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A Wave of Commitments for Ocean Health

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The Global Oceans Action Summit closed not with a call for action as is so typical of conferences these days, but with a series of very real and resourced commitments to shared and urgent action.Hosted by the Government of the Netherlands, this summit convened around the consensus goal of healthy oceans, and brought the public and private sectors, civil society actors, local communities and even local Dutch fisherfolk to the table. Diverse groups came together to talk, listen and make commitments.

The Rockefeller Foundation, FAO and Worldfish committed to mapping out the road to sustainable fisheries for a world of nine billion people by 2050. The World Ocean Council pledged to bring the private sector to the table to take concrete action for ocean health and self-regulate. And the Governments of the Netherlands and Grenada agreed to work together to develop a blue economy action plan for the Caribbean nation. These were just three of the many commitments made in The Hague to build the health of the ocean and increase resilience to climate change.

The World Bank was not to be outdone in signing on to be part of the solution. With The Nature Conservancy and the Global Islands Partnership (GLISPA), we will work to map out existing partnerships dedicated to healthy oceans in order to find synergies and identify gaps. We agreed to work with the Prince’s Charities International Sustainability Unit and Environmental Defense Fund to innovate financing mechanisms that could unlock capital markets and a torrent of ocean investment. We also committed our Wealth Accounting and Valuation of Ecosystem Services partnership to undertake natural capital accounting of living natural resources in the ocean, following the lead of countries such as Portugal, which already account for their ocean assets in satellite accounts that inform decision making at the highest levels.

The Bank also committed to convening the best thinkers around the issue of targets and indicators on oceans for the post-2015 framework and the Sustainable Development Goals. We stand shoulder-to-shoulder with many nation states, led by the Pacific Small Island Developing States, in advocating that this time around, serious attention should be paid to oceans and ocean resources must be positioned as part of the sustainable development solution and the response to climate change.

Along with our many partners, we also recommitted to existing partnerships – especially the Global Partnership for Oceans – that can bring together important players across sectors to put solutions into action at the global and community level. The GPO can link specific, site-based problems to fit-for-purpose expertise, connect global expertise to local action, and finance innovation and catalytic action that in turn can crowd-in capital to transform a degraded resource into a healthy ocean—one that alleviates poverty and boosts shared prosperity while turning down the heat on climate change.

Notably, summit participants took a realistic approach to balancing conservation and growth agendas across Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs) and the high-seas in collaboration with the private sector while recognizing that broad-based blue growth and food security can only be achieved by investing in local communities and small and medium-sized enterprises. We talked nuts and bolts of acting on oceans including innovative solutions to finance and governance challenges. And we agreed that fast action on climate change must be among the first challenges we tackle.

We arrived as coalitions of the willing, and left as coalitions of the working-- ready and able to deliver solutions at speed and scale.

The avalanche of commitments continued through the Summit’s closing plenary, reinvigorating the belief of the more than 600 participants that change was possible, and that it would start today. For millions around the world who rely on oceans for their livelihoods and well-being, this moment couldn’t have come soon enough.


Valerie Hickey

Global Director for Environment, Natural Resources and Blue Economy (ENB) at the World Bank

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