Debriefing: Blue Solutions at the UN Ocean Conference

Debriefing: Blue Solutions at the UN Ocean Conference

Written by Janina Korting and Carolin Hoffmann, Blue Solutions Initiative

The high-level UN Conference to support the implementation of Sustainable Development Goal 14 (SDG 14) was held from 5 – 9 June at UN Headquarters in New York. Co-hosted by the Governments of Fiji and Sweden, nearly 4,000 participants from governments, the UN system, intergovernmental organizations, financial institutions, civil society, academic and research institutions, indigenous peoples and local communities, and the private sector attended the 5-day event. As a result, the conference produced three outcomes: an intergovernmentally agreed Call for Action, a registry of 1370 voluntary commitments (as of 14 June 2017) and key messages from the seven partnership dialogues.

Blue Solutions was happy to take part in this milestone event towards sustainable ocean management and grateful for the opportunity to (co-)organize several sessions: in the Permanent Mission of Germany to the United Nations, everything was dedicated to life under water for one week. Several side events and smaller “Science Espresso” sessions were hosted in the German House. Together with other organisations and initiatives supported by the German government, the Blue Solutions project was highlighted through posters and publications in an exhibition in the lobby of the German House.

Science Espressos – brief and catchy inputs on coastal and marine management

During short “Science Espresso” sessions, specific examples of coastal and marine management were shortly introduced and participants had the opportunity for more in-depth discussions. Blue Solutions invited Keith Lawrence, Conservation International, to talk about CI’s experience in its different seascapes programmes with sustainable finance mechanisms. Puri Canals from the Mediterranean Protected Areas Network (MedPAN) shared lessons learned regarding transboundary protected area management. Henning von Nordheim (BfN) and David Johnson (GOBI) introduced participants to the concept of EBSAs – Ecologically or Biologically Significant Marine Areas, sharing what these areas are, how they are described and what their value is. In the last session participants were taken to the Pacific and Alifereti Tawake from the LMMA Network talked about the network’s success story in supporting sustainable local management of natural resources across many Pacific island states and beyond.

Side events on capacity development and the exchange of marine solutions

After a joint Side Event of a consortium of partners (NOAA, ZMT, Blue Solutions, GOA-ON, IOC, MedPAN, SPREP, UNESCO) on “Capacity Development Solutions for Managing, Protecting, Conserving and Restoring Marine and Coastal Ecosystems” on June 7, ZMT and Blue Solutions  facilitated continued discussion the next day with a dedicated side event to address jointly identified challenges related to capacity development, such as: how do you reach the right people in organizations who can facilitate change? How can you best customize training courses to people’s needs? How do you approach the follow-up phase?

Another great opportunity for peer-to-peer exchanges was provided by the Blue Solutions Market Place, a side event that exemplified the exchange of existing best practices on stage: solutions providers shared their experiences and explained how they had benefited from the solutions provided through the PANORAMA – Solutions for a Healthy Planet platform .

Besides the aforementioned joint side event on “Capacity Development Solutions for Managing, Protecting, Conserving and Restoring Marine and Coastal Ecosystems”, Blue Solutions also contributed to the RARE event on “Fishing for Conservation”, for which Blue Solutions’ head of project Ilona Porsché facilitated a group discussion on the challenges of scaling up local successes related to sustainable fisheries.

What do we take home from New York?

It was great to see the health of our ocean as a top priority at the international agenda, and we do hope that the conference has created a critical momentum within the international community in order to tackle some of the most pressing challenges. As for the work of Blue Solutions, we are looking forward to integrating new ideas into our work and we feel that our approach to foster the exchange of best practices is the way forward to scale up local successes. Stay tuned for another market place event that we are planning for and follow our activities on Facebook and Twitter!