The oceans cover more than 70% of our planet and are a vital support system for all life. They regulate the global climate and are an important component of the global carbon cycle. The oceans also provide us with essential resources and ecosystem services and host immense biodiversity and a diverse array of important economic activities. Seafood provides protein and essential nutrients for 1 billion people, especially in low-income countries. Moreover, the oceans support the livelihoods of millions of coastal populations and enable sustainable economic growth, renewable energy, international trade, and recreational and cultural activities.
Maintaining healthy and productive ocean ecosystems is therefore crucial for us all. However, the oceans are currently under threat. Traditional activities such as shipping and fishing have intensified and expanded, and a range of new activities such as oil and gas exploration and potentially deep sea bed mining in the future have been developing, generating pollution, overexploitation of resources and destruction of critical habitats. Growing societies and economic activities are also increasingly shifting towards the coasts resulting in a growing impact on the integrity of ocean ecosystems and on all associated ecosystem services. Climate change and ocean acidification compound the impacts of these activities and place further pressure on marine ecosystems and their services.
Why Promote the Regional Approach
Marine ecosystems, resources, and species do not respect national borders, while the effects of marine pollution and degradation are felt by us all. Conservation and sustainable use of the ocean requires an integrated and coherent ecosystem-based approach that aligns with the interconnected nature of marine ecosystems and the cumulative impacts of human activities affecting them. As such, good governance of the ocean will not be achieved by States acting individually. In this regard regional organisations, mechanisms and instruments play a crucial role in delivering ocean sustainability by providing for cooperation and coordination across territorial and sectoral boundaries. The regional level of governance has proven to be a strategic lever for the conservation and sustainable use of the ocean, often taking action “closer, further and faster” than institutions at the international or national level. Regional organisations and mechanisms include, Regional Seas Conventions and Action Plans, Regional Fisheries Bodies and many regional economic organisations that have a mandate in relation to the marine environment and resources.
Partnership for Regional Ocean Governance – PROG
To address current and emerging threats to the ocean, transformative governance approaches are needed. In many respects, current ocean governance is not sufficient: different sectors, such as fisheries or shipping, are regulated by separate bodies hardly interacting with each other. Due to the transboundary nature of the oceans, measures by individual States are not sufficient. To advance ocean sustainability, existing governance approaches and instruments need to be strengthened to ensure effective cooperation across sectors and scales.
To this end the Partnership for Regional Ocean Governance (PROG) was initiated in 2015 with support from Klaus Töpfer, former UNEP Executive Director, now TMG-Think Tank for Sustainability. PROG is hosted by the United Nations Environment Programme (UN Environment), Institute of Advanced Sustainability Studies e.V. (IASS), the Institute for Sustainable Development and International Relations (IDDRI), and TMG-Think Tank for Sustainability. PROG’s main aim is to identify and promote integrated regional models for cross sectoral oceans governance and to advance regional cooperation for the conservation and sustainable use of marine ecosystems and resources. Established as a platform at the science, policy, society interface, we focus on facilitating dialogue processes that foster greater regional cooperation and better integrated and coherent governance frameworks at regional and national levels. Our areas of work include the conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction (“high seas”) and the implementation of the 2030 Agenda (Sustainable Development Goals) for the ocean and coasts.
The work of the PROG is supported by the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development and the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ).
Funded by the ministries of research of the Federal Republic of Germany and the State of Brandenburg, the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS) aims to identify and promote development pathways for a global transformation towards a sustainable society. The IASS employs a transdisciplinary approach that encourages dialogue to understand sustainability issues and generate potential solutions in cooperation with partners from the sciences, politics, the economy, and civil society. A strong network of national and international partners supports the work of the institute. Its central research topics include the energy transition, emerging technologies, climate change, ocean governance, air quality, systemic risks, governance and participation, and cultures of transformation.
The Institute for Sustainable Development and International Relations (IDDRI) is an independent research institute dedicated to fostering the transition to sustainable development and prosperity for all. IDDRI identifies the necessary conditions for the integration of sustainable development into public policies and proposes tools for their implementation. It takes action at different levels, from international cooperation to the policies of countries, cities and businesses. IDDRI provides a platform to facilitate a transparent dialogue between all stakeholders (research and academic community, governments, civil society, private sector), while ensuring mutual learning and the relevance of its research. Its work is structured around four thematic agendas: Climate, Biodiversity and ecosystems, Ocean and Governance of sustainable development.
The independent TMG – Think Tank for Sustainability (Töpfer Müller Gaßner GmbH) collaborates with stakeholders from science, the private sector, government, and civil society to develop solutions to complex challenges in sustainable development. TMG initiates and supports transitions towards a sustainable society and cooperates with groups from across society to identify and overcome existing barriers. Its primary fields of activity are renewable energy, sustainable development goals, development policy, and the management of natural resources.
The United Nations Environment Programme (UN Environment) is the leading global environmental authority that sets the global environmental agenda, promotes the coherent implementation of the environmental dimension of sustainable development within the United Nations system and serves as an authoritative advocate for the global environment. The United Nations Environment Programme established the Regional Seas Programme in 1974, which currently includes eighteen Regional Seas programmes across the world.
The German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) is responsible for the financing, planning, and coordination of development cooperation and the development of the corresponding strategies, principles, and programmes. Governmental development cooperation is based on bilateral agreements between the governments of partner countries and the German government. These agreements are concluded in government negotiations that are usually held every two years. Over the last decade, BMZ has considerably increased the volume of pledges to partner countries and regional organisations for the conservation of biological diversity, including forests, oceans and coasts.
The Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH is a global service provider in the field of international cooperation for sustainable development with more than 17,000 employees, around 70 per cent are national personnel working in the field. GIZ has over 50 years of experience in a wide variety of areas, including economic development and employment, energy and the environment, and peace and security. As a public-benefit federal enterprise, GIZ supports the German Government – in particular the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) – and public and private sector clients in around 130 countries in achieving their objectives in international cooperation. With this aim, GIZ works together with its partners to develop effective solutions that offer people better prospects and sustainably improve their living conditions.