Today, the first-ever United Nations Ocean Conference begins. Nearly 5000 participants are coming together at UN Headquarters in New York to discuss the future of our oceans. They represent governments, inter-governmental organisations, non-governmental and civil society groups, companies, universities and other types of organisations.

The conference overlaps with World Environment Day on 5 June, and World Oceans Day on 8 June. To raise awareness about climate change, New York’s Empire State Building will be lit up green on Monday evening. (Stockholm’s Globe Arena was lit up green last Friday.) Expect a lot of similar actions during the week, designed to raise awareness on the oceans, on their relationship to climate change, and on SDG14.

Each day of the Ocean Conference will be jam-packed with events, and it will be almost impossible to keep up with everything. So we at SDG14.net will be providing you with daily updates over the course of the week, reporting on and summarizing the most significant developments.

Peter Thomson, president of the UN General Assembly, and Wu Hongbo, the UN under-secretary-general for economic and social affairs, will be important people to watch. These two have been central figures in making the Ocean Conference possible. Last Thursday they shared their final comments before the conference kick-off, and one very clear message came through: “We are all in this together.”

The UN, Sweden and Fiji—the two official conference hosts—have identified three key outcomes for the conference:

  1. A Call for Action: An intergovernmental agreement will be presented that emphasizes the global issue of deteriorating oceans. The declaration — which was negotiated in advance — is intended to help raise awareness and demonstrate a global intention to reverse the cycle of ocean decline.
  2. Summaries of Dialogues: Conference delegates will participate in seven partnership dialogues, each revolving around a specific SDG14 target. Each dialogue is hosted by two countries: the dialogue on marine pollution is hosted by Norway and Indonesia, for example, and the dialogue on fisheries management is hosted by Canada and Senegal. All of these dialogues will be summarised and presented at the end of the week, with an emphasis on the need for commitment and cooperation. The dialogues also aim to strengthen existing partnerships and create new partnerships, leading to increasing the implementation of SDG14 and its targets.
  3. Voluntary Commitments: Organisations and governments have been invited to make voluntary commitments regarding the implementation of SDG14. Over 500 voluntary commitments have been made already, and this number is expected to double during the conference. Check out this page to see all the voluntary commitments made thus far.

During this historic week, the to-do list for implementing SDG14 will become more concrete than ever before. It will also be stressed, many times, that all the other SDGs benefit from healthy oceans. As Under-Secretary-General Wu captured it in his pre-conference statement:

All the global social and environmental sustainability issues are interconnected. A healthy ocean will lead to increasing biodiversity, alleviate poverty in areas that are dependent on the ocean and improve the conditions regarding our health. Such interlinkages are characterised by the total set of SDGs and this will also be addressed during the conference.

Stay tuned to SDG14.net, via Twitter, Facebook, or this website, to get the daily updates on the most significant developments coming out of the UN Ocean Conference.