Genova Coastal Race. The Ocean Race Europe, June 2021
© Sailing Energy/The Ocean Race

Race to Universal Declaration of Ocean Rights begins in Genova

Ecology

30/03/2022 - 14:30

Experts in international law, diplomacy, ocean science and sport, met this week in Genova, Italy, to kick off the process of drafting principles for a potential Universal Declaration of Ocean Rights, which would set out a global rulebook for governing the ocean to ensure it is properly protected.

Ahead of the workshop, which was organised by The Ocean Race, the toughest test of a team in sport and a leader in sports sustainability, the Seychelles, Panama and city of Genova all committed to supporting ocean rights.

Backing for the ambitious initiative is vital, as in September 2023 the draft principles for a Universal Declaration of Ocean Rights will be presented in conjunction with the United Nations General Assembly to their member countries, with the aim of getting their support. If the concept is agreed, the Declaration would be written with input from countries across the world in a collective effort.

The workshop followed The Ocean Race Summit Seychelles, which was held in the island nation last week, where it brought a range of key players from the worlds of sailing, industry, government and science, along with passionate ocean advocates. Part of a series of 12 Summits, developed in collaboration with 11th Hour Racing, Premier Partner of The Ocean Race, these high-level events provide a unique opportunity to gather insights from across the globe on key issues relating to the health of our blue planet and explore ocean rights.

After each Summit, Genova, Italy, (which will host the grand finale of The Ocean Race in June 2023) will hold a workshop to analyse the outcomes of each event and start to draft the principles that could be included in a potential Declaration.

The first session in the "Genova Process" explored how a Declaration could be achieved and drew on examples of how the Seychelles has successfully integrated ocean protection in policy, while at the same time. balancing the need for development.

Along with the Seychelles commitment to supporting ocean rights, the Mayor of Genova, Marco Bucci, pledged that the city would also be behind the initiative. Panama Senator Juan Diego Vásquez also announced the country's support for working towards the recognition of ocean rights. The commitment follows Laurentino Cortizo, the President of Panama, signing Rights of Nature into national law last month, meaning Panama now joins a number of countries who recognize the Rights of Nature at the national level.

The workshops bring together a range of specially selected expert voices throughout the process and the outcomes will be continuously shared with key decision makers, governments, NGOs, IGOs, businesses, sailors and other key stakeholders. Facilitated by The Ocean Race, including Race Chairman Richard Brisius, the workshops will include a core team of experts that will be involved throughout the process:

Michelle Bender, Ocean Campaigns Director, Earth Law Center
Mumta Ito, Founder, Nature's Rights
Antonio Di Natale, marine biologist and scientific advisor on ocean matters
Bronwen Golder, Fellow at the Stanford Centre for Ocean Solutions
Richard Brisius, Race Chairman of The Ocean Race, said: "Our marine world is in crisis. The issues that affect it, like climate change, pollution and industrial overfishing, are not isolated, which is why the country-by-country approach to protecting it is failing. Just as we have one ocean, we need one set of rules to protect it.

"By giving the ocean rights we can help to shift mindsets, so that it is no longer seen as a resource to use and exploit and instead a vital, complex, system that fuels all life on the planet. We can only achieve this by working as a team, across borders, across skill sets, with a wide diversity of perspectives to have the conversations that are needed to drive ocean rights."

Mumta Ito, Founder of Nature's Rights added: "Without nature there are no people, but there are no legal frameworks like the one we are putting forward, that have nature's interests at heart. We cannot protect nature's rights, while exploiting the ocean to its max."

During the workshop Michelle Bender, Ocean Campaigns Director, Earth Law Center, spoke about the need to shift perception, noting that even the steps being made to protect the seas are often focused on how a healthy ocean benefits people, rather than nature itself. She said: "Without the rights of nature, the ocean is not seen as something of value except to how humans use it. We need to look at the ocean as a living being with an inherent right to exist just as humans do. What does the ocean need to be healthy and thriving?"

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