Secretary-General’s Report Proposes Coral Reef Protection for UNCSD Agenda

12 August 2011: The UN General Assembly has circulated an advance, unedited version of a Report of the UN Secretary-General, titled “Protection of coral reefs for sustainable livelihoods and development,” for consideration at the Assembly’s 66th Session.

The Report was requested by the Assembly in resolution 65/150 of December 2010. It analyzes the economic, social and development benefits of coral reef protection in the context of the themes and objectives of the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD, or Rio+20), and identifies potential actions needed to protect coral reefs and related ecosystems.

The Report recognize ICRI as “the only global entity devoted solely to coral reef conservation” and notes the importance of coral reefs as “among the most biologically rich and productive global ecosystems,” providing social, economic and environmental benefits for millions of people, as well as the threats caused to reefs by human activity and climate change (unsustainable fishing practices, coastal development, pollution, ocean warming and ocean acidification), and issues a warning about continuing with current practices. It calls for “concerted global, national, regional and local efforts” and implementation of protection, resilience building, recovery, conservation and adaptation measures. The UNCSD, the Report says, should review implementation gaps in marine-related goals and targets, and formulate concrete, ocean and coral reef related measures and actions.

On the UNCSD’s first theme, green economy, development of a green economy will “rely heavily on the sustainable management of oceans and the conservation of marine resources, including coral reefs,” according to the report. It says many States are replacing the term “green economy” with the “blue economy” approach, which implies the need to focus on benefits for coastal communities, especially in small island developing States (SIDS) and developing countries. The “blue economy” approach also highlights the importance of healthy oceans in relation to the three pillars of sustainable development.

On the UNCSD’s second theme, institutional framework for sustainable development (IFSD) the report outlines ways to reinforce political commitment with regard to existing international agreements and conventions.

In the section on “the way forward,” the Report suggests several potential actions to protect coral reefs and related ecosystems, including expanding the role of UN-Oceans, to ensure coordinated and coherent action on coral reef protection across the UN system, and creating a specialized Coral Reefs Task Force under UN-Oceans. It also provides detailed recommendations on, inter alia: minimizing global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, which lead to ocean acidification and ocean warming; reducing unsustainable fishing practices; reducing marine-based pollution; implementing sustainable tourism and promoting eco-tourism; encouraging data collection, scientific research, education and communication on coral reefs; and ensuring the involvement of local/indigenous communities and other stakeholders in the development and implementation of national legislation.

Source: UNCSD Update – A compilation of items recently posted to the Sustainable Development Policy & Practice knowledgebase

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