HSA at Our Ocean (Daily Updates)

Date: 15th April 2024

Welcome to our Our Ocean Greece Daily Updates blog! Stay tuned for regular coverage of our activities during the 9th Our Ocean Conference in Athens.

High Hopes continue for further High Seas Treaty action as Athens Ocean Conference draws to close

On Wednesday 17th April, the Our Ocean Conference went into its final day with High Seas action continuing to be a key theme during different events. With many speakers mentioning it in their interventions, it would be very hard to have left this conference without hearing somewhere about the importance of the Treaty and the need to ratify it as soon as possible. 

The morning started with a panel discussion on “Making High Seas Protection happen”, outlining key elements of the new Treaty around equitable access and benefit sharing, with Torsten Thiele, Global Ocean Trust, highlighting the opportunities provided by the Treaty’s Special Fund. Gina Grillo from Costa Rica outlined how the Treaty will provide the framework to protect biodiversity, from the seabed up through the water column to the surface. And Julio Cordano highlighted there is still much work to do to prepare for building the institutional framework ahead of the first Conference of Parties.

Now with four ratifications under the belt, and news that further ratifications  are on the near horizon, we are now looking to the next key international milestones in the #RaceForRatification including the Fourth Small Island Developing States (SIDS) Conference that is happening from 27-30 May 2024 in Antigua and Barbuda and the Immersed in Change conference that is happening in Costa Rica on 7-8 June 2024. 

As we continue the #RaceForRatification, we hope the political momentum that has been created since the Treaty was agreed last year continues to grow. In particular, let’s try to get the ratification tally into  double figures by these meetings. 

Reflecting on these past three days, it was a successful #OurOcean conference for the High Seas. Keep a lookout for our new tentacle friend that will be popping up in different places in the coming months to remind us all we need to ratify the High Seas Treaty now! And for now here are a few more photo highlights from HSA’s past 3 days of action! 

High Seas champion pen for governments that sign the Octavia board and commitment

Packed room during High-Level Side Event on High Seas

Lucie Debaere doing an excellent job moderating the High-Level event
Badges for countries that signed or ratified
Tentacle helper!
Big smiles for High Seas action
Dr. Dionysia-Theodora Avgerinopoulou, Prime Minister’s Special Envoy for the Ocean Greece and Rebecca Hubbard, Director of High Seas Alliance
Rebecca and Sarah from the HSA team
Tattooed up for the High Seas Treaty
Mehak Arora, EarthEcho Youth Rep
Commissioner Sinkevičius talking at the High-level event
High-level attendees

High Energy for the High Seas continues on Day 2 of  Our Ocean Conference – April 16th, 2024

Tuesday 16 April saw the official opening of the Our Ocean Conference, with the Stavros Centre a hive of high-level activity as leaders from around the world arrived to pledge their commitments to safeguarding the ocean. Throughout the opening plenary, the High Seas Treaty got a special call-out by a number of speakers, including former US Secretary of State, John Kerry, who highlighted that the Treaty “must be ratified” and the need to catalyze new partnerships to protect the High Seas.

In the afternoon, the High Seas Alliance, working together with governments and some of its member organizations, held a high-level event on the need for high ambition for the High Seas. Located up high on the 8th floor in the appropriately named Lighthouse room (given the Treaty has been seen by many as a beacon of hope for the ocean), leaders from the European Union and the governments of Belgium, Bermuda, Chile, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, France, Germany, Greece, Republic of Korea, Nigeria, Palau, Philippines, and Seychelles all came together to call for the swift ratification of the Treaty. 

This event was an excellent opportunity for everyone to celebrate the ratifications that have happened internationally to date for the first time. With the news that the Seychelles had deposited their ratification at the UN just a few days ago, four nations (Chile, Palau, Belize, and Seychelles) have now officially ratified the Treaty. Together, these four countries represent ratifications spanning four key regions – Latin America, the Pacific, the Caribbean, and Africa. 

We were very proud to welcome representatives from three of these nations – Palau, Chile, and Seychelles – to the event, and were pleased to award them with a special High Seas Champion glass paperweight of Octavia the octopus, our campaign mascot, to thank them for their efforts in setting the pace in the Race for Ratification of the High Seas Treaty. 

