Partnerships for Ocean Action: Our Ocean Conference 2022 in Palau
Peace Boat was honoured to be invited to participate in the Our Ocean Conference 2022 held in Palau between April 13-14, as well as related activities and events. The theme of the conference was “Our Ocean, Our People, Our Prosperity,” drawing on the rich tradition as an ocean society, focusing on islander perspectives and approaches to ensuring the health of our ocean. Peace Boat has a long relationship with Palau, first visiting the archipelago on the 3rd Peace Boat voyage. Over the years, various youth from Palau have also travelled onboard the Peace Boat as part of our educational programs for ocean and climate action. This year, Peace Boat’s Ocean and Climate Youth Ambassador from Palau, Manzel Ngirmeriil, played a central role in continuing his leadership among the young leaders who participated in the Our Ocean Conference.
The conference concluded with 410 commitments for ocean health worth $16.35 billion and was attended by leaders in ocean conservation and many heads of state in particular from countries on the front line of the ocean crisis. The first United States Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, John Kerry, co-hosted the conference together with Palau President Surangel Whipps, Jr., who began his term in 2021. Mr Kerry opened the conference with a keynote address in which he told those attending “We humans are responsible for the crises of the ocean and climate. We know what the solution is. We can’t allow ourselves to be manipulated, lied to by bad actors. We have to fight the status quo. We have to fight the indifference”. Speaking of critical ocean topics front and center on the agenda, he reminded those present “If shipping were a “country,” it would be the eighth largest emitter in the world. That must change”.
Peace Boat also hosted a side event at the conference together with EarthEcho International with support from Oceanic Global entitled “Building a Wave of Community-Led Impact to Support Global Ocean Resilience & Sustainable Tourism". Sean Russell, International Associate Director of Youth Engagement and Partnerships at EarthEcho, highlighted the importance of youth leadership in the ocean conservation movement, EarthEcho’s work with young leaders and the impact of the OceanEcho 30x30 campaign. Peace Boat presented the Ocean and Climate Youth Ambassador Programme which has been bringing youth from small island states on the front line of the ocean degradation and the climate crisis onboard Peace Boat’s ship for capacity building and to share the messages from their communities.
Youth from Palau have participated in Peace Boat’s Ocean and Climate Youth Ambassador including a special edition of the programme from Yokohama to Koror when Peace Boat visited Koror on the 97th Global Voyage in 2018. During this visit to Palau, Peace Boat became the first passenger ship to sign the Palau Pledge, an initiative to ensure tourists act in an ecologically and culturally responsible way on the island, for the sake of Palau's children and future generations of Palauans. Peace Boat’s support of the Palau Pledge and the importance of sustainable tourism was also part of the event. The side event concluded with a small group discussion to explore how session attendees can integrate youth leadership into their Our Ocean Conference commitments.
With the maritime sector one of the action points of the conference, Peace Boat presented Ecoship, a transition model for decarbonizing the maritime sector, on a panel on the Blue Economy at the United Nations Small Island Developing States Global Business Network (SIDS-GBN) Forum held on the margins of the conference. The forum focused on ocean partnerships to enhance resilience in island nations including the role of sustainable tourism.
Organized by UN OHRLLS (the United Nations Office of the High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States) and the Government of Palau, the Forum took place at the Ngarachamayong Cultural Center, with hundreds of UN delegates, Ambassadors, NGO leaders and civil society from island nations sharing their work and partnerships. The Forum also included an interactive session for brainstorming challenges and solutions under the key themes, as well as a session for partnership announcements.
Recognising the importance of the ocean for sustainable development in addition to recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, the forum also focused on ocean partnerships to enhance resilience in island nations. The agenda included interactive sessions under the following key themes:
- Sustainable Tourism and COVID-19 Recovery
- Blue Economy
- Ocean Energy
Ecoship is an essential part of Peace Boat’s commitment to a healthier ocean, and we continue to work towards a zero-carbon emission ship to reach 100% renewable energy in the future. Peace Boat US Director, Emilie McGlone told those in attendance “ Ecoship will be the platform for Peace Boat’s round-the-world educational voyages, hosting exhibitions on green technology in up to 100 ports per year and serving as a floating sustainability laboratory, contributing to research on the ocean, the climate and green technology. The ship will also create awareness and encourage active engagement with the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development and beyond”.
Following the conclusion of the Our Ocean conference, Peace Boat co-hosted an EcoSprint workshop together with Blue Planet Alliance and Planet Home, bringing together stakeholders from government, policy makers, leaders in sustainability and cultural ambassadors to work towards 100% renewable energy for island nations by 2045. At the EcoSprint, Peace Boat Ocean and Climate Youth Ambassadors, Manzel Ngirmeriil was recognized as a Global Ambassador for the SDGs, with a focus on SDG 13 for Climate Action and SDG 7 for Affordable and Clean Energy.
The next Our Ocean Conference will be held in Panama in March 2023.