Tag Archives: Agenda 2030

Engaging Youth to Conserve Coastal and Marine Environments

By Kerstin Forsberg

As I write this article, my country, Peru, is experiencing one of its greatest natural disasters of all time. Due to a phenomenon known locally as the coastal El Niño, intense warm ocean currents have caused heavy rainfall in some parts of the country, which led to flooding and landslides that have severely impacted the lives of over a million people.

Many assert that these types of natural phenomena can be intensified by climate change, while sceptics claim that there is still not enough data to justify this. By now, however, there should be a consensus that humanity intrinsically depends on the ocean, and it is thus our obligation to protect it. The ocean is our planet’s main life source. Two out of three breaths we take are oxygenated by the ocean. It defines our climate and provides food security. A healthy ocean guarantees subsistence and survival. We would think that such a critical notion should be embraced and preached by all, but that is not the case.

The severe disregard that people show the ocean came to my attention at an early age. In 2007, I was a 22-year-old undergraduate student researching threatened sea turtles in northern Peru. After observing the increasing mortality of these species, I approached schools in fishing communities to inquire about their initiatives in marine education. To my surprise, these issues were not being addressed by the local education system.

Soon after, realizing that there was an urgent need to connect people to the ocean, I founded Planeta Océano, a non-profit organization that empowers coastal communities through marine conservation, research, education and sustainable economic development. We also established the Marine Educators Network, with over 50 schools in Peru, to incorporate marine issues into education systems in a cross­cutting manner. With this network we have built capacity in educational institutions, developed game-based learning and engaged thousands of students in youth-led initiatives that positively impact their communities.

The network also provides youth with training in marine conservation, project development and leadership. Participants identify local environmental challenges, and receive technical and financial support to work towards solutions. To date, over 400 young people have been engaged in youth-led initiatives ranging from mangrove reforestation to advocating for sustainable fisheries, among others.

In addition to this incubator of young conservationists, we have involved youth in all Planeta Océano programmes. Youth act as ‘citizen scientists’ and are taught how to carry out research, collecting data to benefit fisheries management and threatened species, and how to help promote sustainable economic activities, such as ecotourism. At Planeta Océano, youth start as volunteers, but over time they can access leadership positions and assist in the management of activities, projects and programmes. Youth can also help guide design strategies and agendas, and engage with stakeholder groups, including fishermen, schools, businesses and authorities.

This approach has allowed us to reach over 500,000 people in Peru and enhance the personal and professional development of hundreds of youth. It has sparked multiplier effects and ownership in local communities, since messaging comes from youth community members themselves. Together with youth we are changing how marine environments are perceived. We are contributing to local success stories, such as that of Josué Granda, the 4-year-old who helped his sister volunteer in our sea turtle research programme, and who now-at 14 years of age-leads a popular environmental club in his community. Another success story involves Edgardo Cruz, the fisherman who captured a vulnerable manta ray yet later became an ambassador for manta ray conservation. Youth have become key actors in achieving legal protection for threatened manta rays, and reported new scientific evidence in support of sea turtle and elasmobranch conservation, among other activities.

As a young entrepreneur once myself, my journey with Planeta Océano has allowed me to witness the huge potential of young people in conservation and sustainable development. It has shown me the importance of engaging youth not only as participants and collaborators, but also as genuine strategic partners.

Youth are already coming up with creative solutions to the world’s greatest challenges.1 Thus, tapping into youth-a population of around 1.8 billion people worldwide-and their energy and potential for innovation and creativity is extremely timely. Despite global goals urging greater conservation efforts,2 only 3 per cent of the world’s ocean is protected;3 overfishing and eco­system degradation jeopardize food security; and sea level rise endangers the well-being of coastal communities. Nevertheless, young people remain one of our largest untapped resources for advancing the global marine conservation agenda.

This is where scaling marine education becomes critical for harnessing the potential of youth. Marine education can provide young people with the skills, tools and perspectives necessary to conserve marine environments.

If we want to further engage youth in marine conservation, however, we also need a broader systemic change. This includes, for example, further incorporating youth leadership and counselling into local, national and international institutions; increasing connections between youth and relevant stakeholders; and boosting funding for qualified youth leaders. Moreover, we need to engage entire communities—women, teachers, fishermen and children—in the design, implementation and monitoring of conservation and management efforts at every stage of these processes.

It has been 10 years since my team and I started working in the field of marine conservation. As I look back, I recognize the impact that education, partnerships and support have had on our own early career development and on our community. In the same way, engaging more youth and a greater number of local communities can promote positive change, help overcome environmental challenges and enhance effective strategies for conservation worldwide.

Furthermore, by engaging youth and coastal communities, we can also bring people together, fostering good citizenship, peace and pride, and ultimately, building communities of optimism and hope. This is exactly what marine conservation and our world finally need.

For more information on Planeta Océano, visit www.planetaoceano.org.

Notes

1       For more information on youth Initiatives, see YouthActionNet website. Available from http://www.youthactionnet.org. For more information on youth entrepreneurs, see Forbes website. Available from www.forbes.com/30-under-30-2016/social-entrepreneurs/.

2       Louisa J. Wood and others, “Assessing progress towards global marine protection targets: shortfalls in information and action”, Oryx, vol. 42, No.3 (July 2008), 340-351.

3       For more Information, see Marine Protected Areas Atlas. Available from http://www.mpatlas.org/.

 

Author bio:

Kerstin Forsberg is Director of Planeta Océano, Peru.

Maintaining Healthy Ocean Fisheries to Support Livelihoods: Achieving SDG 14 in Europe

By Karmenu Vella

“The problems of ocean space are closely interrelated and need to be considered as a whole.” So says the preamble to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea—and never were those words more apt than in relation to the challenges we face today.

As global actors, the European Union (EU) and its member States share the fundamental obligation and responsibility to protect, conserve and sustainably use the oceans and their resources. We know that healthy and productive oceans are key to long-term sustainable development. We believe there is an urgent need to take action and tackle social, economic and environmental issues so that the oceans, the seas and their resources can support the livelihoods of coastal communities and continue to provide for future generations.

We are therefore strongly committed to the successful implementation of the United Nations 2030 Agenda and the achievement of Sustainable Development Goal 14 (SDG 14), which, for the first time, calls on the global community to “conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development”.

