World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) and Protection and Preservation of the Marine Environment

The WSSD, held in Johannesburg in 2002 to review the progress in the implementation
of Agenda 21, dedicated marginal attention to oceans and seas compared to other issues.
Originally, oceans were not even listed on the agenda for the WSSD. The Plan of
Implementation adopted at the Summit (WSSD Plan) only deals with the marine environment
in paragraphs 29-34 of Section IV on “protecting and managing the natural resource
base of economic and social development” and most of the relevant provisions relate
to fisheries. Nevertheless, the contribution of the WSSD Plan to the preservation
of the marine environment and marine life cannot be underestimated. In order to achieve
the sustainable development of the oceans, the WSSD Plan urges States to ratify and
implement the LOSC and to promote the implementation of Chapter 17 of Agenda 21.
The Plan reaffirms the commitments under Chapter 17 (e.g., an integrated approach
to ocean management), but in some cases it attaches clear targets and timetables (e.g.,
the application of an ecosystem approach by 2010). In addition, the WSSD Plan introduces new clear-cut targets (e.g., the establishment of a network of representative marine protected areas by 2012 and the elimination of
destructive fishing practices by 2010), urging the international community to increase efforts to preserve marine life. Unlike Chapter 17, the WSSD Plan contains only a soft
commitment to the precautionary approach, which in the past few years has lost much
of its popularity. On the other hand, the Plan reaffirms the need to conduct an EIA
of all potentially harmful activities as a major tool to achieve sustainable development.
In addition, the Plan urges the wide ratification and effective implementation of existing
marine Conventions and attaches great importance to the transfer of marine science
and technology, as well as to the establishment of a regular reporting and assessment
process by 2004 as a means of promoting compliance. Like Chapter 17 of agenda 21, the WSSD
Plan calls for the strengthening of international cooperation and coordination both at
the global and regional levels.
In 2003, in the WSSD follow-up, the CSD established a multi-year programme of
work for advancing the implementation of Agenda 21 and the WSSD Plan. Oceans and
seas, marine resources and SIDS are not scheduled for review until 2014-2015, suggesting
that the sustainable development of oceans and its resources is not a top priority
on the global agenda.

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