Tidal Wave of Support Lifts World Oceans Day

Schooling fairy basslets on the Great Barrier Reef, Australia, July 8, 2007 (Photo by GreensMPs) Creative Commons license via Flickr

Schooling fairy basslets on the Great Barrier Reef, Australia, July 8, 2007 (Photo by GreensMPs) Creative Commons license via Flickr

By Sunny Lewis

NAIROBI, Kenya, June 12, 2018 ( News) – To celebrate World Oceans Day, June 8, nations throughout the world showed an unprecedented commitment to healthy, thriving oceans and seas, free from plastic pollution, say officials at UN Environment, based here in Nairobi.

World Oceans Day has come a long way from 1992 when it was first proposed by Canada. Now the ocean has its own Sustainable Development Goal, SDG 14, which commits countries to “conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development.”

Eight new countries have joined UN Environment’s Clean Seas Campaign in the past week, making Clean Seas the largest global compact for combating marine litter, with commitments from 51 nations covering 62 percent of the world’s coastlines.

India made a bold commitment to address plastic pollution upstream by banning all single-use plastics by 2022, and to address the problem downstream, with a full coastal audit, developed in partnership with the Clean Seas campaign.

Across Nigeria, currently one of the Top 10 biggest plastic polluters, 26 major plastic waste recycling plants will be opened as part of the country’s commitment to the campaign. Head of UN Environment Erik Solheim met with Nigerian government officials June 8 to discuss the scope of their collaboration with Clean Seas.

Other countries who pledged this week to step up their protection of the ocean and their coastlines include: Argentina, Cote d’Ivoire, United Arab Emirates, Honduras, Guyana and Vanuatu.

“There is now more momentum than ever before to beat plastic pollution and protect the oceans that we all share from the tide of disposable plastic,” said Solheim. “Seeing so many countries rise to the occasion by joining the Clean Seas campaign means we are all moving towards healthier oceans that are free from pollution and full of life.”

This week, Heads of State met with the leaders of international organizations at the G7 summit in the coastal province of Quebec, Canada, to discuss strategies to address specific challenges for the oceans, including plastic pollution, overfishing, rising sea levels and the resiliency of coastal communities.

“The facts are clear. Our oceans are a mess,” UN Secretary-General António Guterres declared at a G7 outreach event. The G7 group of advanced economies, consists of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States. The European Union also attends G7 meetings.

“Plastic waste is now found in the most remote areas of the planet. It kills marine life and is doing major harm to communities that depend on fishing and tourism,” Guterres warned.

Five of the G7 Nations Endorse Ocean Plastics Charter

Pointing out that one mass of plastic in the Pacific is now bigger than France, Guterres welcomed the G7 Ocean Plastics Charter, agreed on Saturday by five of the G7 nations, without the United States and Japan. The move is being seen by some observers as a watershed moment for cleaning up ocean trash.

“Recognizing that healthy oceans and seas directly support the livelihoods, food security and economic prosperity of billions of people,” the G7 leaders met in Charlevoix with the heads of state or government of the Argentina; Bangladesh; Haiti; Jamaica; Kenya; Marshall Islands; Norway; Rwanda, which chairs the African Union; Senegal; Seychelles; South Africa; Vietnam; and the heads of the United Nations, the IMF, the World Bank and the OECD, “to discuss concrete actions to protect the health of marine environments and ensure a sustainable use of marine resources as part of a renewed agenda to increase global biodiversity protection.”

The G7 final communique, agreed by all G7 members except the United States, says, “We endorse the Charlevoix Blueprint for Healthy Oceans, Seas and Resilient Coastal Communities , and will improve oceans knowledge, promote sustainable oceans and fisheries, support resilient coasts and coastal communities and address ocean plastic waste and marine litter.”

In the Banc D'arguin, Mauritania, the Imraguen group is famous because of its way of fishing, without boats, but with dolphins. When dolphins make a circle around fishes, fishermen throw their nets and bring the fish up on shore. June 18, 2006 (Photo by Christine Vaufrey) Creative Commons license via Flickr

In the Banc D’arguin, Mauritania, the Imraguen group is famous because of its way of fishing, without boats, but with dolphins. When dolphins make a circle around fishes, fishermen throw their nets and bring the fish up on shore. June 18, 2006 (Photo by Christine Vaufrey) Creative Commons license via Flickr

“Recognizing that plastics play an important role in our economy and daily lives but that the current approach to producing, using, managing and disposing of plastics and poses a significant threat to the marine environment, to livelihoods and potentially to human health, we the Leaders of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom and the European Union endorse the G7 Ocean Plastics Charter.”

The charter outlines a “resource-efficient lifecycle management approach to plastics in the economy,” which includes working toward making all plastics recyclable by 2030, reducing single-use plastics and promoting the use of recycled plastic.

It also pledges to build out recycling infrastructure, and innovate around more sustainable technologies.