By including healthy fisheries among the SDGs, the United Nations and global civil society have affirmed the importance of fisheries for global food security and employment, as well as their contribution to alleviating poverty. Despite our international commitments, however, fish stocks in many areas continue to be overexploited. Urgent action at both the national and regional levels is needed to tackle this problem, and in particular to preserve stocks and restore them to sustainable levels.

Such action should involve implementing science-based management measures; applying a precautionary approach when scientific knowledge is limited; stepping up the fight against illegal unreported and unregulated fishing, including through the use of catch documentation schemes and port State measures; and managing by-catch and discards.

The EU is leading the way in the creation of a stronger system of ocean governance. On 10 November 2016, the European Commission and the EU High Representative set out a joint agenda for the future of our oceans, proposing 50 actions for safe, secure, clean and sustainably managed oceans in Europe and around the world.

One of the priorities of my mandate as European Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries is the implementation of the reformed Common Fisheries Policy (CFP),1 which entered into force in January 2014 with the aim of ensuring that fishing and aquaculture are environmentally, economically and socially sustainable. Not only does this provide EU citizens with healthy and traceable food, it also fosters a dynamic fishing industry and ensures a fair standard of living for fishing communities.

The Policy is designed to manage a common resource sustainably. It gives all European fishing fleets equal access to EU waters and fishing grounds. It sets rules for making European fishing fleets sustainable and for the conservation of fish stocks. In particular, CFP sets out a legal obligation to reach maximum sustainable yield (MSY) as soon as possible and by 2020 at the latest, ensuring that fishermen only take as much from the sea as can be sustained in the long term.

To do this, the European Commission proposes annual total allowable catches (TACs) for most commercial stocks in EU waters. The proposed quantities are set with a view to ensuring MSY, based on scientific advice and economic analysis from independent bodies. Once TACs have been set, EU member States are assigned national quotas, complemented by technical measures, in particular to help protect fragile habitats.

In addition, almost all important stocks and fisheries are maintained by means of multi-annual plans that set the goal for fish stock management in terms of fishing mortality and/or targeted stock size. Some plans also set out a detailed and tailor-made road map for achieving the objective. Some multi­annual plans include fishing effort restrictions as an additional instrument to TACs and specific control rules.

Yet the impact of fishing on the fragile marine environment is difficult to fully grasp and foresee. This is why CFP adopts a precautionary and an ecosystem approach that takes into account the impact of human activity on all components of the ecosystem and seeks to ensure that fisheries and aquaculture activities do not contribute in any way to the degradation of the marine environment. In particular, it seeks to make fishing fleets more selective in what they catch, and to phase out the wasteful practice of discarding unwanted fish. By 2019, all European fisheries will be covered by the landing obligation, prohibiting the practice of throwing unwanted catches back into the sea.

The first signs that our work is paying off are already being seen. Fisheries in Europe are making steady progress towards our sustainability target. In the North-East Atlantic, including the North and Baltic Seas, the push towards sustainability is both widespread and visible. While in the early 2000s most stocks were overfished, today more than half of the assessed stocks are managed sustainably, including many of the largest and commercially most valuable stocks.

This is not just good news for fish stocks, but for fishermen as well. New European Commission data finds that, with net profit margins at 10 per cent, the EU fleet made large profits in 2014, thus increasing its economic performance significantly compared to 2008. Progress, however, has not been uniform: fish stocks in the Mediterranean and Black Seas continue to fare poorly and are still overfished. As our scientific knowledge of these seas improves, the challenges to fisheries in the area become obvious.

That is why the European Commission is taking action. From 29 to 30 March 2017, we hosted a ministerial conference in Malta on Mediterranean fisheries, bringing together ministers from EU and non-EU countries in the Mediterranean basin. The conference culminated in the signature of the Malta MedFish4Ever Declaration, which will provide a significant political push to address the alarming state of stocks and its impact on the industry and coastal communities of the Mediterranean basin over the next 10–15 years.

We know that our goals are ambitious—and that is why the European Commission is supporting member States in implementing CFP. Funds are available to help fishermen adapt to a changing environment and to support coastal communities in diversifying their economies, creating new jobs and ultimately improving the quality of life along European coasts and beyond. For the period between 2014 and 2020, the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund2 alone is making 5.7 billion euros available to member States. In addition, the European Commission is also supporting marine science under its research programme Horizon 2020.

Step by step, these instruments are taking us closer to our objective of healthy oceans and thriving coastal communities across Europe. But much more still needs to be done, and no actors can protect the ocean on their own. This is why the European Commission is working closely with its member States and seeking to cooperate with its neighbours and international partners.

The oceans are a heritage we all share. Their protection is our common responsibility. The European Union is looking forward to the Ocean Conference, to be held at the United Nations in New York from 5 to 9 June 2017, and to hosting the Our Ocean Conference from 5 to 6 October 2017 in Malta, where world leaders will gather to send a strong message of unity in the quest to save our oceans and seas and deliver high-level commitments to that end.

 

Notes

1       Information on the Common Fisheries Policy is available from https://ec.europa.eu/fisheries/cfp_en.

2       Information on the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund is available from https://ec.europa.eu/fisheries/cfp/emff_en.

Author bio: Karmenu Vella is European Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries.

Making the Ocean a Partner in Our Quest for a Sustainable Future

By José Graziano Da Silva

Humanity owes much to the oceans in many aspects of life. In fact, oceans are essential in providing invaluable ecosystems and climate regulation, as well as important cultural support to the millions of people who live near the sea.

It is time for us to reciprocate and stop treating our oceans as waste pools. Today, our oceans are threatened by a range of factors, from many forms of pollution to climate change and unsustainable fishing practices, all of which are results of human activity. This is why the international community, in approving the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), specifically established SDG 14, charging us to “conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development”. This is essential for sustainability, and there is a lot to be done. Delivering on SDG 14 requires teamwork and a spirit of partnership among diverse stakeholders from many nations and sectors.

PROSPECTS FOR BLUE GROWTH

The same components and objectives set out under SDG 14 are embodied in the Blue Growth Initiative promoted by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) to reconcile ocean-related economic growth with improved livelihoods and social equity.

