UN Photo/Mark Garten Secretary-General António Guterres delivers opening remarks at the Ocean Race Summit, held in Cabo Verde.

World - ‘Let’s all become the champions the ocean needs’ – UN chief Guterres

On the last day of his visit to Cabo Verde, UN Secretary-General António Guterres addressed the Ocean Race Summit Mindelo, saying that “ending the ocean emergency is a race we must win.”

“And by working as one, it’s a race we can win. Let’s all become the champions the ocean needs. Let’s end the ocean emergency and preserve this precious blue gift for our children and grandchildren,” urged the UN chief.  

The Secretary-General was speaking from the Ocean Science Centre Mindelo, in São Vicente, a state-of-the-art facility that hosts large marine scientific equipment such as deep-sea robots, as well as electronics workshops, and cutting-edge laboratories.  

On Monday morning, as the building opened its doors to the participants of the Summit, it served as a visible manifestation of the bet Cabo Verde is making on boosting the archipelago’s blue economy.  

Looking through the huge doors opening onto the Port, the same harbor that allowed many Cabo Verdeans to leave in search of a better life, the Prime Minister noted how the ocean used to describe a feeling of longing and melancholy.

Today, Ulisses Correia e Silva explained, “it represents tourism, desalinated water, blue economy, submarine fiber optic cables, clean energy, biotechnology, aquaculture, canning industry for export, a competence center and nautical events such as the Ocean Race.”

Cabo Verde’s development projects supported by the United Nations are helping to transform the agricultural sector of Santo Antão, the westernmost island of the country.
UN Photo/Mark Garten

‘The ocean is a matter of survival’

Speaking to UN News, the UN Special Adviser on Africa, Cristina Duarte, noted that as Cabo Verde is a 10-island chain that sits off West Africa’s Atlantic coast, some 99.3 per cent of the nation’s territory is water.

Ms. Duarte, who is Cabo Verdean, was the country’s Minister of Finance, Planning and Public Administration from 2006 to 2016. “We might be more creatures from the ocean than from the land,” she said. “For Cabo Verde, the oceans are a matter of survival.”  

“So, its conservation [must be done] in a context of management of a natural resource, because we have to take from it what Cabo Verde needs to develop. Preserve it, but not forget that, for Cabo Verde, it is an economic resource,” Mrs. Duarte explained.  

At the Mindelo Ocean Summit, Secretary General António Guterres signs the Ocean Race Wall alongside José Ulisses Correia e Silva, the Prime Minister of Cabo Verde.
UN Photo/Mark Garte

Racing for the ocean

The Ocean Race first set sail in 1973, taking sailors around the world every three or four years.  

For the last four decades, as ocean health activist Danni Washington noted today at the Summit, sailors would see these islands on the distance, or race through the middle of them. Sometimes they were even rescued by Cabo Verdeans, but the race had never made a stop in the archipelago.

On Friday night, the country became the first ever West African nation in the competition’s history to host a stopover.

Addressing the Summit, the competition’s Chairman, Richard Brisius, assured the UN Secretary-General of the participants’ commitment to the cause of the oceans.

“You have all of us at Ocean Race in your crew,” he said. “We are ocean people; we care for the ocean, and we are passionately doing our best.”

For his part, the Mr. Guterres hailed “the inspiring courage of women and men sailing this grueling six-month race around the world.”

Moreover, he said, it’s “also inspiring” to know that every boat is carrying special equipment to gather scientific data to help ensure a healthy ocean for the future.

A key resource at risk

For the UN Secretary-General, the Summit was also an opportunity to sound the alarm: “The ocean is life. The ocean is livelihoods. And the ocean is in trouble.”  

The UN chief explained that some 35 per cent of global fish stocks are over-exploited, global heating is pushing ocean temperatures to new heights, fueling more frequent and intense storms, rising sea levels, and the salinization of coastal lands and aquifers.  

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