The Ocean Race, the Government of Cabo Verde and US-based Earth Law Center present principles to guide a new relationship with the ocean.
The ocean, the foundation to all life, has inherent rights and intrinsic value, and they need to be recognised and included in legislation at national, regional and global levels. This is the strong message that The Ocean Race, the government of Cabo Verde and Earth Law Center delivered to the United Nations General Assembly Member States.
The Ocean Race Summit - Presenting Ocean Rights, held yesterday at the UN headquarters during the 78th session of the UN General Assembly (UNGA 78) in New York, culminates several years of work to develop principles for a Universal Declaration of Ocean Rights.
The proposal is also a call for urgent action: the ocean is not only a resource but critical to all life, and a change is needed in the way society values, treats and interacts with the blue heart of our planet, facing cumulative impacts from pollution, habitat destruction, overfishing and climate change.
Principles on ocean rights
Principles on ocean rights, developed by over 150 global experts, policymakers, business leaders, lawyers, Indigenous Peoples, scientists, NGOs, and other stakeholders, include recognising that we are all ocean guardians and have a shared responsibility to care and ensure responsible use of the ocean; respecting diverse values, knowledge and practices; recognising the ocean’s right to representation and to have a voice at the table; and guaranteeing the principle of precaution and prevention when serious and irreversible damage is suspected.
The principles were shared with an audience of heads of State, ministers and delegates from Permanent Missions to the UN with the aim of growing support with United Nations Member States, with the goal of securing a Universal Declaration of Ocean Rights by 2030 that would provide a global approach to protecting the seas.
In recent years, there has been a growing movement to legally grant nature rights. Over 200 laws and policies in over 40 countries around the world have recognized that nature, including ecosystems and species, has inherent rights, and legally should have the same protection as people and corporations; that ecosystems and species have legal rights to exist, thrive and regenerate.
The Ocean, as the largest ecosystem on the planet, generates oxygen, sequesters carbon dioxide, regulates climate, is the primary source of food and jobs for millions of people, and sustains millions of species, both marine and land-based.
The Ocean Race 2022-23 - 19 September 2023. Prime Minister of Cabo Verde, Ulisses Correia e Silva, speaking at The Ocean Race Summit - Presenting Ocean Rights, at the UN HQ in New York. © Cherie Bridges / The Ocean Race
In his opening speech, Prime Minister of Cabo Verde, Ulisses Correia e Silva, said: “Today, we introduce a resolution at the United Nations, proposing the concept of ocean rights. In the face of climate change, biodiversity loss, and ocean pollution, this initiative aims to empower the ocean with a voice in decisions that affect her, strengthening human and economic rights and laying an ethical foundation for a sustainable future.”
“Cabo Verde, in collaboration with The Ocean Race and other stakeholders, is proud to champion this cause, forging a special partnership to advance ocean rights, foster a sustainable blue economy, and position our nation as a premier sustainable tourist destination. I call upon all member countries to join us in recognizing the inherent rights of the ocean, collectively shaping a brighter future for generations to come." the Prime Minister of the archipelago nation added.
He also announced that Cabo Verde and The Ocean Race are developing a long term partnership based around the promotion of ocean health.
The Ocean Race 2022-23 - 19 September 2023. The Ocean Race Chairman Richard Brisius, speaking at the UN HQ. © Cherie Bridges / The Ocean Race
The Ocean Race Chairman Richard Brisius, said: "I want to underline that the ocean had its power and place long before we came. But we can, and we must, reset our relationship with the ocean and recognize the rights of the ocean. Our future depends upon it.”
At today’s Summit, Michelle Bender, Legal Consultant, Earth Law Center and Ocean Vision Legal, creator of the Ocean Rights framework in 2017, stressed: “Ocean rights is the recognition that the ocean is much more than a resource and that humankind has a responsibility to steward the ocean in a manner consistent with our interconnected relationship.”
The Ocean Race 2022-23 - 19 September 2023. Michelle Bender, Legal Consultant, Earth Law Center and Ocean Vision Legal, creator of the Ocean Rights framework in 2017. © Cherie Bridges / The Ocean Race
“A Universal Declaration of Ocean Rights would improve implementation of international ocean governance by providing consistency and coherence through common standards and principles across all ocean related frameworks. It would also move us away from the prevalent anthropocentric regulation of human activity by providing a legal foundation for ocean protection and accountability, which would prevent irreversible harm before it occurs and foster a global wave of ocean guardians to ensure the Oceans interests are represented in decision making and disputes,” she added.
Along with the principles, The Ocean Race and partners presented the One Blue Voice petition, which contained signatures from citizens from 178 countries, showing that there is strong support from the public to give the ocean a voice.
In the ambitious journey towards the adoption of a Universal Declaration of Ocean Rights, the short term ambition of the principles presented is to serve as a foundation in supporting the inclusion of Ocean Rights in the 2023 United Nations Omnibus Resolution on ‘Oceans and Law of the Seas.’
Working towards a Universal Declaration of Ocean Rights is part of The Ocean Race’s multi-award winning ‘Racing with Purpose’ sustainability programme developed in collaboration with 11th Hour Racing, a Premier Partner of The Ocean Race.
Cover photo The Ocean Race Summit - Presenting Ocean Rights, was held yesterday at the UN HQ in New York. © Anne Beauge / Biotherm / The Ocean Race