As 3 billion people ultimately depend on marine and coastal biodiversity, all nations agree on the need to step up efforts to protect oceans and seas, especially in the era of climate change, when transformational interventions are becoming even more urgent and encompassing. The oceans cover almost three quarters of the Earth’s surface, storing one third of all the carbon emissions stemming from human activity. They are part of the solution, and we must make them a key focus of our efforts to cope with and mitigate climate change.

Researchers have discovered that plankton, fish and marine mammals can mistake plastic material for food, and have found that banned pollutants abound in organisms more than 10 kilometres below the ocean surface. Acidified waters, which have increased by 25 per cent since the Industrial Revolution and are the tell-tale symptom of excessive greenhouse gas emissions, can impact the growth and reproductive patterns of fish and invertebrates.

The protection and responsible use of our oceans is a joint task. We are all in the same boat. This means tapping potential partnerships extending well beyond industrial production, and engaging communities and consumers in particular. Let us not forget that SDG 14 and the entire 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development are a response to the demands of people. The public’s call for action and accountability is strong. Indeed, since 2003, there has been a 40-fold increase in the amount of seafood production certified under global sustainability initiatives. This accounts for more than one seventh of all seafood output and is, in fact, rapidly catching up—and I hope and trust will soon surpass—the one sixth of all seafood that is caught in illegal, unreported or unregulated ways.

BUILDING MOMENTUM WITH THE PORT STATE MEASURES AGREEMENT

FAO is leading campaigns to enforce fair rules in an international sector where worldwide net export revenues for developing countries are worth more than those for trade in any agricultural commodity. Both human livelihoods and the sustainability of fish stocks are harder to support when laws are defied.

A very important step in this endeavour is the Agreement on Port State Measures (PSMA) to Prevent, Deter and Eliminate Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) Fishing. FAO drafted and brokered agreements to this treaty, which is designed to crack down on all rogue fishing vessels and prevent their catch—estimated to be up to 26 million tons each year and worth $23 billion—from entering markets. PSMA, which entered into force in 2016, marks a new dawn, going well beyond previous flag and port State rules and requiring all ships to submit to inspections wherever they dock, even for refuelling.

The Agreement is especially important, as one of the specific targets included in SDG 14 is to effectively end IUU fishing by 2020—just three years from now—in order to restore fish stocks in the shortest time feasible to levels that can produce maximum sustainable yields. Achieving the target date for ending IUU will require an ‘all-hands-on-deck’ approach. Robust implementation of PSMA and compliance with fishery management protocols are obviously essential. So, too, are initiatives aimed at reducing and recovering fishing gear lost at sea, which is estimated to account for as much as 640,000 tons of rubbish put into the oceans each year, around one tenth of the total. FAO is actively promoting stronger rules for marking fishing gear, which industry participants recognize would strike a blow to IUU fishing activities as well as facilitate recovery of nets and other equipment which, when lost or dumped overboard, continue to entangle fish.

INTERNATIONAL COOPERATION

FAO participates in the implementation of many programmes aimed at promoting sustainable fisheries and preserving marine resources. One of them, the Nansen Programme, is carried out in partnership with the Government of Norway. Over the last 40 years, vessels funded by Norway and operating under the United Nations flag have conducted research activities that have vastly deepened our understanding of underwater ecosystems and the life­sustaining fisheries that so many people around the globe depend on, especially those living in developing countries in Africa and Asia. The Programme has allowed us to improve research and activities where marine observations are extremely limited, and better understand the impacts of climate change and other external drivers, such as pollution, on aquatic ecosystems. This is crucial to enabling developing countries to increase the resilience of ecosystems and coastal communities, especially with regard to small-scale fisheries.

INCLUDE THE PEOPLE OF THE SEA

The way forward must ensure that the shift to sustainability produces benefits for the people who rely on the sea the most: the residents of small island developing States and small-scale artisanal fishers, especially in developing countries. These States and communities lack the scale and capacity to carry out all the needed transformations on their own. While FAO offers help and advice, it is crucial that everyone, especially those better able to shoulder the task, recognize the responsibility to increase efforts by making even more ambitious commitments of their own. Responsible fishing in national as well as international waters, adequate knowledge and technology transfers, and collaborations enabling fish products to enter global trade markets are all essential.

Nowadays, about 120 million people depend on commercial fisheries for their livelihoods, and nearly 90 per cent of them work in small-scale fisheries in developing countries, especially in Africa and Asia. They are among the poorest communities in the world, and they risk being further marginalized if we fail to recognize the importance of small-scale fisheries.

Thus, sustainable fisheries and aquaculture are crucial in our quest to implement the 2030 Agenda, and not only to achieve SDG 14 but also to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger, as stipulated in Goals 1 and 2.

Author bio: José Graziano Da Silva is Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.

Achieving and Maintaining Sustainable Fisheries

By Jake Rice

Much has been written from many perspectives about whether fisheries are currently sustainable and, to the extent that they are not, what should be done to achieve sustainability. Two figures from the report of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, The State of the World Fisheries and Aquaculture 2016 (SOFIA),1 suggest that although unsustainable fisheries still exist, they are not the rule. The total take of capture fisheries globally has been stable for three decades, and the proportion of assessed fish stocks considered to be overfished has increased only marginally over the same period.

With the proportion of exploited stocks classed as over­fished remaining around 30 per cent since the 1990s, progress still needs to be made on making all fisheries sustainable. Vigilance is also needed to keep currently sustainable fisheries from expanding to unsustainable levels. One option would be to simply exploit everything less. Reducing fishing pressure across the board would allow the remaining overfished stocks to recover and sustainable fisheries to have greater resilience to pressures such as climate change, ocean pollution and other factors. Some proposals for ocean protection targets promote such strategies, including the call for classifying 30 per cent of the ocean as marine protected areas where no extractive resource uses would be permitted.2

It might be appropriate to consider the approach of simply fishing less if the only standard of sustainability were the status of the exploited stocks and the ecosystems in which they occur. Neither of those conditions, however, is true. Fisheries are conducted in order to provide economic returns from market sales, livelihoods to those participating in the activity, and above all, food for people. Sustainability must be found for all the outcomes—ecological, economic and social. Aside from rare and exceptional circumstances usually associated with histories of severe overfishing, merely reducing fishing would have unsustainable social and economic outcomes even if the targeted fish stocks increased.

