Speeches and other documents by the Secretary General


July 6, 2023 - Washington, DC

Closing Remarks

The ocean gives us life. It nourishes, entertains, connects, inspires, and empowers our success. The ocean is also one of the great allies in the fight against climate change.
Although dangers to the oceans often do not receive as much coverage as wildfires, they are under constant and significant threat. Our ocean's natural biodiversity is becoming more fragile every year. Evidence of this trend can be seen in ocean pollution, harmful algal blooms, dead zones and fish kills, and coral bleaching.

Around the world, more than 3 billion people depend on the ocean as a primary source of protein and livelihood. Ecotourism, which allows communities to increase their purchasing power while protecting their environment, can only thrive in areas that have been protected from destructive human activity.

Why should we protect the oceans and marine ecosystems?

• Because it provides about 50% of the oxygen produced on Earth.

• Because it protects us by absorbing more than 90% of the excess heat caused by human activity worldwide and about 25% of carbon dioxide emissions.

For too long, we have taken the benefits of our oceans for granted. We can’t now. If there is no commitment from all citizens and our institutions to preserve and care for these water bodies, the oceans will continue to warm, currents may reverse, and their ability to balance the global temperature will be compromised, exacerbating the climate impacts in our world.

The urgency of protecting our oceans brings us together today. Our speakers have highlighted the importance of preserving our oceans, and of promoting tools for an integral conservation planning of our oceans. And I take this opportunity to thank each one of them for their invaluable contribution to our planet’s future.

How do we at the OAS do our bit for the ocean?

For more than half a century, the OAS has been working diligently, particularly in the past two decades, in partnership with the Global Environment Facility, Germany, Switzerland, the U.S, the Inter-American Development Bank, the Latin American Development Bank and other partners, in addressing the threats to oceans with a holistic approach to Integrated Water Resources Management. Especially in transboundary basins, our work integrates surface and groundwater management within a “source to sea” approach that emphasizes the interconnectedness of land-based activities and their impact on marine ecosystems. Some examples are the Wider Caribbean Revolving Fund for Wastewater Project, La Plata Basin, the Trifinio Basin, the Sao Francisco Basin, and the San Juan River Basin, among many others.

Working with Ministries of Education and Culture, as well as with Science and Technology Institutes across the Americas, we strive to boost scientific research for decision-making support systems, capable to advance a better understanding of our Earth and Oceans to address the challenges posed by climate change. These initiatives highlight the need for changes in consumption patterns and production systems, with the goal of reducing, reusing, and recycling. And as we support the efforts of our member states in science and technology, we promote gender equity and equality with a vision of empowering women, enhancing their access to STEM education.

With this in mind, and accelerating its work in coastal and marine areas, this year we have joined the Ocean Action Coalition 2030. We aim to provide technical assistance and water diplomacy to help countries overcome the challenges that stand in the way of greater adoption of Sustainable Ocean Plans. In particular, the OAS will actively promote the “source to sea” approach I mentioned earlier; we will champion the principles of a circular economy, advocating for reduced plastic consumption, improved waste management systems, and the transition towards innovative recycling practices.

In short, the protection of oceans for the Americas is not a simple altruistic act or belief, but it is at the core of our mission to attain sustainable development, ensuring dignified jobs and same rights to a decent life for all, peace and security for all, and the right to participate in the decision-making processes within democratic states, strengthening their institutions.

Our well-being depends on a healthy ocean. Pressures on the oceans are intense and growing, but recovery is possible. Putting a healthy ocean at the center of decision-making is essential for effective protection, sustainable production and equitable prosperity.

I thank you for the invitation to join you today, and thanks to the permanent mission of Costa Rica, the Embassy of France and your governments for the global regional leadership in ocean management.

Thank you very much to everyone here for your attendance and enjoy the rest of the evening.

Thank you very much to everyone here for your attendance.

Definitely we have work to do together. Some of us can be a moral force. Some of us can be a source of knowledge and some of us have to pay the bill and that’s that. If we don't pay the bills of those that have thrown their waste into the oceans for so many decades, if we don’t pay the bills of those that still pollute the oceans, if we don’t pay the bills for cleaning the oceans, there can be no way forward.

It's about paying the bills. And everybody will have to pay their bills; some of them with money, some of them with work, some of them through moral force and some of them through knowledge. But if we don't act and we don't pay our bills related to the ocean, we will not to be able to reverse this.

Thanks very much