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Opening Remarks by Ms. Amina Mohamed, UNEP Deputy Executive Director During the 14th Global Meeting of The Regional Seas Conventions and Action Plans

Colleagues, Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is my great pleasure to address the representatives of the Regional Seas family.

Let me begin by expressing my warm appreciation for the efforts underway in the Regional Seas Conventions and Action Plans around the world to highlight the importance and value of healthy marine and coastal ecosystems, and to further the implementation of these important Regional MEAs and their Protocols at a regional and national level.

You know as well as I that our oceans are under great stress as a result of unsustainable management practices, pollution, uncontrolled coastal development, unsustainable extraction of resources, and inadequate investment in infrastructure.

All these and more contribute to the problem. We are all dependent on oceans, coasts and seas to provide food, energy, climate regulation, transport and even recreation and yet every day we expect this finite, fragile and valuable natural resource to accept our growing demands and to ultimately bear much of the impact of human activities.

RIO +20

In advance of Rio+20, UNEP launched its flagship science assessment, the Global Environment Outlook-5-it showed that out of 90 key sustainability goals set over the past 20 to 40 years, only four had been met.

These are eliminating the production and use of substances that deplete the ozone layer, removal of lead from fuel, increasing access to improved water supplies and importantly for this meeting, boosting research to reduce pollution of the marine environment.

But the fact is that for the rest, the world is either off track or has insufficient data to say whether things are getting better or worse.

  • Little or no progress was detected for 24 - including fish stocks
  • Further deterioration was posted for eight goals including the    state of the world's coral reefs.

The Rio+20 Summit followed shortly afterwards and a lot has been said and written about the outcome.

Honorable delegates, we all share to a greater or lesser degree a sense of frustration that Rio+20 did not deliver all of the opportunities that it could have done.

But I believe that many here also share a sense of optimism that if the decisions taken by Heads of State in June are vigorously and determinedly implemented with a sense of urgency, we may see a new, perhaps more intelligent, response to the implementation of sustainable development in a world of now over seven billion people.

In direct respect to oceans, Rio +20 sent a strong and clear political affirmation that we need action urgently whether it is on ocean acidification and the impacts of climate change, addressing marine pollution, alien invasive species, conservation and restoration of coral reefs and mangroves, establishment of networks of Marine Protected Areas (MPA) and addressing the dangerous decline of fish stocks globally.

Member states, ... "therefore commited to protect, and restore, the health, productivity and resilience of oceans and marine ecosystems, and to maintain their biodiversity, enabling their conservation and sustainable use for present and future generations, and to effectively apply an ecosystem approach and the precautionary approach in the management, in accordance with international law, of activities having an impact on the marine environment, to deliver on all three dimensions of sustainable development." (See paragraph 158 of "the future we want" document)

Honorable delegates,


There were other outcomes in the Future We Want document that could also play an important role in delivering a sustainable century for our oceans; our lands and; our air on behalf of over seven billion people, rising to over nine billion by 2050.

An inclusive Green Economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication was given the green light as an important tool for realizing a sustainable future.

The findings and recommendations of the Green Economy in a Blue World report compiled by UNEP, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), International Maritime Organization (IMO), United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN-DESA), International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), World Fish Center and GRID-Arendal, should now be taken forward as one positive step towards a sustainable marine environment.

Many of the other outcomes also offer real opportunities to evolve our economies to deliver step changes in terms of social outcomes such as jobs and improved lives and livelihoods, but in a way that keeps humanity's footprint with ecological boundaries.

I have just returned from New Delhi for a meeting aimed at taking forward corporate sustainability reporting-an outcome of Rio+20 being spearheaded by governments including Brazil, France, Denmark and South Africa with support from UNEP and the Global Reporting Initiative.

 The decision to work towards a new indicator of wealth beyond GDP-among the key topics under discussion at the just opened 67th session of the UN General Assembly in New York will also echo to the challenge of sustainable oceans.

UNEP is working with the UN statistical office and partners including the EC and OECD in this field and building on its work on the Green Economy and The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity.

New initiatives on sustainable government procurement and the go-ahead for a 10 Year Framework of Programmes on sustainable consumption and production also spring to mind.

In forging the next direction for the regional seas, we should all be aware that Rio+20 offers opportunities for perhaps far more joined up thinking and above all, far more joined up and inclusive action than perhaps was possible before Rio+20.

In around one week's time delegates will gather in Hyderabad, India for the meeting of the Convention on Biological Diversity-the decisions taken there not least on financing the 2020 strategic targets agreed in Nagoya two years ago, can also support your aims and aspirations.

Equally the decisions and progress later in the year at the UN climate convention meeting in Doha, Qatar need to support the Regional Seas agenda given the fact that the oceans are absorbing much of the heat and carbon dioxide being generated on this planet by the unsustainable use of fossil fuels and other activities.

Regional Seas Strategic Directions 2013 - 2016

Ladies and gentlemen,

With nearly 40 years of experience, the Regional Seas Conventions and Action Plans are well placed to offer an operational platform on which to act on the results of Rio+20.

It is a platform that UNEP has proudly supported almost since its establishment in 1972 and a platform through which 143 countries are engaged in one or more of the 18 Regional Seas around the world.

The advice, the tools and the management measures offered to member states have and continue to make a difference whether it is the establishment of Marine Protected Area networks in Latin America, identifying the best way of implementing Integrated Coastal Zone Management in Africa or addressing marine litter in East-Asia Pacific.

We will continue to support and strengthen this platform, aiming to better align our responsiveness to your needs and vice-versa, as part of the follow up and outcomes of Rio+20.

And I look forward to the new strategic directions for the period 2013-2016 that this 14th Global Meeting of the Regional Seas will chart.

For four decades, the Regional Seas have been a key vehicle for the international community to federate cooperation and actions aimed at sustainable management of our coasts and marine realms.

A lot has been achieved, but as is the case across this wonderful world, our collective response has fallen short of the sheer pace of environmental change.

But I am confident that together and with a fresh sense of purpose generated by Rio+20, we can find the means, the courage and the will to scale-up and accelerate the sustainable development imperative and ensure we pass on healthy and productive regional seas to future generations.

I thank you.