The High-level Committee on Programmes, through its Chair, Achim Steiner, Executive Director of UNEP, introduced “The Oceans Compact: Healthy Oceans for Prosperity”, following a process of system-wide consultation on a longer paper developed by a group of experts. The Compact before the Board was the “short version”. It contained a framework for action, aligned with the provisions of the 1982 Convention on the Law of the Sea, with the goal of achieving “healthy oceans for prosperity”, and set forth three goals: (a) improving the health of the oceans and protecting people depending on them; (b) protecting, recovering and sustaining the oceans’ environment and natural resources; and (c) strengthening ocean knowledge and the management of oceans.
Board members expressed their appreciation to the UN Secretary-General for the inclusion of the Oceans Compact in his Five Year Action Plan. While endorsing the short version of the Oceans Compact as a first step, they agreed on the need to raise the level of ambition commensurate with the expectations of the many millions of people living in coastal areas, and in light with growing evidence on the degradation of oceans. Attention was also drawn in this context to the Global Partnership for Oceans and elements of the blue economy, as well as to relevant ongoing negotiations in the General Assembly and the review of UN-Oceans being undertaken by the Joint Inspection Unit. It was strongly suggested that the Oceans Compact take deeply into account the serious issues being faced by small island developing states, and should recognize the critical importance of responsibly governing the tenure of marine space, fisheries and coastal land.
The UN Secretary-General requested the HLCP Chair to closely coordinate with all concerned entities, including UNESCO, UNEP, FAO and UN-OLA, to further develop the system-wide compact, identifying options and evaluating risks to determine how far-reaching in ambition the compact could be.