Nippon Foundation-United Nations, Office of Legal Affairs, Division for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea (NF-DOALOS) Fellowship Program Global Alumni Meeting 2014
I am most delighted to see so many fellows from over 50 countries here today. Please accept my most sincere welcome to you on behalf of The Nippon Foundation.
I would like to thank Under-Secretary-General Miguel de Serpa Soares and all the United Nations staff members who have worked so hard together with us to make this Alumni Meeting possible. I am also extremely grateful for the tremendous support we have had from the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the generosity of those who will kindly give lectures to our fellows.
For many centuries, we naively believed that the world’s maritime resources are infinite. The rapid expansion and development of human activities have been achieved to date by using as much of the oceans’ resources as we please.
However, with the world’s population exceeding 7 billion, the impact of human activities on our planet can be felt more than ever. We are now approaching a point where the oceans can no longer fully recover, even with their great natural resilience. The risk of humans using up the world’s oceans’ resources has now become a distinct possibility. Climate change, ocean acidification, and marine pollution are just a few examples of global maritime issues that need to be tackled urgently.
If our overreliance on the oceans continues, they will no longer remain as bountiful as they are today for our children and grandchildren. It will take many, many years—or may even be impossible—to regenerate fully the depleted oceans so that they are once again bountiful.
We must put all of our efforts into promptly resolving the numerous problems facing our oceans. However, since each problem is complex and interrelated, there is a limit to the solutions that can be achieved through the efforts of a single country, organization, or sector.
The Nippon Foundation believes that in order to effectively address such challenges, it is important to accept the common responsibility of humanity toward the oceans, and to recognize that we are all interconnected and that solutions depend on the efforts of each of us as individuals. We seek to learn from the past as we take responsibility for the future today, so as to ensure that sustainable oceans will be passed on to the next generation.
It is thus our view that facilitating this international coalition requires all of us to foster professionals who possess a global and multidisciplinary vision and the capability to build comprehensive networks that go beyond existing frameworks.
Our human capacity building programs are designed to create and nurture a new generation of ocean professionals who will provide leadership to change people’s awareness and behavior. This approach is paralleled by a second objective, which is the construction of a network through which professionals engaged in ocean-related issues can cooperate and collaborate beyond their respective areas of expertise.
The Nippon Foundation has so far trained more than 1,000 ocean experts from over 130 nations in various fields and built a vast network linking them. We hope that the ideas emerging from this network can link policies and scientific knowledge and create truly effective international political frameworks and regulations for rich and sustainable oceans.
We think that all of you fellows are capable of creating such proactive networks and solutions. Our hope is that you will always keep in mind this expectation of you and continue to work hard for the sake of the world’s oceans.
We want to encourage you to make the most of this Global Alumni Meeting by strengthening your networks and making your first steps toward collaborating with each other. For instance, the outcome of active discussions with the ocean experts invited, as well as with other fellows, could be developed into a proposal to the United Nations Secretary-General.
The Nippon Foundation hopes that this Alumni Meeting will be the starting point for many actions to address the challenges facing the world’s oceans. We are looking forward to working together with you.
To our other guests, I would also like to humbly ask you to offer any support and assistance you can to guide our fellows in their vital mission.