The global ocean provides billions of people with food, and transports 90% of international trade; it produces half of the oxygen we breathe and absorbs our carbon dioxide emissions. Most of the ocean, amounting to nearly half of the Earth’s surface, belongs to no individual country. Management and governance of these areas – the high seas – fall short of the standards needed in the 21st Century.
With the Earth’s population heading from seven to nine billion, there is an urgent need to enhance the equitable production of food and other resources. However, scientists and economists have shown that the health and productivity of the ocean are declining. Good governance and sustainable management can increase the ocean’s benefits, bringing improvements in areas as diverse as economic growth, security and human rights.
Policymakers have listened to the arguments and, largely, accepted them; but they have struggled to formulate an adequate response. Accordingly, we are today announcing the establishment of the independent Global Ocean Commission, which we will jointly chair. We are joined by leading political figures from every continent, and by world-renowned business leaders. The task we have undertaken is to chart a way forward for the high seas; to Identify challenges and threats, and highlight reforms that will allow the ocean to be managed effectively, productively and sustainably for the maximum benefit to humankind.
Over the course of our work, we will seek input from every sector of society that has a connection to the global ocean. We will issue our conclusions early in 2014, shortly before the United Nations finalises important decisions on the future of the high seas. With your support, we will ensure that 2014 is the year when the vision of a healthy, sustainably productive global ocean starts to become reality. Thereafter, we would like to count on your continued involvement to achieve real progress and accomplish our goals.
José María Figueres