If the only impacts of fishing less to achieve greater ecological sustainability were financial then economic policies and market measures might mitigate some negative effects on revenues. Further capital investment, which could contribute to the overcapacity of fishing fleets, might also be discouraged. In many fisheries, however, particularly small-scale fisheries, there is little scope for coastal communities to accommodate the loss of livelihoods associated with fishing. The dependence of such communities on fishing can be found not only in less developed States. The economic and social consequences of the cod moratorium in eastern Canada, for example, have been significant and have lasted far longer than the moratorium itself. In less developed States, where social support resources and alternative employment opportunities are less available, the consequences of lost fishing livelihoods are even harsher; small-scale fisheries often provide employment to multiple generations, and both men and women have important roles, so the entire base of communities can be lost. Until recently, small-scale fisheries have not been at the centre of policies or dialogue on fisheries sustainability, but that is changing.3 Perhaps with greater attention paid to these challenges, more resilient strategies can be found for helping small-scale fisheries adjust to greater limitations on fishing opportunities.

Notwithstanding the importance of the social and economic consequences, less fishing means that fisheries will produce less food. Such an outcome makes strategies of just fishing less unviable, even if the other economic and social outcomes are mitigated, because fish are crucial to global food security. In 2010, projections were made of how much more fish would be required by 2050 to keep up with human population growth and bring the hungry or malnourished up to minimum World Health Organization standards, taking into account regional variations in the proportion of fish in local diets.4 It was estimated that an additional 70–80 million metric tons would be needed, a 50 per cent increase in the current total production of capture fisheries and aquaculture. In 2016, these estimates were revisited and combined with projections of production from large- and small-scale agriculture to consider how climate change may affect future food security. It was concluded that, taking into consideration the impacts of climate change on crops and livestock, fisheries and aquaculture would have to produce an additional 100 to 120 million metric tons of fish-an increase of two thirds from present production.5 This will only be possible by fishing more, not less, and by greatly increasing aquaculture yields. Thus, the real challenge to keeping fisheries sustainable is not how to address the 30 per cent of stocks that continue to be overfished despite decades of efforts aimed at improved sustainability, but rather how to greatly increase the provision of fish to a needy human population without returning to the trend seen in the 1970s and 1980s, when the number of unsustainable fisheries increased annually.

This is a very difficult challenge, but we have much of what we need to meet it. The extrinsic factors that contribute to making fisheries unsustainable have been identified and studied. These include many inappropriate incentives from markets and Governments; high demand for limited resources, especially those of high value; the complexity and incomplete knowledge of marine production systems; poverty and lack of alternatives, which keep excessive participants in fisheries; lack of effective governance to implement appropriate measures; and the externalities of climate change and ocean pollution.6

The factors of unsustainability and many activities of fisheries that can address them are known, as are policies and measures to promote and support those activities. These have been set out in the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries and its several annexes, and are available to those conducting and managing fisheries.7 This guidance includes strategies that are sufficiently precautionary in the face of the complexities and uncertainties of fisheries management, and avoid or mitigate the many ecosystem effects of fisheries, including by-catches and impacts on seabed habitats.

These messages should be seen as positive. On a fishery­by-fishery basis, the guidance exists to diagnose the major threats to sustainability, and to select appropriate measures to address those threats. Nevertheless, the overall picture should not be taken as rosy. Even if the necessary policies and measures can be identified, they are not necessarily easy to implement. The more fishing that is needed, the more knowledge is also required—regarding both the status of the resources and the activities of the fisheries. Such knowledge does not have to be solely data-intensive scientific monitoring and assessment, although for large-scale fisheries these are the main sources of knowledge. In all scales of fisheries, the local knowledge of fishers and indigenous fishing cultures can also be valuable in informing decisions.

Knowledge for identifying appropriate measures is necessary to keep fisheries sustainable as harvesting expands, but it is not sufficient. There must be governance capacities to make decisions considered legitimate by those affected and to enforce the implementation of the measures, once adopted. This could be a capacity to make top-down decisions by a jurisdictional institution and then enact those decisions with enforcement and surveillance officers, or a capacity of local communities to embed appropriate practices in the culture and daily actions of community members. Both can be effective, but both have vulnerabilities. Top-down approaches require significant resources for assessment, management, control and surveillance, and underfunding the institutions compromises their effectiveness. In areas beyond national jurisdictions, these challenges can all be amplified, although regional fisheries management bodies can be effective if adequately supported. Community-based approaches require coherent community cultures. They can be vulnerable to some immigrants who neither assimilate in the communities nor consider their governance actions legitimate, or to technological changes that increase the impacts of traditional practices on resources or ecosystems. Ways of enhancing the effectiveness of both institution- and community-based management are receiving a great deal of attention in discussions of ocean policy and governance. Progress in such fields as marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction has been made, albeit slowly.8

One more area of serious dialogue needs to be opened if sustainable fisheries are to be achieved. However effectively fisheries may be governed and managed, they change the ecosystems in which they occur. The total biomass of fully exploited species is reduced, typically by more than 50 per cent. There is growing evidence that more balanced harvesting of marine species may reduce the degree to which the overall ecosystem is altered by fisheries. Nevertheless, if total removals were to increase by even 50 per cent, or likely much more, to meet food security needs, marine ecosystems would be altered. Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 14 (Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development) will play a central role in policy discussions on keeping oceans healthy. The necessary dialogue will have to focus on what constitutes a “healthy ocean”. If “as close to pristine as possible” is the de facto standard for “healthy”, then even current fisheries will run counter to SDG 14, and the types of expansions of fisheries needed to help achieve SDG 2 (End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture) will become major threats. There needs to be a serious dialogue to determine what types of alterations in marine and coastal ecosystems are sustainable, whether in the sense of maintaining options for adaptation to other conditions, if society chooses, or in other senses. The complexity of these discussions may make past efforts at achieving the sustainability of fisheries appear simple in comparison.

 

Notes

1       Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture, 2016: Contributing to Food Security and Nutrition for All, Report (Rome, 2016). Available from http://www.fao.org/fishery/sofia/en.