“But we all need to do so much more,” Guterres emphasized, “not just on plastic waste but on all ocean issues.”

Greenpeace International agrees.

Greenpeace International Executive Director Jennifer Morgan said in a statement, “While the leadership to outline a common blueprint is good news, voluntary charters focused on recycling and repurposing will not solve the problem at the source.”

“Governments must move beyond voluntary agreements to legislate binding reduction targets and bans on single-use plastics, invest in new and reuse delivery models for products, and hold corporations accountable for the problem they have created,” Morgan urged.

More governments than ever are implementing some kind of intervention against single-use plastics, from bans, restrictions and levies on disposable plastic items to the implementation of better recycling facilities and the development of viable alternatives to the most common contributors to marine litter.

UN Environment launched #CleanSeas in February 2017, with the aim of engaging governments, the general public, civil society and the private sector in the fight against marine plastic litter. By connecting individuals, civil society groups, industry and governments, UN Environment aims to transform habits, practices, standards and policies around the globe to reduce marine litter and the harm it causes.

British Commonwealth Nations Adopt Blue Charter

This year, international concern for the plight of the global ocean is at an all-time high. In April, the 53 countries of the British Commonwealth adopted the Commonwealth Blue Charter, creating a guide to cooperative action on ocean issues.

Commonwealth countries recognize that time is of the essence and they are cooperating to achieve their goals.

In the words of the Commonwealth Blue Charter, the time has come to “move from words to actions.”

Already, eight Action Groups led by Commonwealth countries are being established. More are anticipated.

“Innovation is key to this whole issue. We need practical new ideas for on-the-ground action – that’s what the Action Groups aim to deliver,” comments Nick Hardman-Mountford, head of the Oceans and Natural Resources Division at the Commonwealth.

And groups are acting now. Australia, Belize, and Mauritius have stepped forward to co-lead a Blue Charter Action Group on coral reef regeneration. Just a few years ago, scientists were lonely voices sounding the alarm about coral. Now it is common knowledge that the world’s reefs are in peril, and protecting the corals must extend to actively restoring them.

Likewise, Sri Lanka is leading a Mangrove Restoration Action Group. Cyprus is leading on sustainable aquaculture, and New Zealand is tackling ocean acidification.

“To see Commonwealth leaders stepping forward for the ocean was a real ‘pinch-me moment,'” says Jeff Ardron, who coordinates work under the Commonwealth Blue Charter.

Think Blue Ocean Education Portal Emerges

The launch of Think Blue took place on June 8, World Oceans Day, in Salvador, Bahia with the World Bank, Virtual Educa, Discovery Education, The Smithsonian, Intel Corporation, Brazilian and international partners with endorsements by the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) and the Indian Ocean Rim Association.

The OECS will soon be populating the Think Blue portal with original education content on the Blue Economy, as well as outfitting it with the artificial intelligence algorithm for enhanced use: video here.

The new ocean education portal, Think Blue: Innovation in Ocean Education, aims to accelerate access to ocean education, linking technology, adaptive learning, and ocean-based industries to foster a skills and knowledge-based future.

The Organization of Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) suggests that these skills will be linked to ocean-based industries – coastal tourism, shipping and transport, fisheries and aquaculture – as they are projected to provide the greatest number of new jobs and entrepreneurial opportunities.

Already, we are experiencing high demand in these ‘blue’ sectors, particularly in coastal and island countries across the globe.

Think Blue points out that progress towards meeting the education targets of the Sustainable Development Goals and for meeting the rising demand for skilled employment in ocean-based industries is hindered by a shortage of at least 68.8 million teachers and educators as projected by UNESCO.

Think Blue is offered as an enhanced portal solution for innovation in ocean education, prompting and supporting life-long learning.

Think Blue aims to act as a “one-stop-shop tool” for searching and accessing aggregated quality ocean education content on marine conservation, plastic pollution management and advocacy, technical industries and marine policy, says Think Blue Coordinator Jorge Barbosa.

“The portal aims to apply disruptive technologies such as artificial intelligence and machine learning to personalize individual searches and yield better results for all audiences,” Barbosa says. “The portal represents a shift in mindset towards the use of edu-tech products and disruptive technologies to better prepare current and future generations to steer the planet toward a sustainable future.”

Featured Images: Humpback whale breaches right next to a pair of kayackers off Moss Landing, California, July 20, 2014 (Photo by Wade Tregaskis) Creative Commons license via Flickr

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G7 Turns Spotlight on Women’s Empowerment

Women bear their burdens in rural Rajasthan, India, November 18, 2008 (Photo by Richard Evea) Creative Commons license via Flickr

Women bear their burdens in rural Rajasthan, India, November 18, 2008 (Photo by Richard Evea) Creative Commons license via Flickr

By Sunny Lewis

WASHINGTON, DC, June 1, 2018 ( News) – Globally, countries are losing $160 trillion in wealth because of differences in lifetime earnings between women and men. This amounts to an average of $23,620 for each person in the 141 countries studied by the World Bank Group for a new report released this week.

