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IOC Sub-Commission for the Western Pacific (WESTPAC)

Advancing knowledge and cooperation for a healthy ocean and prosperous society

IOC and its WESTPAC voiced out their commitments to combatting marine debris at an ASEAN Ministerial Meeting

On 5 March 2019, the Ministers of 10 ASEAN countries gathered for a Special ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on Marine Debris in Bangkok. The meeting aimed to reach an agreement among all ASEAN countries and to come up with a framework for concerted actions on combatting marine litters. Several international organizations and programmes were invited to attend this high-level meeting, including IOC/UNESCO, GEF, World Bank, UNEP, IUCN and WWF.

The meeting culminated in the adoption of a Bangkok Declaration, the ASEAN’s first agreement to tackle marine trash, and the ASEAN Action Framework on Marine Debris. The declaration is expected to be endorsed at the ASEAN Summit in June 2019.

Entrusted by Vladimir Ryabinin, IOC Executive Secretary, Wenxi Zhu, Head of the WESTPAC Office, attended this meeting on behalf of the IOC/UNESCO, and delivered the organization’s efforts in and expectation on combating marine debris.

He emphasized the vital ecological, social and economic importance of oceans, seas and coasts to all people and countries in the region. A sustainable ASEAN region cannot be realized without a healthy and clean ocean. A healthy and clean ocean indispensably requires sound scientific inputs and technological innovations.

Science, technology and innovations are major driven forces for social-economic development. IOC is addressing the issue of marine debris through its active sponsorship and support, along with the UN Environment and other international partners, to the Working Group 40 (WG40) of the Joint Group of Experts on the Scientific Aspects of Marine Environmental Protection (GESAMP), an advisory body that advises the UN system on the scientific aspects of marine environmental protection. The WG currently focuses on microplastics and macro plastics assessments. In the ASEAN region, UNESCO/IOC Sub-Commission for the Western Pacific (WESTPAC) is working closely with all countries in the region, endeavoring to harmonize a set of technical guidelines, for the sampling and lab analysis of MPs in marine environment, and to provide a knowledge base on microplastic and its ecological impacts.

He also informed that the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) recently proclaimed the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021 – 2030) to support efforts to reverse the cycle of decline in ocean health and gather ocean stakeholders worldwide behind a common framework that will ensure ocean science and technological innovation can fully support countries in the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals.

He finally pointed out that, only through international cooperation, technology transfer and knowledge sharing, ASEAN countries can succeed in achieving sustainable growth based on ocean. Therefore, UNESCO and its IOC invites ASEAN Member States, the scientific community, civil society and the private sectors to join forces in combating marine debris, and would also assure of their full support.