The Malta Independent 11 December 2019, Wednesday

United Nations, European Union, Commonwealth, global ocean ambassadors unite in Malta

Friday, 2 August 2019, 15:23 Last update: about 5 months ago

The first international meeting of ocean ambassadors was held in Malta today, bringing together for the first time the United Nations, the European Union, Commonwealth, global ocean ambassadors and other organisations to discuss the protection and restoration of the world’s ocean for current and future generations.

The meeting was organised by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs and Trade Promotion headed by Minister Carmelo Abela together with United Nations Special Envoy for the Oceans Ambassador Peter Thomson. European Commissioner for the Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Karmenu Vella and Commonwealth Secretary General Patricia Scotland participated in the meeting.

As an outcome of the meeting, it was agreed that ocean governance is not just about commitment but also about delivery and that this issue requires an international integrated approach and a global action plan. The representatives affirmed that it is time to move towards ocean action from ocean discussion and that today’s meeting is only the first of a regular appointment for Ocean Ambassadors, organisations, and other stakeholders to come together in a strategic meeting that allows for an open and frank  exchange of views as we strive to save and future-proof our oceans.

In his opening remarks Minister Carmelo Abela stated that being a Mediterranean maritime archipelago, Malta reviews the sustainabiliy of the world’s oceans as a top priority and as a result took this proactive initative to put a spotlight on the role of Ocean Ambassadors in safeguarding the health and sustainability of our seas.

He stated that  at the national level, Ocean Ambassadors can play a pivotal role in raising public awareness while sensitising government, businesses, and civil society to promote action in favour of the health and sustainability of our oceans. At the international level, they are the driving force behind the success of global initiatives. 

He noted that last year, Malta appointed Professor Alan Deidun as its Ocean Ambassador, becoming one of the six appointed ocean ambassadors worldwide and encouraged other states to appoint similar representatives.

He noted that Malta’s foreign policy has, throughout the years, sought to contribute towards furthering the development of international ocean governance. He added that the decision to take a proactive global  lead in uniting all concerned partners to raise awareness on a future joint action plan, sends a strong message that healthy oceans and the preservation of marine areas including its biodiversity  is viewed not just regionally but also internationally as a priority, seeing as oceans are also the regulators of climate change. “Our presence here today attests to our commitment to our oceans, that sustain our livelihood in many ways”, said Minister Abela.

Minister Abela concluded by appealing to the representatives that, following the first achievement of accepting to unite together to discuss ocean governance, to move together towards and effective multilateral cooperation system which will deliver results in tackling such a global challenge.

UN Special Envoy for the Oceans, Ambassador Peter Thomson had words of praise for this proactive initiative and described Malta as being at the forefront of tackling the issues related to international ocean governance.

The conference was also addressed by European Commission Karmenu Vella who emphasised that the oceans are receiving more political attention than ever and that the European Commission will continue to work to prevent unregulated fishing, and strong and united oceans actions. Commissioner Vella invited the Commonwealth Secretary General to commence discussions on a possible agreement between the two parties on ocean actions. 

Commonwealth Secretary General Patricia Scotland remarked on the responsibility that this moment puts on national governments to make a difference in underwater action and the blue economy. “If not now, when, if not us, who”, stated Scotland. She accepted Commissioner’s Vella proposal to begin discussions for a joint agreement between the Commonwealth and the European Commission whilst commending Minister Abela and UN Ambassador Thomson for this initiative.

Also present for the meeting were President of the Intergovernmental Conference on the BBNJ Ambassador Rena Lee and Ambassador Vidar Helgesen representing the Norwegian government’s initiative on a sustainable ocean economy. 

Other international organisations attending the meeting included the International Maritime Organisation, the Food and Agriculture Organisation and the UN Development Programme, the European Commission, the EU Presidency, the Commonwealth Secretariat as well as states with a special interest in the oceans and hosts of upcoming international events on oceans. 

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