2       Bethan C. O’Leary and others, “Effective coverage targets for ocean protection”, Conservation Letters, vol. 9, No.6 (November-December 2016), pp. 398-404.

3       Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Voluntary Guidelines for Securing Sustainable Small-Scale Fisheries in the Context of Food Security and Poverty Eradication (Rome, 2015).

4       Jake C. Rice and Serge M. Garcia, “Fisheries, food security, biodiversity and climate change”, ICES Journal of Marine Science, vol. 68, No. 6 (2011), pp. 1343-1353.

5       Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, Smart climate information and accountable actions: achieving sustainable food security in a changing world. Forum project proposal (2016). APEC Project database. Last modified 4 August 2016. Available from https://aimp2.apec.org/sites/PDB/Lists/Proposals/DispForm.aspx?ID=1843.

6       Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, “International workshop on the implementation of international fisheries instruments and factors of unsustainability and overexploitation in fisheries”, Mauritius, 3-7 February 2003, FAO Fisheries Report No.700 (Rome, 2004). Available from ftp://ftp.fao.org/docrep/fao/007/y5242e/y5242e00.pdf.

7       Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries (Rome, 1995 (Reprinted 1996, 2000)). Available from http://www.fao.org/docrep/005/v9878e/V9878e00.htm.

8       For further information on the Preparatory Committee established by General Assembly resolution 69/292: Development of an International legally binding instrument under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction, see http://www.un.org/depts/los/biodiversity/prepcom.htm.

Author bio: Jake Rice is Chief Scientist Emeritus, Department of Fisheries and Oceans, Canada.

Climate Change Poses a Threat to Our Oceans

By Isabella Lövin

In 2016, the First Global Integrated Marine Assessment, also known as the World Ocean Assessment I, was published. The introduction of the report is fascinating. It states that 70 per cent of the planet’s surface is covered by water and that the average depth is 4,000 metres. These oceans contain 97 per cent of all water on Earth, which is the equivalent of approximately 1.3 billion cubic kilometres. This can seem like an infinite amount.

But the report also states that there are now more than 7 billion people on Earth. If we divided all of this water equally between us, we would only have one fifth of a cubic kilometre each. And in 2050, when there will be some 10 billion people on Earth, we will only have one eighth of a cubic kilometre per person. This relatively small amount of water is what will provide each person with all ecosystem services, including food and oxygen. But this is also where some of our emissions, our waste and our rubbish will end up.

Oceans, however, happen to be borderless and are also unevenly distributed across the planet. We cannot protect our share of the ocean with walls; instead, we must cooperate in a spirit of solidarity if we are to succeed in preserving and protecting the water that we have at our joint disposal. We must work together with our closest neighbours and cooperate at a global level, between countries.

The importance of the 2030 Agenda and the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) cannot be stressed enough. They light our way through the darkness that is currently shrouding the world. Progress is being made on many of the SDGs, but one of the goals for which developments are unfortunately moving in the wrong direction is SDG 14, which calls on the international community to “conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development”.

This is why the Government of Sweden, together with the Government of Fiji, took the initiative to host the Ocean Conference in New York in June 2017. The Conference will be the first high-level forum to focus on one single goal in the 2030 Agenda, and we are enthusiastic to see growing engagement among the countries of the world.

One of the many issues demanding immediate attention at the Conference is the impact of climate change on the global marine environment. Although the ocean is the single largest habitat on our planet and is a system that is inextricably linked to human survival, climate change and the impact of increasing carbon dioxide emissions on the oceans have been largely overshadowed in the climate change debate. The oceans—which produce half of all our oxygen, regulate the Earth’s climate and temperature, give us food and water, and are home to hundreds of thousands of species-have for a long time been our best ally in efforts to curb climate change. More than 93 per cent1 of all the heat people have added to the planet since the 1950s has been absorbed by the oceans—but at a price we are just beginning to understand. Rising ocean temperatures and increased acidification are now becoming apparent in melting Arctic sea ice and coral bleaching. Immediate action is needed here and we must use our entire toolbox at once: mitigation, protection, restoration and adaptation.

The warming of the oceans over the past 60 years has taken place on such a scale that it is difficult to take in. A 2015 analysis produced by the Grantham Institute shows that if the same amount of heat that was added to the top two kilometres of the oceans between 1995 and 2010 had instead been added to the bottom ten kilometres of the atmosphere, we would have seen the temperature on Earth rise by 36 degrees Celsius. So the oceans have protected us from the worst effects of climate change. But there is great uncertainty regarding the ability of the ocean to absorb carbon dioxide in future. If the oceans have so far been our best friend, there is now the risk in the foreseeable future that they will begin to send us the bill: a large proportion of the emissions we have caused since the 1900s, now stored in the oceans, may return to the atmosphere.

Ocean acidification can be called the chemical crisis of the global climate. Alongside global warming, ocean acidification risks pushing marine life beyond catastrophic limits. Since industrialization, acidification of ocean surface water has increased by almost 30 per cent.2 Coral reefs will be one of the most immediate victims of climate change if we do not take action very quickly. Although coral reefs make up just 1 per cent of the surface of the oceans, as much as 25 per cent of marine species are dependent on them. The breakdown of coral reef ecosystems also affects the protection of coastal zones, fisheries and tourism. Without a drastic reduction in carbon dioxide emissions, by 2050 almost all of the world’s coral reefs may have been subjected to such acidic conditions that they will be only marginally able to form calcium and continue growing.

Researchers have estimated that the oceans are home to up to 1 million different species.3 Increased ocean temperatures risk causing the mass migration of species, resulting in the global homogenization of biodiversity. This would mean a decline in the numbers of species in the warmer water regions and a drastic increase in the colder regions around the poles. This kind of change could have a very serious impact on global fisheries and aquaculture. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations estimates that fish now account for 20 per cent of the animal protein source for around 3 billion people. Along with population growth, poor fisheries management and increased fish exports, changes in the local fish fauna can have enormous consequences for food security, especially in poor coastal countries where many people depend on fishing for their daily living.

