Headline: Marine Conservation: New Dialogue Forum to Strengthen Cooperation

Our oceans are increasingly suffering under the pressure of overfishing, pollution, climate change, and acidification. Yet in spite of this, the various institutions responsible for conserving them still tend to operate in isolation from each other. That situation is about to change: On 8 and 9 October, about 40 international experts gathered at the IASS to further refine the concept for a new informal dialogue forum at the interface of science, policy and society.

Andreas Papaconstantinou (European Commission), Ngedikes Olai Uludong (Permanent Representative to the UN from Palau) and Barbara Neumann (IASS) were among the experts who gathered at the IASS for the workshop.
Andreas Papaconstantinou (European Commission), Ngedikes Olai Uludong (Permanent Representative to the UN from Palau) and Barbara Neumann (IASS) were among the experts who gathered at the IASS for the workshop. IASS/René Arnold

At the Marine Regions Forum from 30 September to 2 October 2019, various actors from around the world will converge on Berlin, among them scientists and representatives of governments, international organisations, businesses and NGOs, with the aim of developing new approaches to regional ocean governance. Regional cooperation is crucial to the success of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and in the case of the oceans, this could not be more true. The conservation and sustainable use of the marine environment and its resources depends on effective cooperation and communication between coastal states and a range of other players, including the private sector and civil society.

Key milestones towards SDG 14 must be achieved by 2020

In his opening address at the workshop, Peter Thomson, UN Special Envoy for the Ocean, said that the international community needs to step up its efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goal for Oceans (SDG 14). Four of the ten targets of that goal have to be met by 2020, and the 2020 UN Ocean Conference in Lisbon will be a moment of truth when delegates assess whether marine and coastal ecosystems are sustainably managed and protected (target 2); whether the fishing industry is better regulated (target 4); whether at least 10 per cent of coastal and marine areas have been designated marine protected areas (target 5); and whether certain forms of fisheries subsidies have been prohibited (target 6).

For that reason, Ngedikes Olai Uludong, Permanent Representative to the United Nations from the Pacific island state of Palau, called 2020 the “year of action” for ocean conservation. In her view, the Marine Regions Forum can help to ensure that governments and institutions make good on the commitments they have made in various fora. Regina Maria Dube, Head of the Directorate-General for Water Management and Resource Conservation at the German Environment Ministry, stressed that Germany has extensive experience in the area of regional ocean governance and is willing to share its insights with other regions.

Broad support for Marine Regions Forum

At the workshop, participants drew on their wealth of expertise to define important objectives for the Marine Regions Forum. Andreas Papaconstantinou, Head of the Ocean Governance, Law of the Sea, and Arctic Policy Unit at the European Commission gave examples of places where regional cooperation is already contributing significantly to the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. In this context, he spoke of a recently signed treaty between the EU and Arctic partners on the prevention of unregulated fishing in the Arctic high seas not only as an “historic achievement”, but also as the first step towards creating a regional fisheries management organisation. Lisa Emelia Svensson (UN Environment) pointed to the huge significance of cross-sectoral cooperation. This is a key focus of the Marine Regions Forum, which doesn’t just want to strengthen cooperation within specific regions, but also within the still fragmented landscape of actors and organisations with different sectoral interests.

The ocean experts also recommended that the Marine Regions Forum identify various best practices based on regional case studies, with many of them highlighting the importance of cooperating with the private sector in order to transform the current mechanisms for ocean governance. Working hand in hand with industry could give rise to further good ideas, partnerships and solutions, for example, with regard to new financing models for marine conservation activities.

The Marine Regions Forum is funded by the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Protection, Building and Nuclear Safety (via the German Environment Agency) and the European Union (via the European Fund for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries) and organised by the IASS, the French think tank IDDRI and TMG - Think Tank for Sustainability. The project is being undertaken in the context of the Partnership for Regional Ocean Governance (PROG).