UN Ocean Conference 2017 – A Personal Reflection by Maria Svane


Earlier this summer I was traveling to New York and the UN Ocean Conference. During the 5-day conference (June 5-9 2017) some 6000 participants got together for marine discussions. As the SDSN Northern Europe representative, I was one of many participants from our region and some of us even met for some pep-talk during transit at Frankfurt airport. All of the 200 copies of the Oceans Solutions Report that I brought was distributed, and the last copy was given to a design engineer from Texas that I met and talked to at the airport.

The official conference program included eight plenary meetings and seven partnership dialogues. The venue also offered 150 side-events and 41 exhibitions. In the exhibition hosted by the Swedish Institute for the Marine Environment, SDSN Northern Europe was offered a spot to display the Oceans Solutions Report.

On the 6th of June, numerous side-events with Swedish participating organizations were arranged. In the early afternoon Jessica Hjerpe-Olausson from the Maritime Cluster of West Sweden gave a talk on “Capacity for change” in a seminar on clusters and the triple Helix. She mentioned several of the solutions that was presented in the Oceans Solutions Report, and of course we distributed the report to the participants. Later that afternoon I was lucky to get an interview with Isabella Lövin, and a chance to update her on the outcomes from Solution Initiative Forum Oceans in Gothenburg, May 2017. As she was the UN conference co-chair, she was busy attending meetings in the UN Security Council and side-events, such as the one on “Environmentally sound waste management as action against marine litter”.

Many other events were focusing on topics ranging from plastic pollution, ocean acidification, illegal fishing, tourism, blue growth, circular economy etc, and in connection to the side-event “EU Tourism Committed to Blue Growth”, that was co-hosted by Region Västra Götaland, Sweden, RegionAndalusia, DG Mare and Malta Tourism Ministry, Birgitta Losman mentioned the report in her presentation. During the mingle after the presentations, I handed over the report to EU commissioner Karmenu Vella, and also talked to him about economic instruments and an upcoming EU strategy for plastic litter.

On the last of the conference, Sea & Society from the University of Gothenburg was co-hosting a very inspiring side-event on marine plastic litter. The event was visited by approximately 125 participants, one of them HRH Crown Princess Victoria.

“I think we helped to highlight important aspects of the plastic issues and more generally demonstrate the role of research”.

Lena Gipperth, director, Sea & Society.

During the NY stay I traveled to the SDSN HQ at Columbia University to meet with the people at the secretariat and to distribute some reports. I also met with representatives from SDSN REDS (Spain) and SDSN Mediterranean (Italy). See interview with director Christina Fossi.

A week after the UN conference, I was invited to give a talk about the Oceans Solutions Report at a conference hosted by the Spanish SDSN network, SDSN REDS, in Madrid. The Conference Journada REDS addressed key questions on how to make the ocean sustainable, and was used as a stepping stone to accelerate the marine dialogue among the 70 invited conference guests. One session was moderated by Christina Narbona, the former Spanish minister for the environment, who took the fight to include SDG14 in the set of SDGs during her work in the Global Ocean Commission. She was welcomed with standing ovations and was entitled “Mother of the global process for SDG14”.

During the early autumn the report will be presented at a Nordic/Baltic network meeting in Gothenburg in August and at the Nordic Council of Ministers in Copenhagen in October.

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