Climate change also threatens the supply of oxygen in the oceans in two different ways. Firstly, warm water cannot hold as much oxygen as cold water, so as the oceans warm up, oxygen levels drop. Secondly, warmer water has lower density, making it more difficult for the oxygen-rich water near the surface to sink and circulate. Consequently, deep oceans face a particularly great risk of oxygen depletion. Fish that are dependent on oxygen will grow more slowly, decrease in size and reproduce less. Larger fish such as tuna, swordfish and shark, which are dependent on a large amount of oxygen, will be driven to more oxygen-rich surface waters, as will a large proportion of their prey. This will lead to increased food competition. Creatures living in or on the seabed will also need to seek out shallower waters. The knock-on effect of this will be a clear risk of even more overfishing, as more sea creatures will inhabit smaller and more easily accessible areas, becoming more readily fished.

One example of a ‘hot spot’ for the effects of climate change on oceans is the Arctic. Here, both warming and acidification are occurring particularly rapidly and to a greater extent than in many other places in the world. Scientific findings show an increased risk of crossing large-scale tipping points in the Arctic, such as the collapse of summer sea ice, melting ice sheets and methane emissions from melting permafrost, which may all have very significant global consequences-not least with regard to rising sea levels. The biodiversity and ecosystems in the Arctic are irreplaceable assets of global importance. Many Arctic species, ecosystems and habitats are at risk of disappearing completely, or remaining only as isolated fragments. As the ice sheet melts, increasingly large areas in the Arctic are now opening up for shipping and extracting natural resources such as oil, gas and fish. In November 2016, the planet sent perhaps its clearest warning yet, when the temperature in the Arctic was measured at a shocking 20 degrees Celsius warmer than what is normal for that time of year. The abrupt warming of the Arctic entails a dramatic change in life conditions not only around the North Pole, but also for the rest of the planet. Permanent ice at the North and the South Poles is a prerequisite for a stable planet. A self-heating Arctic will have major effects on global climate. Let us therefore hope that this was the last alarm bell from the planet before we humans came together and succeeded in reversing the trend.

It is impossible to estimate the economic value of living oceans for us humans; they are in essence the actual prerequisite for human existence. It is beyond doubt, however, that the effects of climate change on the oceans will entail major economic costs. For example, the cost of reduced tourism due to coral bleaching has been estimated to be as much as $12 billion annually. If lost ecosystem services from reefs are included, the annual cost is estimated to reach $1 trillion by the year 2100.4 But the truly great costs will be measured in the form of reduced human health and security.

Keeping global warming well below 2 degrees Celsius, and aspiring to 1.5 degrees Celsius under the Paris Agreement, is fundamental to mitigating the impact of climate change on our oceans. Sweden is prepared to take a leading role in international climate efforts and has the goal of being one of the world’s first fossil-free welfare nations. Sweden has also doubled its contributions to multilateral climate financing in recent years and is now the largest per capita donor to many of the multilateral climate funds, including the Green Climate Fund, the Global Environment Facility and the Adaptation Fund. Climate change is also central to much of Sweden’s bilateral cooperation and we want to work proactively to strengthen initiatives that are linked to the impact on oceans. Immediate and dramatic cuts in carbon dioxide emissions will buy us time to strengthen the resilience of oceans, ecosystems and species, that is, their ability to adapt to the negative impact of climate change and the inevitable stressors already in operation in our oceans. Fish that can easily migrate will be able to find new habitats, and organisms with short reproductive cycles such as plankton can evolve to adapt to the new conditions.

Drastic measures must be employed to strengthen the protection of biodiversity and ecosystems. It is still possible to preserve large, relatively unaffected marine ecosystems if measures are taken now. Sweden has allocated substantial funds to protect valuable marine environments in national waters and meet the commitments under the Convention on Biological Diversity, but protection of marine environments is also an important issue in regional and international cooperation. Moreover, the impacts of climate change must be considered in assessments of threatened species and in formulating advice on which measures need to be taken.

In the light of the various stress factors acting on our oceans, the sustainable management of marine resources-not least measures to ensure improved food security—is more important than ever. Forceful measures are essential to stop overfishing and illegal fishing, and ensure a move from industrial fishing to small-scale fishing in coastal nations where many people are dependent on fish for their daily living. Further forceful measures are necessary to prevent and reduce marine pollution, including marine debris and the inflow of nutrients. Finally, we must also invest more in research to increase our scientific knowledge in all these areas.

The impact of climate change on our oceans can no longer be described in isolated, individual stories about bleached coral reefs; it involves fundamental changes to ecosystems and marine life on a scale we are only just beginning to imagine. We must act now and put oceans at the centre of our climate efforts. The great interest in the Ocean Conference from all parts of the United Nations system, the science and business sectors, and civil society demonstrates that the international community is ready to take forceful action.

 

Notes

1       Sydney Levitus and others, “World ocean heat content and thermosteric sea level change (0-2000m), 1955-2010”, Geophysical Research Letters, vol. 39, No. 10 (17 May 2012).

2       Richard A. Feely, Scott C. Doney and Sarah R. Cooley, “Ocean acidification: present conditions and future changes in a high-CO2 world”, Oceanography, vol. 22, No. 4 (December 2009), pp.36-47.

3       Ward Appeltans and others, “The magnitude of global marine species diversity”, Current Biology, vol. 22, No. 23 (4 December 2012), pp. 2189-2202.

4       Jean-Pierre Gattuso and others, “Contrasting futures for ocean and society from different anthropogenic CO2 emissions scenarios”, Science, vol. 349, No. 6243, (3 July 2015), pp. aac.4722-1-4722-10.

 

Author bio: Isabella Lövin is Minister for International Development Cooperation and Climate and Deputy Prime Minister of Sweden.

Can We Save Coral Reefs?

