UN Ocean Conference opens with call to save planet

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned governments that unless they overcome short-term territorial and resource interests, the state of the oceans will continue to deteriorate.

UN Ocean Conference opens with call to save planet

United Nations: Top UN officials at an an international conference on the health of the world's oceans and seas here have called for coordinated global action to protect the planet.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned governments that unless they overcome short-term territorial and resource interests, the state of the oceans will continue to deteriorate.

The Ocean Conference opened on Monday with a traditional Fijian ceremony at the UN General Assembly, and was the first major UN conference Guterres addressed since taking office, Xinhua news agency reported.

"Improving the health of our oceans is a test for multilateralism, and we cannot afford to fail," the Secretary-General said.

"We must jointly address the problems of governance that have held us back," he said, calling for a new strategic vision of how to govern the oceans and marine resources.

One of the main challenges, he said, is to end the "artificial dichotomy" between jobs and healthy oceans. "The conservation and sustainable use of marine resources are two sides of the same coin," he noted.

The UN Chief called for strong political leadership and new partnerships, based on the existing legal framework, and concrete steps, such as expanding marine protected areas and reducing plastic waste pollution.

Among other specific actions, Guterres urged states to allocate their promised funding for the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the Paris Agreement on Climate Change and the Addis Ababa Action Agenda, as well as to improve data collection and share their best experience.

"The time has come for us to correct our wrongful ways," President of the UN General Assembly Peter Thomson told thousands of participants, including heads of state and governments, business people, actors, and ocean and marine life advocates.

"We are here on behalf of humanity to restore sustainability, balance and respect to our relationship with our primal mother, the source of life, the Ocean," he said.

Also speaking at the opening of the conference was Wu Hongbo, the secretary-general of the Ocean Conference, who said that without oceans and seas, there would be no life on the planet.

Wu, who is working as UN Under-Secretary-General for economic and social affairs, also noted that everyone must work together to achieve the goals of the conference.

The Ocean Conference, which runs through Friday, focuses on the targets outlined in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The conference is expected to give a call for action backed by UN member countries, and approve a document already negotiated here in previous months, the organisers of the conference said.