From 5 to 9 June the United Nations organise the first ever Ocean Conference in New York. This conference aims to join forces to implement Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 14, 'Life below water', which specifically focusses on oceans and seas. Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Didier Reynders will lead the Belgian delegation and emphasize the Belgian efforts in marine biodiversity. Secretary of State for the North Sea Philippe De Backer is satisfied that our country is able to internationally present itself with specific commitments.

Oceans are crucial for global food security and human health. They contribute to poverty eradication, sustainable livelihoods and employment. The oceans are in a poor state and marine ecosystems are under severe pressure due to human activities. The Ocean Conference wants to reverse this negative trend with a collective 'Call for action' and by compiling the commitments of all stakeholders for the protection of the oceans in a 'Register of Voluntary Commitments'.

Belgium already registered 22 commitments at the Conference, from the government, the academic world, NGOs and the private sector, making it one of the most active countries. Our country is working on a revised Marine Spatial Plan (mapping out all activities in our North Sea), a federal action plan to combat marine litter, the Vision for the North Sea 2050, sustainable fisheries measures for the North Sea and an international coalition for marine reserves. Early March, Belgium organised a workshop with representatives of nearly all Small Island Developing States (SIDS) on the protection of marine biodiversity and the establishment of a new UN Convention on this subject.

During the conference Minister Reynders will give more detailed information on the Belgian commitments. He will also be the keynote speaker during the 'Initiating Global Action on Ghost Gear' side event, which Belgium organises together with Tonga and the NGO World Animal Protection. This event is focused on lost and abandoned fishing nets floating in the oceans and endangering sea life. Didier Reynders will also have bilateral meetings, among which a meeting with UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres.

Secretary of State for the North Sea Philippe De Backer is satisfied our country is able to internationally present itself with specific and valuable commitments. "Belgium is internationally a frontrunner with its Marine Spatial Plan, allowing our country to fully use its possibilities. Our commitment and our role as pioneer in the fight against marine litter stirs up international interest. We want to continue this role as pioneer and international leader with our revision of this Marine Spatial Plan and the development of a North Sea Vision 2050."

Minister Marie-Christine Marghem, competent for Sustainable Development, is doing the utmost to limit as much as possible the pollution of the North Sea by preparing an agreement with the involved sectors in Belgium.

Click here for the list of Belgian commitments.