By Carrie Manfrino

The United Nations has reported that 70 per cent of the Earth’s coral reefs are threatened: 20 per cent have already been destroyed with no hope for recovery, 24 per cent are under imminent risk of collapse, and an additional 26 per cent are at risk due to longer-term threats.1 Coastal ecosystem degradation is especially problematic, as 40 per cent (3.1 billion) of the world’s population lives within 100 kilometres of the ocean, which means that massive losses to coral reef ecosystems are also an economic and social issue.2 Reef structures protect coastal communities from storm waves, provide sand for beaches and generate enormous recreational revenue for local businesses. Coral reefs also serve as the twenty-first century’s medicine cabinet. Myriad organisms, including sponges, corals and sea hares, contain molecules that express potent anti-inflammatory, anti-viral, anti-tumour and/or anti-bacterial effects. New treatments for Alzheimer’s disease, heart disease, viruses and inflammation are being developed from these molecules. The collapse of coral reefs has far-reaching implications for the entire ocean, for people and, indeed, for the planet. Going forward, the focus must be on how to conserve what is left, ideally taking bold, decisive steps to reverse the unthinkable trajectory. Such solutions will require innovations and partnerships that can spearhead the societal-level change needed to halt the damage to coral reefs and reverse the downward trend in their health and survival.

Time is not on our side, but the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development outlines a plan for the future protection of the ocean. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) bring a sharper focus on the economic, social and cultural ramifications of major declines in fish populations, coral reef ecosystems and coastal erosion due to sea level rise and poor management.3 For instance, SDG 14 describes the need to reduce marine pollution; regulate the harvesting of fish; and end overfishing, unregulated fishing and destructive fishing practices to restore fish stocks in the shortest time feasible. The goal is to sustainably manage and protect at least 10 per cent of marine and coastal ecosystems by 2020, and to strengthen their resilience and take action for their restoration.

With 70 per cent of coral reefs already gone or threatened, however, greater levels of protection will be required to potentially compensate for the increasing stress brought on by climate change. Corals turn white and ‘bleach’ as symbiotic algae are essentially expelled from the animal when stressed. Prolonged periods of higher-than-normal sea surface temperature have led to global coral mortality, events that climate models predict will only become more frequent.4 Some studies show that managed, no-take marine reserves with 50 per cent of the reefs under protection are not immune to warming seas but are capable of recovering.5 Unfortunately, the most current episode of bleaching on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef illuminates how climate change, driven fundamentally by anthropogenic carbon emissions, is destroying this critical marine ecosystem despite protection, even in locations far removed from human populations.6 The 2015 Paris Agreement, adopted at the twenty-first session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP 21), was heralded as a new dawn that could mitigate the consequences of climate change to humankind but not for coral reefs. For the reefs to survive, however, confronting climate change impacts must be front and centre for any other proffered solutions to make a difference. What other avenues are there to tackle this complex problem? Consider the following extra-governmental paradigm: public-private collaborations.

“RETHINKING THE FUTURE FOR CORAL REEFS” SYMPOSIUM

In June 2016, an influential cross section of coral reef scientists and social scientists, foundation leaders, non­governmental organization directors, policymakers and interested members of the general public gathered in London for the International Symposium on “Rethinking the Future for Coral Reefs”. The Symposium was led by His Royal Highness Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex, the founding patron of the Central Caribbean Marine Institute (CCMI). CCMI is a non-governmental coral reef education and research organization, with a bustling facility on Little Cayman, Cayman Islands. Supported largely by private funds, the organization has navigated partnerships with local schools so that every Caymanian child can be ocean literate by the time they reach 12 years of age.

The goal of the Symposium was to establish a dialogue among experts from the public and private sectors with broad perspectives on what steps could lead to a healthy future for coral reefs. The focus was on the need for a more progressive, ambitious and innovative approach to both provide immediate protection and prevent further losses. The agreement, disagreement, surprises and outcomes from the Symposium can be summarized in the context of COP 21 and SDG 14. The major conclusion was that solutions for protecting the future for coral must rapidly transcend social, economic and cultural boundaries. The emissions goals set in Paris at COP 21 would lead to temperature increases by 2030 that would be devastating for coral reefs.7 Furthermore, the SDG 14 recommendations may need to consider more specifically the level of reef destruction already in progress due to climate change and direct human impacts.

Increasing the size of protected areas and removing detrimental impacts require dealing with human issues that lie beyond the borders of protected areas. Conservation relies on strong governance that is often overshadowed by private interests. Changing human behaviour and the conditions that influence behaviour, including poverty and the effects of globalization, would be a necessary first step in many areas.8 Teaching sustainable fishing, and providing opportunities for renewable energy and ecotourism are strategies that have successfully increased the rates of employment and improved sanitation while decreasing poverty, malnutrition and pollution. Longer-term solutions should enhance the status of women in developing countries who significantly support marine fisheries and aquaculture by providing access to jobs in those countries.

Top-down governance strategies could be more persuasive if attention was given to assuring positive community perception about the effectiveness of protection. Good governance could effectively reduce overfishing, stop anchor damage and remove direct human impacts so long as the human issues and community perception are included as elements of the plan.9

Coral restoration through farming or transplanting has often been mentioned as a possible solution for reefs in crisis, but it is not likely to be a serious remedy until the original stressors that led to the demise of corals is removed. Destructive harvesting and extraction, as seen recently in the South China Sea, must stop. Ending the practice of releasing waste and sewage into coastal waters, which result in algal blooms, would be needed. Halting unplanned coastal development, which reduces the productivity of corals due to increased sedimentation, would play a significant role in reversing the decline of reefs in some locations. The Symposium’s findings and recommendations are offered below, both on their merits and as an example of a productive public-private collaboration.

SUMMARY FROM THE “RETHINKING THE FUTURE FOR CORAL REEFS” SYMPOSIUM

  • The pace of coral reef decline is even faster than current trajectories by at least a decade.
  • Reefs of the future will be remarkably different in structure and composition than reefs today.
  • The 2030 Agenda’s SDG 14 target to conserve at least 10 per cent of coastal and marine areas should be higher for coral reefs, considering that cumulatively 70 per cent of reefs are threatened.
  • Climate impacts on coral reefs, in particular the rapid increases in sea surface temperatures, would kill large areas of reefs that would not be capable of recovering fast enough before further high-temperature events took place.
  • The Paris Agreement goals adopted at COP 21 to reduce carbon emissions are inadequate. Reefs would disappear before these goals were achieved.
  • The collapse of coral reefs has far-reaching implications for the entire ocean and for people, as reefs are considered sentinel ecosystems that protect coastal communities.
  • Public engagement with coral reefs in crisis is woefully low, especially by comparison with many other environmental crises.
  • Societal-level changes are needed in order for coral reef ecosystems to continue functioning.
  • It was noted that activists and campaigners often targeted ministries of environment when proposing action aimed at protection, when it was often more effective to engage ministries of finance or of development, which have greater power and access to resources.

