Proposal for Intergovernmental Panel on Ocean GovernanceCall for sustainability made by Yohei Sasakawa at first UN Ocean Conference

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The Nippon Foundation Chairman Yohei Sasakawa proposed to establish the intergovernmental panel at a plenary meeting of the United Nations Ocean Conference

On June 9 (New York time), at a plenary meeting of the United Nations Ocean Conference, Yohei Sasakawa, Chairman of The Nippon Foundation, proposed that the United Nations establish an intergovernmental panel for comprehensive ocean governance. Noting that multiple agencies working independently can no longer deal with the increasingly serious ocean crisis, Mr. Sasakawa called for a panel to serve as a platform for cross-sectional and integrated discussions that would lead to specific actions for ocean sustainability.

The intergovernmental panel on ocean governance proposed by Mr. Sasakawa would be positioned under the UN Secretary General, with its concrete proposals reported to the UN General Assembly through the Secretary General.

With each of the nine UN organizations working in ocean-related areas – including the International Maritime Organization (IMO), Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), and Office of Legal Affairs (OLA) – operating under its own set of treaties, agreements, and protocols, it is difficult to address ocean issues from a comprehensive, global perspective.

For example, the IMO has adopted more than 50 conventions, but because the IMO does not have enforcement power, there is no guarantee that they will be followed even if countries adopt them. The FAO has also adopted conventions and standards of conduct for responsible fishing practices, but the fact is that they have not prevented over-fishing and other illegal practices.

Since 1987, The Nippon Foundation has been engaged in “ocean capacity-building” through a range of initiatives in areas including oceanography, climate change, and marine and fisheries resource management, and to date these programs have trained more than 1,200 ocean experts from 140 countries around the world. Based on this extensive experience, at the 2015 IMO Assembly, The Nippon Foundation identified the need to establish a new framework for comprehensive management of the diverse range of ocean issues, and this led to today’s proposal. Mr. Sasakawa also proposed the creation of a fund to support the establishment and operation of the intergovernmental panel.

In his speech, Mr. Sasakawa noted, “Our oceans are in a critical state, largely as a result of human activities and human decisions,” and asked for the cooperation of member states by stating, “With your support, we, The Nippon Foundation pledge our full commitment in making the intergovernmental panel on ocean governance a reality.”

Since the industrial revolution of the late 18th and 19th century, CO2 levels in the atmosphere have increased almost 40% and the average global temperature has risen by almost one degree. The effects of this can be seen in the continuing loss of arctic sea ice, ocean acidification and warming, and coral bleaching.

The Paris Agreement that was ratified and took effect in 2016 was an attempt to counter these trends. Participating countries set a long-term goal of holding the increase in the global average temperature to less than two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. However, the Trump Administration’s recent decision to withdraw the United States – the second largest emitter of greenhouse gases after the People’s Republic of China – from the Paris Agreement suggests that the road to sustainable oceans continues to face obstacles.

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