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23 May, 2024
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Commonwealth leaders forge path to ocean sustainability

Cyprus to host historic ocean summit

Andreas Karamitas

On Friday, April 19, 2024, Limassol will host the inaugural ministerial summit for the Oceans of the Commonwealth States. With the captivating theme "Our Resilient Common Ocean: from Cyprus to Samoa," this summit builds upon the momentum generated at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Rwanda back in 2022. That pivotal gathering highlighted the urgent need for collective action and strategic management of our seas, oceans, and water resources.

This upcoming meeting will see the participation of ministers and high-ranking officials from Commonwealth member states. It presents a unique opportunity to shape a unified voice advocating for our oceans. Among the 56 Commonwealth nations, 49 boast coastal territories. However, the significance of the ocean extends far beyond mere geography; it underpins global trade, transportation networks, resource accessibility, and security measures for all member states.

During their time in Cyprus, ministers responsible for ocean affairs within the Commonwealth will convene to establish core principles, identify key priorities, and outline actionable strategies for a Commonwealth Ocean Declaration. Their ultimate goal is to secure unanimous agreement on a roadmap leading to the adoption of this declaration at CHOGM 2024 in Samoa.

Rt Hon Patricia Scotland KC, the Commonwealth Secretary-General, emphasized the critical importance of this initiative. "The livelihoods of billions hinge upon the well-being of our oceans," she noted. "From ensuring food security to addressing the impacts of climate change, the ocean is at the heart of our collective prosperity. However, our oceans face unprecedented threats, including climate change, pollution, and overfishing."

She further emphasized the necessity of collaborative efforts, stating, "No single nation can tackle these challenges alone. The first Ministerial Summit for the Oceans of the Commonwealth States will serve as a crucial platform for ministers to exchange insights and experiences, driving progress towards fulfilling our international commitments and the goals of the Commonwealth Blue Charter."

April 19 will mark a significant milestone, precisely six years since the adoption of the Commonwealth Blue Charter at CHOGM 2018. Back then, leaders committed to working together to address shared oceanic concerns and safeguard our oceans for future generations.

Since its inception in 2018, the Commonwealth Secretariat has expanded its efforts in this domain, facilitating Member State-led Blue Charter Action Groups and providing technical assistance for ocean governance, including avenues for accessing climate finance for ocean-related projects.

Key Commonwealth Ocean Facts:

- The Commonwealth comprises 49 coastal states spanning diverse regions and oceanic territories.
- Over one-third (36%) of the world's ocean under national jurisdiction falls within the Commonwealth's purview.
- The Commonwealth hosts nearly half (45%) of the world's coral reefs, along with a significant portion of mangrove forests and diverse marine biodiversity.
- Notably, eight of the world's 20 largest marine protected areas are located within Commonwealth waters.
- Twenty-five out of the 33 small Commonwealth states are classified as Small Island Developing States (SIDS) or "large ocean states," collectively representing two-thirds of the global total.

[This article was translated from its Greek original]

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