UN officials say that  planning and preparation for a major global conference next June to address  issues that are threatening the health of the world’s oceans are moving ahead.
The Ocean Conference—as it is called, will take place in New York from 5-9 June, and will aim to promote implementation of the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda, and specifically, Goal 14 of the Sustainable Development Goals that sets out specific targets for the conservation and sustainable use of the oceans.
“The success of The Ocean Conference is vital to us all—for the health and sustainability of our oceans, our place on this planet, and ultimately, for the peace and prosperity of us all,” said the President of the UN General Assembly, Peter Thomson.
The Ocean Conference will bring together representatives from governments, the private sector, and civil society to discuss solutions to the problems facing the oceans.  The Conference will result in a call to action—a declaration that provides the  political commitment needed to drive implementation of SDG Goal 14,  the launch of strategic partnerships between all sectors of society, and the announcement of voluntary commitments.
“The importance of next year’s Ocean Conference cannot be overstated, Thompson said.  “The ocean is the lifeblood of our planet. It covers three quarters of the Earth’s surface, and contains 97 percent of the Earth’s water.”  He added that economists suggest that the value of the services that ocean ecosystems provide amount to around $24 trillion a year.
The Ocean Conference Secretary-General Wu Hongbo said oceans were critical to sustainable development.  “Despite their importance, oceans, seas and marine resources are increasingly threatened, degraded or destroyed by human activities, reducing their ability to provide crucial ecosystem services.”
Mr. Wu added that The Ocean Conference will be a “great opportunity for Member States and all stakeholders to assess challenges, identify opportunities and actions, as well as to strengthen partnerships to advance the implementation of SDG 14 on oceans and seas.”
Fiji and Sweden will serve as the Co-presidents of the Conference.  Portugal and Singapore will serve as facilitators to guide preparations for the Conference.
A preparatory meeting will be held  on 15 and 16 February 2017 in New York.  The pre-registration and accreditation of NGOs and other stakeholders to the preparatory meeting and the Conference itself are now open, with the deadline on 22 January 2017.