Water action for the ocean – high-level panel sets direction for sustainable management from source to sea

News Mar 22, 2018

Millions of tonnes of plastic enter the ocean from land-based sources every year. The High Level Panel on Source-to-Sea Management convened by the Action Platform for Source-to-Sea Management shed light on the linkages between actions on land and effects in freshwater and marine ecosystems.

“Anything we do on land has implications for the sea, and anything we do to the sea has implications for us on land,” said Peter Thomson, UN Special Envoy for the Ocean, at a High-Level Panel on the connections between water, coastal and ocean management at World Water Forum this week.   

Millions of tonnes of plastic enter the ocean from land-based sources every year. Over 80 per cent of all wastewater is discharged without treatment. The degradation of freshwater and marine environments has a direct and negative impact on crucial ecosystem services that can drastically alter livelihoods and food security, especially for the poorest people.

The High Level Panel on Source-to-Sea Management convened by the Action Platform for Source-to-Sea Management (S2S Platform) shed light on the linkages between SDG 6 and 14. It also sought to identify opportunities to strengthen source-to-sea approaches, such as by engaging upstream actors in more sustainable resource management from source to sea.

Collaboration between the Danube and Black Sea commissions is a promising example. The Danube River Convention stipulates the need to reduce pollution to the Black Sea. To achieve this, a strategic framework and good institutional set-up was established, including common indicators and yearly exchange of information.

Dr. Jakob Granit, Director General of the Swedish Agency for Marine and Water Management also emphasized in his keynote address, the need to identify clear objectives and solutions for the key flows that connect land and sea – water, sediment, pollution, biota and material – and to coordinate across sectors and geographic segments to address them.

Anything we do on land has implications for the sea, and anything we do to the sea has implications for us on land

Peter Thomson, UN Special Envoy for the Ocean

Hon Elsa Galarza Contreras, Minister of Environment, Peru noted the challenges when sectoral financial mechanisms make it difficult for governments to apply a truly integrated approach. A perspective welcomed by Dr Gustavo Fonseca, Director of Programs at the Global Environment Facility: “If countries demand support for coordination and dialogue between sectors, financing will have to follow”.

The ocean community recognized the importance of land-based activities to achieve SDG 14 through a dedicated SDG target (14.1) and through hundreds of voluntary commitments that emerged from last year’s UN Ocean Conference. The source-to-sea events organized at the 8th World Water Forum, confirmed a growing commitment from the water community to adopt source-to-sea approaches. For the first time ever, the Ministerial Declaration of a World Water Forum refers to the need for a source-to-sea perspective to water policy.

The Action Platform for Source-to-Sea Management (S2S Platform) is a multi-stakeholder initiative that helps freshwater, coastal and marine experts to contribute to global knowledge generation on source-to-sea interconnections, connect and engage in collaborative projects, promote best practices, and take collaborative action to improve the management of land, water, coastal and marine linkages. More information.

Event panelists and speakers: Mr Peter Thomson, UN Special Envoy for the Ocean; Hon Elsa Galarza Contreras, Minister of Environment, Peru; Hon Mansour Faye, Minister of Water and Sanitation, Senegal; Ms Atanaska Nikolova, Deputy Minister of Environment and Water, Bulgaria; Mr Sérgio Antonio Gonçalves, Director, Water Resources Department, Ministry of Environment, Brazil; Ms Fédérique Raoult, Group Executive Vice President, Suez; Dr Gustavo Fonseca, Director of Programs, Global Environment Facility; Dr Jakob Granit, Director General, Swedish Agency for Marine and Water Management; Dr Torkil J. Clausen, Chair, S2S Platform; and Mr Torgny Holmgren Executive Director, SIWI.