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13 June, 2024
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Commonwealth ministers meet in Cyprus to safeguard the oceans

Leaders from 28 countries gathered in Limassol to commit to protecting and managing vital marine ecosystems around the world

Andreas Karamitas

At a pivotal moment for our planet, representatives from 28 Commonwealth nations convened in Cyprus to shape the destiny of our oceans. The Commonwealth Ocean Ministers' Meeting, held from April 19 to 21 under the theme "From Cyprus to Samoa," marked a landmark pledge for collaborative action to safeguard and manage the oceans, the lifeblood of Earth. Alongside ministers, the gathering welcomed various officials responsible for ocean and water resource management in their respective countries. Throughout the sessions, discussions underscored the paramount importance of oceans and water culture. Covering over 70% of the Earth's surface, oceans serve as essential drivers of life on our planet. They generate roughly half of the oxygen we breathe, regulate climate patterns, shield our coastlines from severe weather, and sustain billions of people by providing food and resources.

However, reports from delegates revealed alarming challenges confronting our oceans. Climate change is driving up water temperatures and altering ocean currents, jeopardizing marine ecosystems. Pollution, including plastics, chemicals, and other waste, is contaminating the waters and endangering ocean health. Overfishing is depleting fish stocks and disrupting marine food chains.

In response to the urgent crisis, Commonwealth ministers vowed to take the lead in ocean protection and management. Building upon the discussions in Cyprus, they committed to adopting the Blue Water Charter and the Commonwealth Ocean Declaration. The Blue Water Charter, a collective commitment by Commonwealth nations, outlines 12 goals for marine conservation and management, encompassing pollution reduction, sustainable fisheries, and the establishment of marine protected areas. Additionally, the Commonwealth Ocean Declaration will establish common objectives and cooperative actions for sustainable marine governance, slated for adoption at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Summit in Samoa in October.

Moreover, the meeting in Cyprus yielded a series of crucial initiatives to advance sustainable ocean management. A pivotal decision was the establishment of the Blue Water Charter Centre of Excellence, aimed at providing support and expertise on marine ecosystem management, pollution prevention, and sustainable resource utilization. A working group on financing sustainable oceans was also formed to secure the necessary funds for implementing commitments. Embracing gender equality in ocean affairs, the Commonwealth vowed to promote gender-sensitive practices, ensuring women's active participation and benefits in marine conservation efforts. Furthermore, delegates committed to protecting at least 30% of the oceans by 2030, aligning with the targets set by the World Biodiversity Framework.

The Commonwealth Ocean Ministers Meeting marks a significant stride towards a more sustainable future for our oceans. The collective commitment, coupled with new initiatives and a clear trajectory, signifies an optimistic shift towards safeguarding these crucial life-support systems.

From Paphos, the Commonwealth extends an invitation for collaboration, recognizing its potential to lead a global endeavor in ocean protection and secure a healthy legacy for future generations. Yet, the success of this mission hinges on the implementation of commitments and the execution of initiatives. The Commonwealth urges all nations and stakeholders to work together, emphasizing the urgency of addressing ocean threats. Protecting the oceans is imperative for mitigating climate change, conserving biodiversity, and ensuring food security. Collective action and international cooperation are indispensable in tackling global challenges.

While the meeting in Cyprus shed light on daunting challenges, it also unveiled promising opportunities. Heightened public awareness, technological advancements, and growing political will provide a favorable backdrop for addressing ocean threats. Nevertheless, protecting the oceans remains a formidable task, necessitating a coordinated and collective effort. The Commonwealth can play a pivotal role by facilitating the exchange of best practices, offering technical assistance, and championing innovative solutions. Moreover, active participation from all stakeholders, including governments, businesses, and citizens, is indispensable for success.

In her remarks, Commonwealth Secretary-General Rt Hon Patricia Scotland underscored the imperative nature of the work, emphasizing that a healthy planet hinges on healthy oceans. The oceans, she noted, provide the air we breathe, sustenance, income, and climate stability. However, mounting human pressures threaten these invaluable resources, underscoring the urgency for action.

Echoing these sentiments, Cypriot Deputy Minister for Maritime Affairs, Ms. Hajimanoli, highlighted Cyprus' commitment to preserving marine ecosystems and marine life. As an island nation with thriving maritime activity, Cyprus recognizes the oceans as integral to its economy and identity. The meeting concluded with Cyprus being hailed as a champion for aquaculture and its sustainability, showcasing how these ventures coexist with the marine ecosystem.

The Commonwealth Ocean Ministers Meeting has ignited a beacon of hope for the future of our oceans. The collective resolve, innovative initiatives, and clear direction charted signify a positive trajectory toward safeguarding these vital planetary assets. As nations embark on the journey to implement commitments and execute initiatives, the Commonwealth stands ready to lead a global charge in ocean conservation, ensuring a healthy legacy for generations to come.

Cyprus  |  World  |  environment  |  oceans  |  seas

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