It was a good meeting for the oceans! This is at least a consolation for not seeing the Statue of Liberty. Coming from Manila, Philippines to New York for the first time it is a shame not to have a selfie with the icon of the city, but the UN meeting that took place from 1-4 April on ocean protection nonetheless uplifted my spirit.
What I do have however is a great number of photo messages in front of the United Nations headquarters that I and many people sent to the governments meeting inside. On 1st April, Greenpeace US volunteers and environmental science students from New York University joined forces to send a strong message in support of ocean protection and the need for a new UN agreement that will deliver ocean sanctuaries across the oceans. Throughout the week thousands of people joined the #waveofchange and signed up to our new petition in Support of Ocean Sanctuaries. If you haven't yet, join us and send an SOS to the world's leaders asking them to support ocean sanctuaries at the United Nations!
This week the overwhelming majority of countries including the group of 77/China, the European Union, Jamaica, New Zealand, Mexico, Costa Rica, Brazil, Ecuador, the Dominican republic, India and many more spoke in favor of a high seas biodiversity agreement to protect ocean life. The US, Russia, Iceland, Norway and Canada still stand in opposition, but they cannot ignore the momentum. This is what Sofia, our ocean policy advisor told the governments when she took the floor on behalf of Greenpeace and the other NGOs in the room:
"The scientific, economic and social case for a new agreement is clear. It is the responsibility of States to ensure that healthy oceans for current and future generations take priority over the short-term economic interests. It is a matter of political will to ensure a healthy habitable planet for all."
Governments have the compelling reasons to address the oceans crisis. More than 64% of the oceans lie beyond the jurisdiction of any country, commonly known as the high seas, but less than 1% is preserved and protected. From where I came from, the oceans crisis manifests in the decreasing oceanic fish resources; at the same time, it is driving over and destructive species fishing within the territorial waters and economic zones of Southeast Asian countries. Other long-term and cumulative effects on the livelihood, resources, agriculture, human health, etc. may even be worse.
So I hope the governments who stood for the oceans in this meeting will not waiver, and more governments will support them, in the next meetings – in the end they must decide to launch the high seas biodiversity agreement before September 2015 as they promised in Rio+20. I also hope that more people will act to remind their governments to protect the oceans. The recent 48-day survey of World Ocean Network indicates a growing public support: 89% of 6,686 voters from around the world think that a better management of the high seas is important!
Now, I need to pack up! Goodbye, Statue of Liberty – I hope to see you next time.
Zelda DT Soriano is the Political Advisor for Greenpeace Southeast Asia, based in Manila, Philippines.
[Images: © Greenpeace]