June 2017

Setting sail to achieve SDG 14 – Life below Water – in Africa


Fishermen offloading tunas at the industrial fish port of Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire. Photo: FAO/Sia Kambou

Simply to stand before the ocean is to feel the embrace of all natural life on Earth”. UNDP’s Ocean Advocate, Cody Simpson, could not have said it better.

That the ocean is fundamental to our very existence was a message that resonated loudly during the 5-9 June Ocean Conference in New York. 

Some 4,000 delegates from around the world convened to raise awareness about the state of our global ocean, and seek solutions to meet Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 14 - to conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development.

The Ocean Conference raised global consciousness of ocean problems ranging from marine pollution to illegal and over fishing, from ocean acidification to lack of high seas governance – all highly relevant themes for Africa, with its 38 coastal and island states, and estimated 13 million km² of ocean territories collectively. 

For Africa’s coastal and island states, proximity to the sea offers vast opportunities. Blue economy sectors such as fisheries, maritime transport, renewable energy, and tourism can boost employment, food security and trade, leading to economic growth. However, these sectors will only be sustainable if accompanied by efforts to restore and sustain ocean health.

For instance, by tackling illegal fishing and building up local fishing fleets and processing industries, West African coastal states could collectively generate eight times the US$ 400 million they currently raise through selling foreign fishing rights.

African states take action on Ocean health 

By the end of the Ocean Conference, forty-one voluntary commitments were submitted by African countries, outlining concrete actions they will take towards the achievement of SDG14, including on improving governance of the fisheries sector, pollution control, and management of marine-protected areas (MPAs).  Voluntary commitments make our efforts towards SDG14 tangible, measurable and visible.   

Gabon’s President Ali Bongo Ondimba announced the designation of Africa’s largest network of MPAs covering over 5,000 km2 of coastal habitats. Seychelles committed to protecting 30 percent of its Exclusive Economic Zone, which amounts to 412,200 km2

Additional commitments came from intergovernmental organisations, non-governmental organisations and academic institutions from Africa, benefitting Africa and beyond.

Setting Sail to Achieve SDG 14

The Ocean Conference outcome Call for Action contains over 1,300 voluntary commitments, each with tangible deliverables within a specific timeframe.  We now need to realize them collectively. 

UNDP is active in all 38 coastal and island states in Africa, and will support governments to monitor and realize their voluntary commitments, and promote more commitments to be made. 

SDG14 is not only for the coastal and island states.  Ocean acidification and marine plastics can only be addressed through collaborative efforts by coastal, island and land-locked countries.  UNDP continues to support these countries to identify actions that will contribute to SDG14 and register them as voluntary commitments so that their contributions and progress will be known.

We are all in this together to save our ocean, our life. 


Useful links:

Cody Simpson Ocean Advocate: http://www.undp.org/content/undp/en/home/ourwork/goodwillambassadors/cody_simpson.html

Blue Economy: https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/content/documents/15434Blue_EconomyJun1.pdf

UNDP Energy, Environment, International Waters: http://www.undp.org/content/undp/en/home/ourwork/environmentandenergy/focus_areas.html

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