Northwest Pacific regional ‘science diplomacy’ urged for Northeast Asian peace and prosperity

December 5, 2018
Press Release

One of very few intergovernmental cooperative mechanisms in Northeast Asia, the UN Environment Northwest Pacific Action Plan (NOWPAP) can play a large role in supporting regional peace and prosperity through ‘science diplomacy’, a major conference on East Asian seas in Iloilo City, Philippines, recommended.

A session, organized by the UN Environment Northwest Pacific Action Plan, during the 27-30 November 2018 East Asian Seas Congress, reviewed the over two decades of regional cooperation it has promoted and concluded that the Action Plan plays a key role in the regional implementation of ocean-related Sustainable Development Goals. Marine science experts, representatives of other ocean organizations and Northwest Pacific Action Plan Regional Activity Centres attended the session.

The East Asian Seas session identified the following challenges for the UN Environment Northwest Pacific Action Plan in promoting the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in the region:

  • Building lasting regional peace through science diplomacy
  • Supporting sustainable growth and prosperity
  • Protecting the marine and coastal environment

Addressing the session, UN Environment Northwest Pacific Action Plan Coordinator Lev Neretin said that regional cooperation has been indispensable in producing scientific assessments that underpin good ocean governance. The  Action Plan's Medium-term Strategy 2018-2023 is focused on regional coordination of ocean-related Sustainable Development Goals, particularly goal 14: Life Below Water, he pointed out. The comprehensive Northwest Pacific regional environmental assessment to begin next year will also make an important contribution to the 2021-2030 Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development.

Speakers emphasized greater integration of the social, economic and environmental dimensions of sustainable development by expanding UN Environment Northwest Pacific Action Plan’s technical focus to include new issues such as climate change mitigation and adaptation, transboundary marine spatial planning as well as enhanced preparedness and response capacities to deal the increasing threat of chemical spills in the region.

In a presentation, the Sub-Commission for the Western Pacific of the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (WESTPAC) of the United Nation Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) outlined the elements of good ocean governance as aiming for:

  • A clean ocean with the sources of pollution identified, quantified and reduced, and pollutants removed from the seas
  • A healthy and resilient ocean with maritime ecosystems mapped and protected, and impacts measured and reduced
  • A ‘predicted ocean’ with social understanding of, and ability to forecast the health of the sea and its impact on human well-being
  • A safe ocean where human communities are protected from sea-based hazards
  • A sustainable productive ocean with its provision of food supply and livelihoods secured
  • A transparent and accessible ocean where all nations and citizens have access to ocean information and are capable of making informed decisions for marine well-being.

Progress towards promoting good ocean governance in the region would require the UN Environment Northwest Pacific Action Plan to develop new partnerships and synergies with relevant global, regional and national institutions, speakers said.

The UN Environment Northwest Pacific Action Plan was also a participant in the Ocean Talk and Sea Exchange discussion during East Asian Seas Congress 2018, and highlighted the importance of Regional Action Plans on Marine Litter for better intraregional coordination of policy and information exchange on this growing threat to the world’s oceans, particularly from plastic pollution.

“However, preventive action remains insufficient. There is an urgent need for scaling up action aimed at behavioural change and developing quantitative targets and indicators of progress. There is also a need to integrate the principles of the plastics circular economy of after-use, reduced leakage and decoupling”, Neretin said.

Co-organized by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), Government of the Philippines and Partnerships in Environmental Management of the Seas of East Asia (PEMSEA), East Asian Seas Congress 2018 brought together over 900 participants from across Asia, Europe, North America and Australia.

In a high-level Ministerial Forum comprising 11 countries bordering seas in East Asia, the Congress adopted the “Iloilo Ministerial Declaration on East Asian Region, Moving as One to Secure Healthy Oceans, People and Economies”, reaffirming commitment to sustainable development of coastal and marine resources in the region.