The UN meeting in New York discussing high seas protection ended last Friday without a splash for the oceans, but the wave of change generated by thousands of people around the world made an inspiring impact.
The meeting in NY essentially launched the countdown for what we hope will be a historic decision to develop a UN high seas biodiversity agreement, but its slow pace did not reflect the urgency of the oceans crisis. Rather than agreeing concrete actions to protect the high seas, countries agreed to convene an intensive set of meetings in the next year or so to discuss the finer details of a future agreement. These meetings will hopefully help countries finally make a decision by the Rio+20 deadline (end of the 69th UN General Assembly), which optimistically could be the end of 2014, but could run until September 2015. It was positive, however, to see the EU calling for a decision to be made as soon as possible, and many countries including South Africa, Mexico, Jamaica, Brazil, and Trinidad and Tobago taking the floor to state their commitment to protect life in the oceans.
Contrary to the slow pace of governments, the people’s wave of change made an exciting start last week. Messages came from all over the globe (more than 750 locations worldwide) and from diverse sectors of society: scientists, businessmen, the cultural sector, and supporters of the organizations within the High Seas Alliance showed their concern via social media accounts. Your messages calling for ocean protection reached more than 23,5 million people and the #waveofchange was pushed by 3,200 supporters on @Greenpeace, including Kumi Naidoo’s article on the Huffington Post.
Your support sent a powerful message to governments as once again Greenpeace and other NGOs were not allowed in most parts of the negotiations. They might have closed the doors on representatives of civil society but the thousands of messages and calls for urgency filtered into the meeting room and made sure delegates knew that the world is watching! Thank you.
Let’s keep this #waveofchange for the oceans rolling in the coming months to make sure it is big enough to push our politicians into action. Political dithering will not solve the oceans crisis, nor will moving the goalposts on when a decision should be taken. Governments must show leadership, act and inspire action, for the benefit of millions of people worldwide whose lives are so closely tied to our blue planet.
Individually we are one drop, but together we are the oceans.
Sofia Tsenikli is a Senior Oceans Policy Advisor at Greenpeace International.