UN chief calls for gender equality to meet ocean challenges

Xinhua Published: 2019-06-09 06:34:11
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United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Saturday urged the international community to promote gender equality and the rights of women and girls as a crucial contribution to meeting ocean challenges.

In his message on World Oceans Day, the UN chief said that confronting gender inequality is essential to achieving the ocean-related goal and targets of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

United Nations (UN) Secretary General Antonio Guterres attends a meeting with Russia's President Vladimir Putin at the 2019 St Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF) at the ExpoForum Convention and Exhibition Centre in St Petersburg, Russia, June 7, 2019. [Photo: IC]

United Nations (UN) Secretary General Antonio Guterres attends a meeting at the 2019 St Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF) in St Petersburg, Russia, June 7, 2019. [Photo: IC]

According to Guterres, the effects of pollution and climate change on the oceans have a disproportionate impact on women. Women represent half the work force engaged in the catching and harvesting of wild and farmed fish, yet are paid substantially less than men.

Women are also often segregated into low-skilled and unrecognized labor, such as fish processing, and are denied a decision-making role, he said, adding that similar treatment occurs in related sectors such as shipping, coastal tourism and marine science, where the voices of women are frequently not heard.

"For too long, women have been unable to share equally in ocean-supplied benefits," said Guterres.

"We must ensure an end to unsafe work conditions and guarantee that women have an equal role in managing ocean-related activities," he added.

Designated by the UN, the World Oceans Day takes place every June 8, and this year's observance highlighted the gender dimensions of people's relationship with the ocean.

The UN chief also called on sectors to "act across an array" to address the conflicting demands from industry, fishing, shipping, mining and tourism that are creating unsustainable levels of stress on marine and coastal ecosystems.

Oceans and seas connect and sustain human, and they are home to vast biodiversity and are a vital defence against the global climate emergency, Guterres said. "Yet today the oceans are under unprecedented threat."

As the secretary-general stated, in the past 150 years, about half of all living coral has been lost, and in the past four decades, plastic pollution in oceans has increased tenfold.

One third of fish stocks are now overexploited. Dead zones - underwater deserts where life cannot survive because of a lack of oxygen - are growing rapidly in extent and number, he added.

The "Call for Action" adopted at the United Nations Oceans Conference in 2017 helps to point the way, look ahead to the next such gathering in Lisbon in 2020. The secretary-general urged everyone to do "utmost to protect and preserve this essential resource for sustainable development".

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