The ocean has shaped my life, from my beginnings in the outer islands of Fiji to my appointment last year as the UN Secretary-General’s special envoy for the ocean. Like millions of others before me who have taken sustenance and succour from Neptune’s world, I know there is so much for which we should give thanks. And yet, over the intervening decades of my life, a quickening cycle of decline has been imposed on the ocean’s health by the ever-accumulating effects of harmful human activities.
Our oceans provide everything from food for billions around the world, to protecting communities and economies from storms—bringing it at least $1.5 trillion to the global economy every year. But they also face a barrage of threats, from marine pollution and dwindling fish stocks, to the dramatic effect of climate change on coastal communities. Such challenges require new ways of thinking and innovative financing tools that address both the health and economic wealth of our oceans.
In 2017, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and Norway launched a new, state-of-the-art marine studies vessel, among the most advanced of its kind. Its mission: To investigate some of the planet's least-explored ocean using cutting-edge technology and sophisticated equipment to help developing countries assemble scientific data critical to sustainable fisheries management, and study how a changing climate is affecting our oceans.
Digital technologies have spread rapidly in much of the developing world. However, the development and environmental benefits from using digital technologies are yet to be fully captured. The GEF launched the Sustainable Cities Integrated Approach Pilot in 2015. A key characteristic of the program is innovation – leveraging the latest in technology and connectivity to make better decisions and achieve the urban aspirations of its residents.
When I try to explain the importance of the GEF when it comes to protecting the world’s biodiversity, I end up with two main arguments.
While working towards gender equality may be business as usual in many countries, in much of the world massive disparities in education, empowerment and opportunities remain a daily reality for women and girls.
Gender equality is an environmental issue.
Environmental threats represent the greatest challenge we face today.
Waters recede in some places, drying lands and livelihoods out while sea levels and hurricanes inundate and sweep others away. Temperature changes threaten entire species and agricultural economies, challenging the resilience of communities.
“Women should benefit from this project, otherwise we’ll have to continue to go in and cut the mangrove.”
There is strength in numbers, the old idiom goes. Indeed, history shows that collaboration fosters ideas and results. Next week, the Global Platform for Sustainable Cities, or GPSC, will convene in New Delhi, India, to again share ideas and build on their collective vision: to work towards shaping cities that are sustainable, thriving, and inclusive through the decades ahead.