The conservation and sustainable use of marin~ resources are two sides of the
same com.
Second, we need to promote strong political leadership and new partnerships,
for Action that will be formally adopted this week.
Now we need concrete steps, from expanding marine protected areas, to the
management of fisheries; from reducing pollution, to cleaning up plastic waste.
I call for a step change, from local and national initiatives to an urgent,
coordinated international effort.
The ongoing work with a view to a legal framework on conservation and the
sustainable use of biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction is
particularly important to the future of the oceans and their biodiversity.
Third, we must translate the political will of the 2030 Agenda, the Paris
Agreement on climate change and the Addis Ababa Action Agenda into funding
Fourth, we must deepen our knowledge base, with better data, information and
analysis. We can't improve what we don't measure.
Finally, we must share best practices and experiences. Most solutions are local,
but.many have broader relevance.
The United Nations has a critical role to play.
We are committed to providing integrated, coordinated support for the
implementation of all the historic agreements of the past year, including
SDG 14. I am determined to break down barriers between UN agencies and
programmes, to improve performance and accountability.
We are already building partnerships·with Governments, the private sector, civil
society and others, and working with international fmancial institutions on
innovative financing to release more funds.
We are harnessing the power of big data to improve the basis for decisionmaking
and accountability.
And UN Oceans and the entire UN system will .continue to play a convening
role as a forum for infonnation-sharing, advocacy and the development of
international law ..
Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,
The Portuguese writer Vergilio Ferre!ra once said: "Da minha lingua ve-se o
"From my language, you can see the sea."
So it is appropriate that my fir~t major UN conference as Secretary-General
concerns the ocean - a precious resource for so many countries.
The Swedes were sailing around the Baltic Sea and as far as present-day
Ist~bul some 1,300 years ago. Fijians were sailing canoes at record speeds and.
for record distances around the Pacific, well before that.
A Japanese creation myth·tells of how the archipelago was fonn~d from sea
water. An Inuit creation myth is centred on Sedna, the Goddess of the Sea.
The sea belongs to all of us.
Improving the health of our oceans is ~ test for multilateralism, and we cannot
afford to fail.
We must jointly address the problems of governance that have held us back.
I am aware that there are many obstacles to progress.
But we need a new strategic vision.
I call on all Member States to engage in the dialogue necessary to define a new
model for the future governance of our oceans.
Unless we overcome the territorial and resource interests that have blocked
progress for far too long, the state of our oceans will continue to deteriorate.
We must put aside short-:-term national gain, to prevent long-term global
Conserving our oceans. and using them sustainably is preserving life itself.
Thank you.