NEXT STEPS FROM THE SYMPOSIUM

  • Immediate global action to reduce future warming above COP 21 goals is fundamental to coral reef survival.
  • Establish a high-profile movement that makes way for a shift in societal behaviour to reduce adverse impacts on coral reefs and adopt a more sustainable lifestyle.
  • Establish an advocacy group and coalition with select entities to advocate and increase awareness, and undertake actions that will produce relevant solutions for a particular region. Focus on the diverse issues of particular regions.
  • Engage leaders of industry, Heads of State, and ministries of finance in the discussion so as to educate, inform and expand the dialogue.
  • Be proactive when relevant issues impacting coral reef health attract media or governmental attention.
  • Become engaged as scientists in the climate discussion and push for faster reductions in emissions.
  • Explore new, innovative, scalable solutions that traverse the scientific disciplines, including management and policy solutions, and expand the dialogue and awareness of the issues and solutions.

CONCLUSION

With estimates that coral reefs are among the most threatened ecosystems on Earth, the dire need for societal-level changes to reduce human impacts on coral reef ecosystems is no longer a debate. The achievement of SDG 14 by 2030 could help improve ocean resources, to be sure. Actions that protect top predators, identify key herbivorous fish species for protection, halt destructive fishing, boating and diving, and manage exploitation of reef fish cannot hurt. Nevertheless, much more aggressive action and education from the top down to grassroots efforts to achieve a carbon-neutral planet are required to protect coral reefs; otherwise, we’re just whistling past Davy Jones’ locker.

Notes

1       United Nations Department of Public Information, “Life below water: why it matters”, 2016. Available from http://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/14_Why-it-Matters_Goal-14_Life-Below-Water_3p.pdf.

2       Biliana Cicin-Sain, “Goal 14-Conserve and Sustainably Use Oceans, Seas and Marine Resources for Sustainable Development”, UN Chronicle, vol. Ll No.4 (2014). Available from https://unchronicle.un.org/article/goal-14-conserve-and-sustainably-use-oceans-seas-and-marine­resources-sustainable.

3       United Nations Department of Public Information, “Life below water:

why it matters”.

4       Reuben Van Hooidonk and others “Local-scale projections of coral reef futures and implications of the Paris agreement”, Scientific Reports, vol. 6 (2016).

5       Carrie Manfrino and others, “A positive trajectory for corals at Little Cayman Island”, PLOS One, vol. 8, No.10:e75432 (2013).

6       Terry P. Hughes and others “Global warming and recurrent mass bleaching of corals”, Nature, vol.543, No. 7645 (2017), pp. 373-377.

7       ISRS Consensus Statement on Climate Change and Coral Bleaching, October 2015, prepared for the 21st Session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, Paris, December 2015. Available from http://coralreefs.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/ISRS-Consensus-Statement-on-Coral Bleaching-Ciimate-Change-FINAL-140ct2015-HR.pdf; Van Hooidonk and others “Local-scale projections of coral reef futures and implications of the Paris agreement”. Hughes and others “Global warming and recurrent mass bleaching of corals”.

8       Joshua E. Cinner and others, “Bright spots among the world’s coral reefs”, Nature, vol. 535, No. 7612 (2016), pp. 416-419.

9       Rachel A. Turner and others, “Trust, confidence, and equity affect the legitimacy of natural resource governance”, Ecology and Society, vol. 21, No.3 (2016).

Author bio: Carrie Manfrino is President and Director of Research and Conservation at the Central Caribbean Marine Institute, Little Cayman, Cayman Islands.

The Secretary General’s Written Message on International Womens Day- March 8 2017

Women’s rights are human rights. But in these troubled times, as our world becomes more unpredictable and chaotic, the rights of women and girls are being reduced, restricted and reversed.

The UN Secretary-General Mr. António Guterres

The UN Secretary-General Mr. António Guterres

Empowering women and girls is the only way to protect their rights and make sure they can realize their full potential.

Historic imbalances in power relations between men and women, exacerbated by growing inequalities within and between societies and countries, are leading to greater discrimination against women and girls. Around the world, tradition, cultural values and religion are being misused to curtail women’s rights, to entrench sexism and defend misogynistic practices.

Women’s legal rights, which have never been equal to men’s on any continent, are being eroded further. Women’s rights over their own bodies are questioned and undermined.  Women are routinely targeted for intimidation and harassment in cyberspace and in real life. In the worst cases, extremists and terrorists build their ideologies around the subjugation of women and girls and single them out for sexual and gender-based violence, forced marriage and virtual enslavement.

Despite some improvements, leadership positions across the board are still held by men, and the economic gender gap is widening, thanks to outdated attitudes and entrenched male chauvinism. We must change this, by empowering women at all levels, enabling their voices to be heard and giving them control over their own lives and over the future of our world.

Denying the rights of women and girls is not only wrong in itself; it has a serious social and economic impact that holds us all back. Gender equality has a transformative effect that is essential to fully functioning communities, societies and economies.

Women’s access to education and health services has benefits for their families and communities that extend to future generations. An extra year in school can add up to 25 per cent to a girl’s future income.

When women participate fully in the labour force, it creates opportunities and generates growth. Closing the gender gap in employment could add $12 trillion to global GDP by 2025. Increasing the proportion of women in public institutions makes them more representative, increases innovation, improves decision-making and benefits whole societies.

Gender equality is central to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the global plan agreed by leaders of all countries to meet the challenges we face. Sustainable Development Goal 5 calls specifically for gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls, and this is central to the achievement of all the 17 SDGs.

I am committed to increasing women’s participation in our peace and security work. Women negotiators increase the chances of sustainable peace, and women peacekeepers decrease the chances of sexual exploitation and abuse.

Within the UN, I am establishing a clear road map with benchmarks to achieve gender parity across the system, so that our Organization truly represents the people we serve.  Previous targets have not been met. Now we must move from ambition to action.

On International Women’s Day, let us all pledge to do everything we can to overcome entrenched prejudice, support engagement and activism, and promote gender equality and women’s empowerment.