“The world is essentially leaving $160 trillion on the table when we neglect inequality in earnings over the lifetime between men and women,” said World Bank CEO Kristalina Georgieva.

“This is a stark reminder that world leaders need to act now and act decisively to invest in policies that promote more and better jobs for women and equal pay at work,” she said.

The study, “Unrealized Potential: The High Cost of Gender Inequality in Earnings,” examines the economic cost of gender inequality in lost human capital.

Its release precedes this year’s meeting of the G7, currently headed by Canada, which has committed to ensuring that gender equality and women’s empowerment are integrated across all G7 activities during its presidency.

This informal group of seven advanced economies consists of: Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States. The European Union also attends.

As G7 president, Canada will host the G7 Summit June 8-9 at the Fairmont Le Manoir Richelieu in the Charlevoix region of Quebec.

Advancing gender equality and women’s empowerment is one of the five themes that will occupy G7 leaders this year, says Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

“The themes we have chosen for the year will help focus our discussions on finding real, concrete solutions to promote gender equality, women’s empowerment, clean energy, and economic growth that works for everyone,” said Trudeau.

On January 23, Trudeau announced the creation of the Gender Equality Advisory Council , which will ensure that gender equality and women’s empowerment are integrated across all themes, activities and initiatives of Canada’s G7 Presidency. The Council is co-chaired by Melinda Gates and Isabelle Hudon.

The Prime Minister said, “Women’s empowerment is a key driver of economic growth that works for everyone. All of us benefit when women can participate freely, fully, and equally in our economies and society, and supporting and empowering women and girls must be at the heart of the decisions we make.”

“That is why we made gender equality and women’s empowerment a central theme of Canada’s G7 Presidency – and created the Gender Equality Advisory Council for Canada’s G7 Presidency,” Trudeau said. “Thanks to the Council, we will make sure a focus on gender equality guides the work done at the G7 Leaders’ Summit – and set a precedent for the G7 going forward.”

For the first time, the G7 engagement process included a summit of diverse feminist leaders, the W7 . In April, over 60 feminist leaders from Canada, G7 countries and around the world met in Ottawa with Trudeau and Canada’s Minister for the Status of Women.

The W7 called for a more just and equitable economy that moves away from exploitation and extractivism. Too many women around the world are facing precarious, dangerous and exploitative work situations, and the current economic model is fueling conflict and violence against women, they said.

“The greatest threats my community in Guatemala faces today are caused by extractive industries from G7 countries; and most of them are actually Canadian,” said Irma Alicia Velasquez Nimatuj, an indigenous Guatemalan journalist and anthropologist, in speaking to Prime Minister Trudeau.

In nearly every country today, women face barriers to full participation in the work force and earning as much as men. As a result, women account for only 38 percent of their country’s human capital wealth, defined as the value of the future earnings of their adult citizens – as compared with 62 percent for men, according to the World Bank report.

In low income and lower-middle income countries, women account for just a third or less of human capital wealth.

Programs and policies that make it easier for women to get to work, access basic infrastructure and financial services, and control land could help achieve gender equality in earnings, the World Bank report suggests.

“Human capital wealth accounts for two-thirds of the global changing wealth of nations, well ahead of natural and other forms of capital,” said the report’s author Quentin Wodon, World Bank Group lead economist. “Because women earn less than men, human capital wealth worldwide is about 20 percent lower than it could be.”

The losses in wealth from inequality in earnings between men and women vary by region. The largest losses – each between $40 trillion and $50 trillion – are observed in East Asia and the Pacific, North America, and Europe and Central Asia.

This is because these regions account for most of the world’s human capital wealth, but losses in other regions are also substantial.

In South Asia, losses from gender inequality are estimated at $9.1 trillion, while they are estimated at $6.7 trillion in Latin America and the Caribbean and $3.1 trillion in the Middle East and North Africa.

In Sub-Saharan Africa, the losses are estimated at $2.5 trillion. While losses in low income countries are smaller in absolute terms than in other regions, as a share of the initial endowment in human capital, the losses are larger than for the world.

The study is part of a broader research program at the World Bank that benefits from support from Government of Canada, the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation, and the Global Partnership for Education.

“There are estimates showing the costs and benefits of gender equality to key economic sectors and economic growth,” said World Bank Group Senior Director for Gender Caren Grown.

“By focusing on wealth,” said Grown, “this study is a unique addition to that literature since wealth, and especially human capital, is the assets base that enables countries to generate future income.”

Featured Image: This textile factory in Shtip, Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, employs about 120 women, who make garments for Italian and German brands. There is still no minimum wage in the FYRM textile industry. December 7, 2016 (Photo by Rena Effendi / UN Women Europe and Central Asia) Creative Commons license via Flickr