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Immersed in Change: Costa Rica hosts High-Level Event in preparation of 2025 United Nations Ocean Conference

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On the road to UNOC-3

By H.E. Mr. Arnoldo Brenes Castro, Ambassador of Costa Rica to the Kingdom of the Netherlands.

A healthy ocean is vital for human survival, producing 50% of the oxygen we breathe, regulating climate and global temperatures, and acting as the largest carbon dioxide sink. The diverse ecosystems and abundant resources provided by the ocean are essential for our planet.

On 7 and 8 June, 2024, Costa Rica hosted the “Immersed in Change” High-Level Event, as a major milestone on the road to the Third United Nations Ocean Conference (UNOC-3), that will take place in Nice, France, in June 2025, and will be co-hosted by Costa Rica and France. This Event was conceived as a platform for the exchange of best practices and successful experiences related to the conservation and sustainable use of the ocean.  

Li Junhua, Secretary-General of the 2025 UN Ocean Conference / High Level Event on Ocean Action – 7 Jun 2024 Photo by IISD/ENB – Diego Noguera

Indeed, one of the aims of the High-Level Event was to promote alliances between financial entities such as donors, partners, and multilateral agencies, with community leaders, local and national organizations, governmental entities, the private sector and academia to ensure technical and financial support for project proposals that seek to replicate these success stories. This was called the “matchmaking for initiatives addressing marine and coastal challenges”. This pilot initiative prioritized 11 projects in the Latin American and Caribbean region which propose marine-coastal solutions. As a specific outcome during the event, the formalization of financial support for two specific initiatives and the commitment of technical support for three initiatives was confirmed.

The High-Level Event

During the High-Level Event, authorities, experts, and a wide participation of members of civil society from different parts of the world engaged in solution-oriented discussions aimed at addressing the Ocean crisis. During a series of high level dialogues, government representatives reflected on recent progress in global ocean-related negotiations, in particular the actions needed to ensure the prompt ratification of the UN agreement on the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction (BBNJ Agreement) and the implementation of the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF). There was a strong call to maintain momentum for adopting an ambitious global plastics treaty by the end of the year to combat marine plastics pollution.

Hervé Berville, Minister of State for Marine Affairs, France. Photo by IISD/ENB – Diego Noguera. jpg

Costa Rica’s Foreign Affairs Minister, Arnoldo André, highlighted the Peace for Ocean Declaration, urging participants to commit to joint solutions for a sustainable future. Hervé Berville, France’s Minister of State for Marine Affairs, emphasized that protecting the Ocean is crucial for tackling the triple planetary crisis: biodiversity loss, climate change, and pollution. Li Junhua, UN Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, stressed the importance of the Renewed Declaration for Resilient Prosperity from the Fourth International Conference on Small Island States, making ocean protection imperative.

Costa Rican President Rodrigo Chaves underlined the necessity of rescuing the Ocean to secure the planet’s future, urging actionable commitments to ocean conservation. In a video message, French President Emmanuel Macron praised Costa Rica’s inspirational efforts and highlighted the Peace for Ocean Declaration’s role in intensifying collective ocean action, setting the stage for the Third UN Ocean Conference.

Arnoldo Andre Tinoco, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Costa Rica. High-Level Event on Ocean Action – 7 Jun 2024 / Photo by IISD/ENB – Diego Noguera.

Throughout the first day, delegates participated in interactive panels showcasing replicable success stories. Panels covered topics such as satellite technology for conservation and sustainable use, the sustainable blue economy,  sustainable use of fishing resources, and scientific developments to address marine pollution. A high-level segment on ocean action saw 25 government representatives reaffirming their commitments to ocean conservation and showcasing initiatives for implementing the BBNJ Agreement and GBF.

On 8 June 2024, World Ocean Day, the High-Level Event emphasized the Ocean’s intrinsic value in sustaining life, providing oxygen, food, medicine, identity, and culture. Panels addressed issues such as ghost fishing gear, blue financial mechanisms to close the finance gap for the Ocean, ocean-cleaning technologies, and the implementation of international ocean governance agreements to transform them into actionable outcomes.

Ambassador Gina Guillén, Costa Rica, Director General of Foreign Policy. Costa Rica Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Photo by IISD/ENB – Diego Noguera

During the closing ceremony, Costa Rican President Rodrigo Chaves was presented with the Peace for the Ocean Declaration, which summarizes efforts and commitments towards ocean conservation. In his closing remarks, he emphasized the need for knowledge, moral integrity, and courage to implement ocean policies. This declaration aims be a global call to raise awareness about the role of the ocean in the planet and promote concrete actions to change the paradigm in the relationship of human beings with the ocean, in order to ensure a balance between conservation and sustainable use. The Ocean Declaration has been initially supported by 26 countries, along with some civil society organizations and will stay open for endorsement until UNOC 3 in 2025.

Local youth show their paintings to Rodrigo Chaves Robles, President of Costa Rica, and Signe Zeikate, First Lady of Costa Rica. Photo by IISD/ENB – Diego Noguera

Preparations in The Hague

In preparation for the Event in Costa Rica a precursor encounter took place in The Hague on May 14th, 2024. The Embassies of Costa Rica and France convened a ‘Blue Talk’ themed “Increasing Ambitions and Efforts to Protect the Ocean.” This event featured opening remarks from H.E. François Alabrune, the French Ambassador, and myself in my capacity as the Costa Rican Ambassador. The ‘Blue Talk’ attracted a diverse group of participants, including representatives from the Dutch Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Infrastructure and Water Management, Defense, and Agriculture. Research institutions like the Maritime Research Institute Netherlands (MARIN) and the Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research (NIOZ) were also present. Contributions from Wageningen Marine Research and Deltares, an independent institute for applied research, enriched the discussions. Non-governmental organizations such as The Ocean Cleanup and Clear Rivers, along with Primo Marine, a society of independent technical advisors, further enhanced the dialogue.

Discussions at this ‘Blue Talk’ focused on four pivotal topics: implementing global agreements for ocean governance, mobilizing financial resources, combating marine plastic pollution and ghost fishing, and exploring the sustainable blue economy and technological advancements for ocean protection. This gathering allowed a rich discussion on some of the main challenges faced by humanity in relation to the Ocean, as well as an exchange of best practices and experiences related to ocean governance and health.

Panel on The Blue Economy as an Engine for Prosperity moderated by Valerie Hickey, Global Director, Environment, Natural Resources and Blue Economy, World Bank / High Level Event on Ocean Action 7 Jun 2024 / Photo by IISD/ENB Diego Noguera
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