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Marching for the oceans

UN Ocean Treaty negotiations stall as activists march for the oceans in New York
Guest speaker Khaireeyah Ramanyah (Thailand) participates in the UN Oceans Negotiations IGC5 Rally

Main image: © Stephanie Keith / Greenpeace

In their first week, UN negotiations for a new Global Ocean Treaty are stalling due to a lack of political will.

In response, activists marched for the oceans with Greenpeace USA in New York City outside the United Nations on Thursday (18 August), with representatives from frontline communities addressing the crowd and calling for more urgency to ensure a strong Treaty is finalised in 2022.

The ocean crisis

Activist Shaama Saandooyea and other representatives from Nigeria, Mexico, Mauritius and Thailand gave powerful speeches to the marchers, sharing their experiences with the ocean crisis which is already harming their communities.

The lack of high-level ministerial engagement in negotiations has slowed down progress, with only one minister, from France, attending talks so far.

‘In Mauritius, we’re already feeling the impacts of the ocean crisis. The negotiations are not moving fast enough and we need action now. Delegates are not recognising the urgency of the situation, and are spending hours debating minor points that were put to bed decades ago. They’re failing me, the communities on islands and future generations.’

An activist from Mauritius who spoke at the rally

Wasted time

Delegations have wasted hours discussing minor issues, reopening previously settled issues, or repeating old positions, whilst some Global North delegations refuse to make concessions to meet the needs of the Global South on key issues relating to equity.

Some delegations even continue to argue that the primary purpose of a marine protected area (MPA) should not be conservation. 

‘I am sad that I cannot participate in the Global Ocean Treaty negotiations because my visa was not processed quickly enough. I would have liked to participate in this meeting in order to bring the voice of the women processors of Senegal and to tell governments of the need to protect the jobs of the women processors and  ask for a better protection of the oceans and our desire to support the project of protection of 30% of the oceans of the world.’

A fish processor from Senegal

Protecting 30% of our oceans

The outcome of the two-week meeting will determine the fate of the oceans for generations to come.

A strong Treaty would pave the way for 30% of the world’s oceans being protected by 2030. A weak Treaty, or no Treaty at all, would make this practically impossible.

‘Delegates are behaving like we have another decade for them to keep talking about this. We don’t. Time is running out for our oceans. If we don’t get a Treaty in 2022, it will be practically impossible to protect 30% of the world’s oceans by 2030. Scientists say this is the absolute minimum needed to protect the oceans. Governments must heighten their ambition to conclude this negotiation by sending ministers to the second week of talks to secure a strong Treaty.’

Senior Oceans campaigner with Greenpeace USA

Greenpeace offices have sent letters to governments around the world, urging them to send high-ranking ministers to the second week of talks.

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