While Pacific laughter filled the Campolide Room at the Tivoli Oriente Hotel where Pacific leaders attending the UN Oceans Conference (UNOC) in Portugal gathered on Monday evening, their message to the world was anything but jovial.

Their position on why the world needs truly sustainable ocean economies was conveyed by the Chair of the Pacific Islands Forum and Fiji Prime Minister, Frank Bainimarama.

“This week we must hold the world accountable to the promise it made to preserve life below water for the sake of all life above it,” he said.

The promise in question was made during the first UNOC, co-hosted by Fiji and Sweden in New York in 2017, where the alarm was raised on the urgent need to scale up action on the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 14, to conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development.

This week, Bainimarama is joined by other Pacific leaders and senior government officials at the global oceans event at the Altice Arena, demanding urgent and bold actions to protect the oceans.

“Let’s not forget, this Conference is the Pacific’s Conference. The world would not be here in Lisbon were it not for our fight to secure SDG 14, which is the basis of the Ocean Conference,” Bainimarama said, speaking during a Pacific Islands Forum Members Dinner.

The special event was hosted by the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) Secretary-General and Pacific Ocean Commissioner, Mr Henry Puna and the Director-General of the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP), Sefanaia Nawadra.

“As Pacific Islands, we rightly identify ourselves as stewards of our ocean. This UN Ocean Conference is critical as we need a collective global effort to address some of the most defining ocean issues of our time. Together we can make this happen,” said Nawadra.

UNOC2022 is among the first global conferences where a strong Pacific representation has been noted since COVID-19 border lockdowns. PIF Secretary-General, Puna said he was delighted to see the Pacific being represented so strongly at such a critical conference where the Pacific voice must be heard.

“The Pacific is stronger together,” he said, acknowledging the attendance of Pacific leaders and their commitment on the floor during the main plenary session and interventions made during the interactive dialogues and side events.

Prime Minister Bainimarama agrees, noting there is a power in the Pacific’s physical representation in Lisbon.

“We are large ocean States. We are the Leaders the world looks to here. I know full well that we have the most to lose should the world fail to meet this moment,” he said. “But we also have the most to gain from truly sustainable ocean economies. I’d like us to rally around that hope this week and speak together about the ocean as an opportunity; the greatest of our lifetime.

We, above any nations, must show what shape blue progress can take. We must overcome our small scale with cooperation, our challenges with innovation, and apathy with action. Our economies depend on it. Our jobs depend on it. The food we eat depends on it. And our children and grandchildren depend on it. Above all, we are here for them, their future, and the ocean they deserve,” he said.

This story was written by Nanette, originally published at SPREP on 29 June 2022, reposted via PACNEWS.

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