Over the course of 30 days, the COVID-19 task force established by the UN Global Compact Action Platform for Sustainable Ocean Business mobilized the shipping industry, port and harbor authorities, UN agencies and others to develop a set of recommendations for urgent global political action. Photo: Chuttersnap/Unsplash

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REFLECTIONS ON COVID-19

How COVID-19 is bringing ocean actors together

Over the course of 30 days, industries, governments, researchers and NGOs mobilized to protect ocean supply chains and make sure they are more sustainable in the future

Story highlights

  • Work by the COVID-19 task force, established by the United Nations Global Compact Action Platform for Sustainable Ocean Business
  • Over the course of 30 days, the COVID-19 task force developed a set of recommendations for urgent global political action
  • A common theme has been the importance of engaging across industries, and across communities

DISCLAIMER: This reflection presents insights that are relevant to the discussions related to both the causes for the pandemic and the solutions needed to build a more resilient, global society. Covid-19 affects all aspects of our lives, we want to help make sense of this tragedy, in empathy with all those suffering from it.

CLARITY IN TIMES OF CRISIS: The COVID-19 pandemic has forced people to change the way they work. Some have sought to find a positive angle to the crisis: is it possible to build back greener, bluer, better, more resilient?

And for others, the focus is more immediate: what can be done right now to protect the most vulnerable, to ensure livelihoods, and to address the complex challenges associated with this global crisis?

The COVID-19 task force established by the UN Global Compact Action Platform for Sustainable Ocean Business tries to consider both timelines.

The platform consists of a cross-sectoral group of ocean-based industries, UN organizations, academic organizations (including the Stockholm Resilience Centre) and non-governmental organizations, and its COVID-19 task force and has already completed two “sprints” focused on key challenges and potentially arising opportunities.

The closing of borders, introduction of mandatory quarantine periods and other control measures have created major barriers to the movement of crews.

Keeping ocean supply chains going

The first sprint dealt with imminent threats to ocean supply chains. Over 80% of global trade is transported by cargo vessels, crewed by some 1.2 million seafarers. Stability in this workforce is provided by the constant cycling on and off of crews.

Yet the closing of borders, introduction of mandatory quarantine periods and other control measures have created major barriers to the movement of crews, with around 200,000 seafarers currently due or overdue to cycle off ships.

Over the course of 30 days, the COVID-19 task force assembled the latest views and knowledge on this issue from the shipping industry, port and harbor authorities, UN agencies and others to develop a set of recommendations for urgent global political action.

The recommendations were taken up in international policy circles and media (e.g. World Economic Forum; UN Secretary General Press Briefing) and contributed to the UN Secretary General’s recent call for seafarers’ to be designated as key workers.

Blue resilience through cross-sectoral collaboration

The second sprint focused on “Harnessing cross-sectoral ocean science collaboration to accelerate sustainable recovery” with focus on aquaculture, advancing technology and data-sharing, supply chains, and the potential for optimizing biodiscovery pipelines to develop novel pharmaceuticals from the ocean genome, including to address COVID-19.

A common theme throughout the work of the platform and its COVID19 Task Force has been the importance of engaging across industries, and across communities. In early June 2020, the platform launched a 10-year roadmap of science-based action towards ambitions of ocean stewardship.

Close connections with the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development and commitments to report on an annual basis on progress towards the ocean stewardship goals underscore the importance of platforms that can quickly convene cross-sectoral stakeholders and react on short timelines to crises, while also maintaining a long-term focus.

Related info

For more information about the UN Global Compact and the COVID-19 Task Force, contact centre researcher Robert Blasiak:

Robert Blasiak's research focuses on stewardship within the seafood industry and issues surrounding marine genetic resources.

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Stockholm Resilience Centre is a collaboration between Stockholm University and the Beijer Institute of Ecological Economics at the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences

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