Remarks At Side Event On Oceans - Rio De Janeiro, 21 June 2012




Rio de Janeiro, 21 June 2012

Most of you have travelled across the ocean to be here – thank you very much.

I am honoured to join Your Serene Highness Prince Albert II and Your Excellency President Anote Tong.

When I visited Kiribati last year, I attended a very moving ceremony with the country’s elders. They have deep respect for nature. They understand that the whole community has a responsibility to care for vulnerable people.

I promised the Meneaba elders that I would carry their message of respect to the rest of the world.

President Tong once said, “I fear that our children and grandchildren will look back and ask, ‘How is it that they knew what they knew, and yet did so little?’”

The children are already asking. They are worried about climate change and rising sea levels.

One young girl in Kiribati asked me: “What will become of us? What can the UN do for us?”

I brought her words directly to leaders meeting at the General Assembly. I told them that sustainable development is the imperative of the 21st century.

This is why we are here in Rio: to advance this generational opportunity for progress.

The blue world of oceans can boost the green economy of the future.

Healthy and productive oceans not only provide livelihood to millions of people around the world but also benefit clean industries and businesses.

Responsible tourism is an excellent example.

This can benefit ecosystems and employment alike. For every two jobs created in the tourism sector, another three are generated in the local community.

       Our challenge is to protect the oceans so that we can make the most of their gifts to the world.

       In this, we are guided by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

For 30 years, this Constitution of the Oceans has been supporting sustainable development. It allows countries to derive benefits from  the resources of the seabed, and guides the management of living marine resources and preservation of the marine environment.  It helps countries and communities address their needs for food, energy and nutrition.  

Here in Rio, we need go further in recognizing the immense role of oceans in fostering sustainable development.

Across the UN system, our agencies are working for clean oceans … productive fisheries …and healthy coasts. We are also striving to protect biodiversity at sea as well as on land.

I am grateful to the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO, the International Maritime Organisation, the Food and Agriculture Organisation and the United Nations Development Programme for crafting a blueprint for ocean and coastal sustainability.

The Blueprint shows how oceans bring different sectors together in a new frontier for sustainable development. I commend the World Bank for providing financial assistance to help this frontier to flourish.

I also deeply appreciate the UN Environment Programme for its excellent work in carrying out the Global Programme of Action for the Protection of the Marine Environment from Land-based Activities.


I have repeatedly called on leaders to fulfil their moral and political responsibility to set this world on course for a more sustainable future.

There are many issues on the table here – from fragile ecosystems to food and nutrition – that are closely tied to the world’s oceans. My Sustainable Energy for All initiative is encouraging the use of clean technologies that will spare the ocean the environmental disasters that it has suffered for too long.

Our central message in Rio applies in full force to oceans: we cannot achieve prosperity at the expense of our planet – and we need all partners on deck for sustainable development.

The Global Partnership for Oceans proves the value of this approach. This alliance is based on the understanding that we all have a stake in stopping threats to the world’s oceans.

Monaco is also galvanizing different groups for the same goal. I congratulate Prince Albert II for the Monaco Message on sustainable use of Oceans in the context of poverty eradication. It brought together experts, NGOs and business representatives to address the three pillars of sustainable development on food security, energy and tourism. They are united by a common commitment to the sustainable management and preservation of the oceans to encourage a new vision for managing human activities at sea.

Other governments are also in the lead. Just last week, Australia announced plans to create a large network of marine parks including the Coral Sea.

Protection initiatives benefit more than the environment – they also help fishermen by preserving vital resources.

For our world and its oceans, we need a new model showing how sustainable development brings benefits around the world and across the spectrum.

Caring for our oceans can make a major contribution to a future of greater equity, environmental protection and economic progress.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Earlier this year, I had the chance to board the Tara expedition when it docked in New York.

The crew was really inspiring. They shared so much information with me about oceans and climate change. I am really grateful that they are raising awareness around the world … and I am very proud that the United Nations is supporting them.

As I stood on the Tara that day in February, I stood on the deck and looked out at downtown Manhattan. We were surrounded by skyscrapers but we had a window on the deep blue sea. It was a reminder that our worlds are connected.

I promised the crew that I would continue working with dedication for the planet’s oceans.

Now, Rio has to put more wind in our sails, so we can navigate the waves to a better future.

Let us advance for our oceans and our world.

Thank you.