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The Ocean Race launches campaign for a Universal Declaration of Ocean Rights

by The Ocean Race 6 Jul 08:03 PDT
Mirpuri Foundation Sailing Team © Martin Keruzore

The Ocean Race is launching One Blue Voice, a new initiative to drive public support for ocean rights. The ambitious campaign aims to give the ocean a voice and put in place a global framework for protecting the marine environment, which plays a critical role in maintaining the health of the planet.

Through the campaign, the round-the-world sailing race is calling on members of the public to show their support for a Universal Declaration of Ocean Rights by signing a petition which will be presented to the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York in September 2023, alongside draft principles underpinning ocean rights.

Richard Brisius, Race Chairman at The Ocean Race said: "We are all connected to the ocean. But though it is critical to all life on Earth, the seas are deteriorating at an alarming rate, as sailors we've witnessed this first-hand.

"We need to take action and create a global approach to protecting the ocean with collaboration at its heart. By joining forces and speaking as one, we can create the kind of noise that will be heard by the world's decision-makers. Individually it can be hard to create impact, but together, we can make a difference by giving the ocean the voice that it desperately needs."

One Blue Voice will raise awareness of the declining state of the seas, highlight how the ocean's rights are being ignored and help to shift perception of the ocean from a resource to use and exploit, to an entity that has a right to thrive. The call comes as UN Secretary General António Guterres last week issued a warning that the planet is facing an "ocean emergency".

Created in collaboration with 11th Hour Racing, founding partner of The Ocean Race's Racing with Purpose sustainability programme, One Blue Voice will feature throughout the next edition of the Race, which starts in January 2023, including in the Ocean Live Park - the dedicated public race village in the stopover cities that is set to be visited by millions of people. The campaign will also feature across The Ocean Race's channels, reaching audiences through digital activations, including short films, advertising and an online quiz, as well as integration in the Race's learning programmes for children.

While the One Blue Voice campaign focuses on gathering public support, The Ocean Race has been working for over a year to explore the concept and build support with key decision-makers across the world through The Ocean Race Summits. The series of high-level events features policy makers, scientists, sailors and ocean advocates, providing the opportunity to gather a range of insights on ocean rights, which are later analysed and explored with experts in international law, policy, diplomacy and ocean science in a series of workshops called the Genova Process.

A core team, including two organisations specialising in the rights of nature, Earth Law Center, and Nature's Rights, along with Antonio di Natale, a leading marine biologist and scientific advisor on ocean matters, will draft principles underpinning ocean rights. This work will take place ahead of the UNGA in September 2023, where the draft principles will be shared alongside the petition, to create a powerful proposition for member countries' consideration.

Many indigenous and coastal communities have embraced nature's rights for centuries and the concept is gaining momentum. The Ocean Race's work on ocean rights has got traction from a number of high-level supporters. Cabo Verde, which will be a Race stopover for the first time next year, has given its backing.

Prime Minister Ulisses Correia e Silva said: "As a Small Island Developing State, Cabo Verde's economy and future is inextricably linked to the health of the ocean. We need the seas to be protected and well-managed, yet Earth's ocean has no voice, no advocate, and no guardian. Clearly the time has come for a Universal Declaration of Ocean Rights, and we stand with The Ocean Race in working to make this a reality by 2030."

Danny Faure, former President of the Seychelles is a core part of the advocacy efforts, while business leaders are also making a stand for the ocean. Carl-Henric Svanberg, Chairman of Volvo Group and former Chairman of the European Round Table for Industry, spoke at The Ocean Race Summit Europe.

"We are fully committed to living in harmony with Nature. The ocean is our common ground and key to the existence of life. But as it is not part of any effective legal system, it does not have legal rights."

Partners and collaborators will play a key role in strengthening and communicating the campaign.

Alessandra Ghezzi, 11th Hour Racing communications director said: "In the future we envision, the wellbeing of our ocean, waterways, and coastal communities is guaranteed and protected through strong local stewardship and collective action around the world. Together with The Ocean Race and its broad fan base, we have the power to give the ocean a voice and its own rights, and build a climate movement to bolster policy change".

Sailors are also getting onboard with the recognition of the ocean's rights. two-time competitor in The Ocean Race and winner of The Ocean Race Europe, sailor Annie Lush said: "It's really important that the ocean has rights, because it doesn't have a voice. Ultimately, like with human rights, unless something is sanctioned nothing is really done about it. This could be a huge step for the ocean and for the world."

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