UN Ocean Conference, Lisbon 2022: Edinburgh Ocean Leader Highlights

After a busy week of conference talks, interactive dialogues, meetings, voluntary commitments and impressive pledges to save the world’s ocean, the second UN Ocean Conference has drawn to a close. It was attended by over 4,000 delegates, including multiple Heads of State and Government and co-hosted by the Governments of Kenya and Portugal. Alongside formal sessions, the week included numerous special events and side events taking place all over the city of Lisbon, Portugal, from 27 June to 1 July 2022.

"It's All About People" Edinburgh Ocean Leaders Side-Event

The Edinburgh Ocean Leaders side-event happened on 1st July, in collaboration with UNESCO and NGO Planeta Océano. The side event was titled ‘It’s All About People” and had the theme of leadership and collaboration to promote positive ocean change.

Edinburgh Ocean Leader side-event with UNESCO and Planeta Oceano

The event commenced with a powerful musical performance by Mia Kami, a tongan singer-songwriter and activist, followed by opening speeches from Dr João Paulo Costa, representative of UNESCO Cultural Heritage and EOL co-director Dr Meriwether Wilson.

The session had six speakers including two Ocean Leaders, Tommy Melo and Shirley Binder who delivered speeches on the theme of accelerating leadership for positive ocean change. Tommy focused on bottom-up leadership, explaining that within civil society from the supermarkets to fishing communities we need promote initiatives which can change perspectives to ensure positive ocean action is the most favourable option.

Shirley focused on leadership from within government, reflecting on her experience as an advisor to the Minister of the Environment in Panama as Panama announced a commitment to protect 40% of their ocean. She emphasised the need for strong language within international treaties to ensure we are able to protect and restore the ocean at the rate and scale that is needed.

Ocean Leader Peter Manyara moderated the Q&A which focused on questions about supporting communities on the ground in their own language and culture and the role of youth in ocean leadership.

The session closed with closing remarks from Kerstin Forsberg co-founder and director of Planeta Océano and Fanny Douvere, head of UNESCO World Heritage Marine Programme.

Edinburgh Ocean Leader UN Ocean Conference Highlights

Many of the Edinburgh Ocean Leaders community were present in Lisbon, including nine Ocean Leaders from all three cohorts. The Ocean Leaders were prevalent speakers across the conference, taking leading roles in many official sessions and side events.

Some highlights of Edinburgh Ocean Leaders participation in the conference include:

Ocean Leaders Angelique Pouponneau, Diva Amon and Harriet Harden-Harden Davies were all panellists in the popular session “A Frontier in Marine Science and Innovation for Small Island Developing States”. In this session the Alliance of Small Island Developing States, launched the “Declaration For The Enhancement Of Marine Scientific Knowledge, Research Capacity And Transfer Of Marine Technology To Small Island Developing States” of which Edinburgh Ocean Leaders is one of the first signatories. This session also saw the launch of the initiative Ocean Voices led by Harriet Harden-Davies and supported by Nippon Foundation and University of Edinburgh. This initiative aims create more sustainable management of the ocean by delivering training, building partnerships and supporting interdisciplinary research in coastal communities around the world.

Alliance of Small Island Developing States side-event with Harriet Harden-Davies, Diva Amon and Angelique Pouponneau

Shirley Binder, Advisor to the Minister of the Environment for the Government of Panama supported Panama’s announcement of their shared goals to increase the coverage of MPAs by 40% by 2030. Shirley moderated a busy session on the Eastern Tropical Pacific Marine Corridor with speakers including Dona Bertarelli, Cristina Mittermeier, Dr Andrew Steer from Bezos Earthfund and US under-secretary Under Secretary Jose W. Fernandez. Shirley also was a key speaker at the “Shark Conservation and CITES” session giving a presentation on Panama’s CITES Shark Proposal for COP19.

Shirley Binder moderating a session on the Eastern Tropical Pacific marine corridor

Ocean Leaders Angelique Pouponneau and Diva Amon and EOL advisor Kristina Gjerde were panellists together on a session titled “Biodiversity for a Resilient Planet” organised by the Deep Ocean Stewardship Initiative. The session got together lawyers, scientists and policy-makers to have a detailed discussion on topics such as why is the deep ocean important, what does it do for us and the most important threats facing deep ocean life. Diva Amon identified three main threats to the deep-sea: 1) climate change 2) rapid & unrestrained deep-sea mining and 3) illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing. She emphasised that all these threats are underscored by a lack of knowledge of the deep sea.

Biodiversity for a Resilient Planet side event with Diva Amon, Angelique Pouponneau and Kristina Gjerde

Ocean Leader Peter Manyara, co-organised two events on the Great Blue Wall, an initiative to conserve and restore marine and coastal biodiversity while unlocking the development of a regenerative sustainable blue economy in the Western Indian Ocean. Both events had distinguished panels of scientists, NGOs and policy makers including Diva Amon and EOL advisor Max Bello. The panels covered topics such as scaling locally led conservation and the blue economy. The importance of sustained capacity building to support African leadership throughout the Great Blue Wall initiative was highlighted as critical for the Great Blue Wall to succeed.

Great Blue Wall side-event with Peter Manyara

EOL co-director Sandy Tudhope moderated the interactive dialogue session “Enhancing the conservation and sustainable use of oceans and their resources by implementing international law, as reflected in the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS)”. In his remarks Sandy identified UNCLOS as a robust and enduring framework but also noted that the state of the ocean has declined over the forty years since its passage. He asked how we implement international law for the benefit of future generations and noted “that status quo is not a sustainable option”. A key focus of the dialogue was deep sea mining of which several stakeholders called for a moratorium during the session.

For a full summary of the session see the IISD report

Sandy Tudhope at the Interactive Dialogue. Photo: IISD/ Kiara Worth

Yolanda Sanchez was a panellist at an Ocean Literacy Dialogue side event organised in collaboration with UNESCO and #EU4OCEAN. Yolanda discussed the creation of RELATO, the Latin American Marine Education Network which now has over 1000 members. She reflected on her reasons for creating the network to be a learning exchange, promote collaboration and amplify the vital role marine education will play in conserving and restoring the ocean. Yolanda Sanchez also shared her marine education storybook with a school group in the Lisbon Aquarium with the help of Ocean Leader Tommy Melo, who translated the story from Spanish to Portuguese.

Hugo Tagholm moderated an online panel around Accessible Ocean Action and how best to engage active ocean users in citizen science, grassroots activism and local volunteering for positive ocean action. EOL co-director Meriwether Wilson was a panelist on the session and identified the approaches of various Ocean Leaders on the EOL programme who’s work engages communities for positive ocean action. Hugo was also on the panel organised by Zoological Society London on tackling ocean plastic pollution at its source. The session discussed the importance of innovation, collaboration, and connecting the voice of the community to tackling ocean plastic pollution. In this session, Hugo highlighted the need to move faster between words and action in the face of the ocean emergency.

Hugo Tagholm at ZSL side-event on tackling ocean plastic pollution

Ocean Leader Haydee Rodriguez spoke at a session  organised by the Tara Ocean Foundation on ocean governance and the marine microbiome. The panel discussed the role and opportunities of microbiome science in accelerating hybrid governance of marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction.

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