The international community launched in London on 12 February 2013 a new high-level Global Ocean Commission with a view to providing advice and recommendations to the United Nations on the effective governance and management of the oceans. The Global Ocean Commission, which is an independent entity but is hosted at Somerville College at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom will bring together high-level political figures, scientists and business leaders from all over the world with a keen interest in the protection, conservation and sustainable management of the high seas. The Commission will be co-chaired by David Miliband, former foreign secretary of the United Kingdom, José María Figueres, former president of Costa Rica, and Trevor Manuel, South African Cabinet Minister. The Commission's Executive Secretary will be the former Greenpeace adviser Simon Reddy, while its members will also include ex-cabinet ministers from nations such as Canada, Australia, Indonesia, Chile and Nigeria, and Pascal Lamy, Director-General of the World Trade Organization.
The cardinal objective of the Commission is to provide a comprehensive assessment of the increasing threats and challenges that the global oceans face today, to propose new regulatory and policy frameworks for the protection and management of the high-seas, and to foster critical reflection on a wide range of issues with a bearing on the oceans governance, including climate change, overexploitation of marine living resources, ocean acidification, habitat degradation, oil and mineral resources exploration and exploitation, technology-based monitoring, policing and enforcement.
In an effort to highlight the need for the creation of the Commission, José María Figueres, pointed out in a teleconference that the global ocean is essential to the health and well-being of each and every one of us. It provides about half of the oxygen we breathe and absorbs about a quarter of our carbon dioxide emissions, but we are failing to manage it in ways that reflect its true value…the high seas are owned by everyone but their governance and management are inadequate
. In parallel, David Miliband stressed that much of the ocean was "a neglected area of global governance" despite a 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). The Commission will "sound a warning" that business as usual will lead to ecological degradation and economic loss. It aims to come up with "practical solutions" by updating economic knowledge relevant to environmental issues. In addition, Trevor Manuel outlined that the Global Ocean Commission is the right organization at the right time. We are going to be very focused and dynamic in our work. We must not miss this outstanding opportunity to achieve change
The Commission will be working on the basis of policy proposals submitted by its members on different aspects of oceans governance and the organization of a number of workshops where scientists will have the opportunity to exchange their views and provide their input on issues associated with the preservation and conservation of the high-seas. One of the main current priority actions of the Commission is the development of a sustainability strategy for the oceans. This strategy is to be presented in early 2014, before a UN General Assembly session on high seas biodiversity scheduled for the same year.
Sources: Global Ocean Commission, International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development
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