The international community must prioritise funding to address the challenges facing our ocean, as the available support is currently far too little, the Commonwealth Secretary-General, the Rt Hon Patricia Scotland KC, said at the Monaco Blue Initiative conference.
Speaking at the annual conference in Monaco on 20 March 2023, she highlighted the Sustainable Development Goal on protecting the ocean (SDG 14) is the least funded of all the 17 global goals of the United Nations, receiving only 0.1 per cent of international development finance.
The Commonwealth Secretary-General said:
“It is a disturbing reality that the devastating impacts of overfishing, pollution and climate change are destroying the ocean and marine biodiversity, threatening the lives and livelihoods of the millions of people who depend on the ocean.”
When asked whether the inaction was a question of political will, the Secretary-General responded that for most Commonwealth countries, the political will is already strong and has been there for decades.
“Although all 56 member countries of the Commonwealth have been adversely affected by climate change and the degradation of our ocean, it has had the most pernicious effect on small island developing states.
“Two-thirds of these small island developing states are within the Commonwealth and are on the frontline of ocean and climate change. For them, this is truly an existential crisis. It’s not a question of political will. It’s a question of international co-operation.”
Secretary-General Scotland continued:
“Ocean challenges can be effectively tackled if we strengthen partnerships, with all sectors involved, to coordinate more funding for actions desperately needed to protect marine life and promote the sustainable use of this vital resource.”
In her remarks, she recognised the vital role of the ocean in the lives of Commonwealth citizens, particularly those living in its 25 small island developing states. However, the Secretary-General emphasised that these countries are those with more limited resources, adding that our support must not only increase investment but also consider which countries need it the most.
Underscoring the co-operation within the Commonwealth, she commended the work being carried out under the Commonwealth Blue Charter, adding: “The Blue Charter is setting an example on ocean protection and sustainability through a set of action groups, each devoted to a particular ocean issue.”
“But we cannot tackle the challenges of ocean conservation alone,” she said while urging all participants to join the efforts.
The Secretary-General went on to outline how the Commonwealth is addressing the funding gaps for ocean action through a series of initiatives.
In particular, she mentioned the Commonwealth Climate Finance Access Hub, which deploys ocean-climate finance advisers to help governments integrate ocean elements into their proposals for climate funds. As of March, the hub has unlocked about $67.5 million for developing countries to tackle climate breakdown.
Concluding her remarks, the Secretary-General reiterated the Commonwealth’s commitment to protecting the ocean and working with the wider international community to address the funding gaps in ocean conservation, adding:
“We have an opportunity … We know that all of us need to make this difference … It is got to be us because if not us, who? And if not now, when?”
The conference, organised by the Oceanographic Institute and Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation, brought together government officials, business leaders, investors, scientists and non-profit actors to examine the key challenges facing the future of the ocean.
About the Commonwealth Blue Charter
- Snober Abbasi Senior Communications Officer, Communications Division, Commonwealth Secretariat
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