The High Seas Champion paperweight 
Lucie Debaere (moderator) from the Belgium government, presenting President of Seychelles. HE Wavel Ramkalawan, with a High Seas Champion paperweight for ratifying the Treaty
HE Julio Cordano, Ambassador and Director of the Division of Environment, Climate and Oceans, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Chile being handed a High Seas Champion paperweight for ratifying the Treaty
HE Surangel Whipps Jr., President of Palau, speaking at ‘High Ambition and Partnerships for the High Seas’

The event was also inspired by strong ocean voices, with Marcela Hey of the Koro Nui o te Vaikava, the Ocean Council of Rapa Nui speaking passionately about the strong responsibility and connection her Indigenous community has to the ocean, as well as ocean legend, her Deepness Sylvia Earle urging us to take action before it is too late.

Marcela Hey of the Koro Nui o te Vaikava, the Ocean Council of Rapa Nui, speaking at ‘High Ambition and Partnerships for the High Seas’
Oceanographer, explorer, and founder of Mission Blue, Dr. Sylvia Earle, at the event

Building and sustaining high-level political momentum in the #RaceForRatification of the High Seas Treaty is essential, and events like Our Ocean Conference are critical for galvanizing action. 

High Seas Alliance was very excited to welcome a further three new signatures to its commitment to swift ratification, with the governments of Greece, Korea, and Seychelles signing onto the Treaty Champions Declaration.

HE Wavel Ramkalawan, President of Seychelles, signing the Treaty Champions Declaration
HE Song Myeongdal, Vice Minister of Oceans and Fisheries, Republic of Korea signing the Treaty Champions Declaration
Dr Dionysia Avgerinopoulou, Our Ocean Conference 2024 Coordinator and the Greek Prime Minister’s Special Envoy for the Ocean, signing the Treaty Champions Declaration

And the eye is still firmly on the prize of the Treaty entering into force in 2025, with the goal of securing a further 56 ratifications in time for the 3rd UN Ocean Conference in June 2025 in Nice, France.  It’s going to take all hands on deck to get the Treaty up and running, which was the key message from a panel of experts and key stakeholders from UN bodies, philanthropy, regional fisheries organizations and youth, led by Greece’s special envoy of the Ocean, and organizer of the Conference, Dr Dionysia Theodora Avgerinopoulou.

At the event (left to right): Mehak Aoroa,  EarthEcho International Youth Leadership Council; Minna Epps, Director, IUCN’s Ocean Programme; Vladimir Jares, Director, Division for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea, U.N.;  Dionysia Theodora Avgerinopoulou, Greece, Our Ocean Conference 2024 Coordinator and Prime Minister’s Special Envoy for the Ocean; Susan Gardner, Director, Ecosystems Division, U.N. Environment Programme; Darius Campbell,  Secretary, Northeast Atlantic Fisheries Commission; and Melissa Wright, Senior Program Officer, Bloomberg Philanthropies.

Yesterday also marked the announcement of the selection of the 2024 High Seas Youth Ambassadors by High Seas Alliance member organization, EarthEcho. Six new Youth Ambassadors (aged 17-22) from Brazil, Mexico, India, Indonesia, South Africa, and Samoa will plan and carry out campaigns to build the public and political momentum needed to advance the High Seas Treaty in different regions. 

Young people have the biggest stake of all in the future of our planet, so ensuring that their voices are heard, and bringing in new perspectives and energy on the importance of this new Treaty, will be critical for its success. The High Seas Alliance looks very much forward to working with this amazing group of young leaders! 

Elsewhere in Athens, the Olympic flame was being handed over to France, who will be hosting the next Olympics later this year. As someone remarked in the opening session of Our Ocean Conference, this flame is a poignant symbol of the hope that the meeting will spark universal and successful action for the ocean. For the High Seas, with all eyes firmly fixed on achieving the 60 ratifications required for the Treaty to enter into force by the 3rd Our Ocean Conference in 2025, we hope this spark ignites the political leadership needed for the High Seas and our collective futures.

The Treaty Champions Declaration

Stay tuned for more news from the conference tomorrow!

