The Ocean Conference preparatory meeting opening remerks

New York, 15 February 2017.

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Mr. President of the General Assembly, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, Dear Friends of our ocean,

I would like to start by thanking Ambassadors Mendonça e Moura and Gafoor, the esteemed co-facilitators of the preparatory process of The Ocean Conference. We're less than four months away now, and I'm very glad to see that the preparations are making good progress, thanks to the significant efforts of the co-facilitators and all other parties engaged in this work.

I'm also very pleased to be in the presence of the President of the General Assembly, Peter Thomson, and Under-Secretary-General Wu Hongbo. We are very confident in your strong leadership. We're also very thankful for the support of Assistant Secretary-General Stephen Mathias and the Office of Legal Affairs.

Furthermore, I'm delighted to share the podium with Minister Koroilavesau of Fiji. Sweden is very proud to have taken the initiative, together with Fiji, to realize The Ocean Conference. As co-presidents, we both hope that it will be the game-changer the ocean needs so badly. Two countries far apart geographically, we are joined by our strong commitment to and dependency on the same ocean.

Sweden and Fiji are very much encouraged by the strong response we have received from UN Member States, all parts of the UN System, the knowledge community, business and civil society on The Ocean Conference. This has reassured us of the readiness of the international community to come together and take real and urgent action

Friends,

Aside from offering endless beauty and inspiration, we all know that the world's oceans and seas are fundamental in eradicating poverty and creating food security and prosperity for millions of people. There is no doubt that the situation is grave. The ocean is warming and acidifying, corals are bleaching, fish stocks are in decline and the amount of marine litter is increasing. The immense deterioration of marine environments and resources strikes the already disadvantaged and vulnerable the hardest.

The ocean supports all life on earth. To survive and prosper, we need a healthy ocean. There is enormous potential in a global and sustainable Blue Economy.

We're fortunate to have Agenda 2030 and SDG 14. Now is the time to come forward with ambitious commitments and effective collaborative action to protect our ocean.

By adopting SDG 14, the international community has made a clear and momentous commitment to end overfishing and eliminate illegal fishing, to better protect marine and coastal areas, to reduce plastic litter and other sources of marine pollution, and to increase ocean resilience to acidification.

But if we don't change our ways, including consumption and production patterns, our prospects are grim and uncertain. There will be as much plastic as fish in the ocean by 2050. By the middle of this century, we will also face the dire possibility of having an ocean that is too acid and warm for our precious coral reefs.

In other words: we have to act now, tomorrow will be too late!

Friends,

Sweden remains fully committed to maintaining the political momentum created by the adoption of Agenda 2030 and calls upon all countries – as well as other critical stakeholders, such as business, civil society and academia – to actively engage for the successful implementation of this tremendously important goal.

The significance of broad stakeholder participation leading up to and at the Conference cannot be overstated. We need the engagement of all relevant stakeholders to bring forward sustainable solutions and initiate real change. I'm elated to see so many various stakeholder groups represented in New York this week – which is also manifested in the wide range of interesting side events.

This is a unique opportunity to make real difference for the ocean. Ambitious voluntary commitments, translated into effective joint action, to protect our ocean, are of paramount importance. We strongly encourage all United Nations Member States and other stakeholders to present - existing and new - plans and priorities that contribute to the implementation of SDG 14 and its targets. In this regard, I want to take the opportunity to inform you all about a special side event on how you can register your voluntary commitments, taking place during the lunch hour in Conference Room 3.

We're also looking forward to having fruitful discussions on the themes for the partnership dialogues, as well as on the elements for a Call for Action. We hope to have a political declaration that strikes the balance between ambition and conciseness, and avoid protracted negotiations in the run-up to the June Conference.

We intend for the Call for Action to be a good starting point for long-term action-oriented implementation of SDG 14 and all its targets. I trust that all parties gathered here in New York will work constructively and creatively in the coming two days.

Friends and ocean enthusiasts,

The ocean is the reason why I decided to involve myself in politics. Working as a journalist, I was appalled by the overfishing in our Swedish waters, the Baltic Sea. Entering the political realm, I was elected to the European Parliament, where I had the opportunity to play a very active role in reforming the EU Common Fisheries Policy. I truly believe that The Ocean Conference will provide yet another opportunity for real change, to the benefit of us all, especially the Least Developed Countries and Small Island Developing States.

I know that this Preparatory Meeting will shed further light on the unifying forces that the ocean conjures, and what can be achieved if people cooperate and work toward a common goal.

Time may be running out, but viewing all the initiatives that you are involved in or plan to launch to accelerate the implementation of Goal 14, there are still good reasons for hope. If we all assume the shared responsibility and act together, it is still possible to save our ocean!

I thank you!