GLOBAL OCEAN FORUM NEWS - April 4, 2013
A 2012 Retrospective for Oceans, Coasts, and Islands
Perspective: Rio+20 and Its Aftermath
Oceans took center stage in international negotiations on sustainable development in 2012, especially in the context of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20). In this newsletter, we review the progress made on oceans at Rio+20; detail what Rio+20 added (or didn’t) to existing global commitments on oceans; describe major developments at the Rio+20 summit itself, including the holding of the Oceans Day at Rio+20 and the announcement of voluntary initiatives related to oceans; and present a number of perspectives on Rio+20 by noted leaders in the field.
The newsletter includes, as well, synopses of important initiatives taken in 2012 to advance action on oceans—at the global level, including the Global Partnership on Oceans, led by the World Bank, the UN Secretary General’s Oceans Compact, the Sustainable Ocean Initiative led by the government of Japan, the French MPA agency, and the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity, and the GEF/FAO Program on Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction (ABNJ). The year 2012 also saw important initiatives by individual nations to advance central concepts related to “Green Growth from the Sea” and to the “Blue Economy” by the Republic of Korea and the People’s Republic of China, respectively.
Called by the President of Brazil, “The most participatory conference in history…, a global expression of democracy,” the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) brought together 191 countries, 44,000 participants, 79 heads of state, and involved over 3,500 events on all aspects of sustainable development. The Rio+20 outcome document, The Future We Want (53 pages, 283 paragraphs), contained a strong emphasis on oceans. Over 700 voluntary commitments to implement the Rio+20 outcomes were made by all stakeholders—governments, UN system, IGOs, private sector and civil society, and $500 billion in actions were pledged towards sustainable development.
The Rio+20 summit had three major purposes:
1) To secure renewed political commitment for sustainable development.
In my view, there was good achievement of this goal generally. For oceans, the achievement on this purpose can be rated as excellent given the great mobilization on the part of countries, civil society, and others that took place in the Rio+20 process ensuring a central place for oceans in the Rio+20 outcome document.
2) To assess progress on implementation gaps in meeting previously agreed commitments.
In my view, the outcome here was weak generally with insufficient analysis carried out on what had work and had not worked. In oceans, however, the outcome here was very good, since major assessments and reports on implementation progress (and lack thereof) were mobilized and discussed extensively in the Rio+20 deliberations.
3) To address new and emerging challenges, with a special focus on:
--Green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication.
This aspect turned out, in my view, to be relatively weak, with no agreement on concrete targets, or on a road map. For oceans, however, there was considerable discussion of the green economy in the context of oceans, with the Pacific Island nations, for example, emphasizing that for island states “the green economy is the blue economy.”
--Improvements in the institutional framework for sustainable development—this also turned out to be rather weak, with many of the important decisions being “punted” to the UN General Assembly for further decision (e.g., on a high-level body to replace the Commission on Sustainable Development, the upgrading of the UN Environment Programme, options for a financing strategy and facilitation mechanism for development/transfer of clean and environmentally sound technologies, the devising of a set of Sustainable Development Goals; a decision on the development of an international instrument under UNCLOS on ABNJ by 2014, and a decision on modalities for the 3rd SIDS international conference in 2014 (follow-up to the 1994 Barbados and the 2005 Mauritius SIDS conferences)).
Some reasons for the UNCSD outcome document being somewhat “soft,” and “punting” to other fora, in my view, could be explained by the following.
--There was no underlying conceptual framework underpinning the Rio+20 process (compared, for example to the Brundtland report, Our Common Future, which in 1987 provided the conceptual basis and the blueprint for action for the 1992 Earth Summit
--There was not enough time to develop a conceptual agreement and roadmap on the green economy, with many concerns among nations about the formation of new trade barriers that would work against developing countries and other matters
--The negotiating process was very short
--There were/are significant political differences among the countries, and some developed countries were not in a generous mode.
The overall assessment of a national delegate at Rio+20 (from Switzerland) that, “We made progress but missed the historic opportunity,” is correct, in my view. But this assessment must be tempered by the tremendous mobilization of national leaders, UN agencies, civil society groups, industry, and academia which took place at Rio and around the world. This is a very solid base on which new tangible accomplishments will be built.