Photo: Nikos Thomas

High Spirits for the High Seas on Day 1 of Our Ocean Conference

And it’s lift off for the 9th Our Ocean Conference as well as High Seas Alliance’s giant tentacle on the first day of the meeting! Soaring up into the blue skies of Athens our bright and cheerful mascot danced in the breeze bearing the message “Ratify the High Seas Treaty Now!”. 

Located next to the Megaron concert hall that is hosting the Our Ocean Film Festival, this 8 metre gentle giant was a real showstopper in the busy Athens traffic, and our team of enthusiastic helpers passed out stickers and tattoos to both meeting participants and curious passers by. 

Photo: Nikos Thomas
Photo: Nikos Thomas
Photo: Nikos Thomas
Environmentalists from Argentina proudly sporting their octavia tattoos.

And our tentacle was also enjoying its newfound celebrity on social media:

Director of the Division for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea (DOALOS), Office of Legal Affairs of the UN Secretariat, that played an integral part in supporting the negotiations of the High Seas Treaty chatting with the HSA team.
Environmentalist, author, former MEP (and father of former UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson) Stanley Johnson came by to show his support and get a High Seas Treaty temporary tattoo!

But it is not only awareness raising, but also ambition raising that are key for this meeting, to highlight why the High Seas Treaty is so critical for our Ocean and why it needs to be ratified swiftly. Tomorrow we will be working with partner governments and organisations to hold a high-level event bringing together leaders to celebrate the ratifications that have taken place to date of the Treaty, and how we can turn up the dial on ambition so we can get to the 60 needed for the Treaty to enter into force swiftly. 

The High Seas Treaty: an Ocean of Potential in Greece – April 15th, 2024 

In Greek mythology, the sea was a realm of power and danger. It was ever-present and ruled by mighty gods and goddesses, with the powerful (and ill-tempered!) Poseidon presiding over it. It is then quite fitting that the annual Our Ocean Conference will take place this year in Athens, Greece from 15-17 April, with the bright blue waters of the Mediterranean as its backdrop.

This meeting, with the tagline “An ocean of potential”, is the first international ocean conference to take place since the new High Seas Treaty was opened for signature at the UN headquarters in New York on 20 September 2023. 

Bringing together governments and key stakeholders from all around the world this is a critical opportunity to promote solutions for a healthy, vibrant ocean. This includes the urgency to ratify and implement the new High Seas Treaty – an essential piece of international ocean governance that will help turn the tide on the biodiversity and climate crises by enabling much greater protection of half the planet that make up the High Seas.  

Take a sneak peek at our brand new video that will be launched at Our Ocean – it gives a great overview of the issue in just 3 minutes!

High Seas Alliance will be inside and outside the corridors of power during the conference, promoting the #RaceForRatification campaign. This aims to secure at least 60 ratifications by governments needed for the Treaty to enter into force and to start to be implemented as a legally binding international law. To date, three countries (Palau, Chile and Belize) have ratified and deposited it with the UN. Seychelles has finalised its ratification process nationally and is poised to formalise it at the UN soon. 

But the ocean cannot wait. With mounting pressures from over-exploitation and rising global temperatures, we need to up the ratification tempo, and keep political momentum high to reach 60 ratifications ahead of the 3rd UN Ocean Conference in June 2025 in Nice, France, a key ratification deadline for governments to unite around. 

We will keep updating you on all our activities in this running blog during the meeting in Athens and let you know how we are flying the flag for the High Seas. 

On Monday, we will be very proud to unveil our latest member to the High Seas Alliance family – an 8 meter giant inflatable octopus tentacle that represents our campaign mascot (affectionately known as Octavia). 

On Tuesday, we will be hosting, together with governmental and NGO partners, a high-level event to bring more High Seas Treaty sparkle to the conference, celebrating ratifications to date and encouraging further leadership. Plus, our High Seas Alliance member, Earth Echo, will be announcing the names of some brand new High Seas Youth Ambassadors. 

Hopefully, Our Ocean Greece will be a key milestone in ocean protection and one that will make the mighty ocean god, Poseidon, proud! 

More coming soon. Please keep an eye on our social media accounts and share our stories on the #RaceForRatification in the meantime.

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Posted on Categories Treaty Ratification Featured News