A 2012 Retrospective for Oceans, Coasts, and Islands
--Summary of Progress Made on Ocean Commitments from the 1992 Earth Summit and 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development, and Next Steps Emanating from the Rio+20 Outcome
--Side-by-Side Summary of Oceans Provisions in Agenda 21, JPOI, and Rio+20 Outcome Document
--Summary of Oceans Day at Rio+20
Rio+20 Voluntary Commitments on Oceans
--Summary of GOF Brainstorming Strategy Session Oceans Post Rio+20 (November 12, 2012, World Bank)
• Perspectives on Rio+20 --Implications of Rio+20 for the Institutional Frameworks of Oceans
By Anne Powers, Professor, Center for Environmental Legal Studies, Pace Law School
--Implications of Rio+20 for Ocean Science
By Wendy Watson-Wright, Executive Secretary, Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO
--What’s Next for Areas beyond National Jurisdiction? Accelerating progress post Rio+20
By Kristina M. Gjerde, Senior High Seas Advisor to IUCN Global Marine and Polar Programme and Member of the High Seas Alliance
--Engagement of Civil Society in the post Rio+20 world and the creation of the Alliance for the Seas and Oceans
By Philippe Vallette, Manuel Cira, and Iwona Gin, World Ocean Network
For oceans, the main story is the great attention that oceans received in the Rio+20 process and at Rio+20 itself. There was great political mobilization during at Rio+20 process. At the beginning of the Rio+20 process, there was little mention of oceans; by November 2011, in inputs to the Rio+20 “zero draft,” 67% of nations and 100% of all political groupings referred to oceans. In the Rio+20 outcome document, The Future We Want, oceans are treated in 20 paragraphs, receiving central attention. A major accomplishment of the Rio+20 process is that oceans and their role in planetary survival and human well-being are now firmly established on the global agenda. As so eloquently said by Ms. Elizabeth Thompson, Co-Executive Coordinator for the Rio+20 Conference at Oceans Day at Rio+20: “Oceans are the point at which planet, people, and prosperity come together. And that is what sustainable development is about. It is about all of us as shareholders of Earth, incorporated, acknowledging and acting on our responsibility to the planet, to the people, and to its bloodstream, the oceans.”
As discussed in some detail in the newsletter, in the Rio+20 outcome document there was considerable reinforcement of existing ocean goals from 1992 and 2002, as well as the setting forth of new goals, such as reducing marine debris in the oceans by 2025, independent review of Regional Fishery Management Organizations to increase transparency and accountability, improvement of market access, including for small-scale, artisanal, women, indigenous, and local fishworkers, and a commitment for a decision by the UNGA on the development of an instrument for the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity in ABNJ.
Implementation of the Rio+20 ocean commitments, as well as continuing implementation of the global prescriptions on oceans from 1992 and 2002, will require concerted action by national governments, the UN system, civil society, academia, and industry. There must be continuous watch of and participation in the various fora that will be addressing Rio+20 implementation, especially the UN General Assembly. The many voluntary commitments made on oceans, coasts, and SIDS, need to be implemented in concert and synergy with one another to achieve maximum impact. Nations such as the People’s Republic of China and the Republic of Korea, which are leading the way on the implementation of the green economy in the context of oceans need to be supported and thanked. And there must be insistence that capacity building in integrated ocean governance, a major priority of the 1992 and 2002 earth summits, must now take center stage to enable national and local leaders around the world to lead the way to a low-carbon economy and society.
As we move forward, we must do so with a sense of confidence and renewed purpose:
--We have a detailed set of global prescriptions on oceans from 1992, 2002, and 2012
--We know what has/has not worked
--We have a high level of political support
--We have mobilized very large coalitions that will continue to work hard.
Dr. Biliana Cicin-Sain
President, Global Ocean Forum
(download the overview here)
The Global Ocean Forum, organized at the World Summit on Sustainable Development in 2002, works with national ocean leaders from over 110 countries, to advance the global agenda on oceans, coasts, and small island developing States through policy analyses, multistakeholder dialogues, and public education and outreach. The Global Ocean Forum is hosted at the Gerard J. Mangone Center for Marine Policy in the University of Delaware’s College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment.
Newsletter prepared by Biliana Cicin-Sain, Joseph Appiott, Miriam Balgos, Marisa Van Hoeven, and Gwenaelle Hamon.
Global Ocean Forum Secretariat, University of Delaware, 301 Robinson Hall, Newark, DE, 19716, USA