Illustrative image (Photo: pemsea.org)

Da Nang (VNA) - Within the framework of the 5th East Asian Seas (EAS) Congress, the 2015 EAS Ministerial Forum took place in the central city of Da Nang on November 20 under the chair of Vietnamese Minister of Natural Resources and Development Nguyen Minh Quang.

In his opening speech, Minister Quang said the year 2015 marks a milestone in the global sustainable development progress since the United Nations Summit adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development with 17 goals.

The EAS Ministerial Forum 2015 was designed to realise global sustainable development goals and consider the approval of efforts to push forward the sustainable development programmes of central and local governments in regional countries.

On this basis, the minister urged the forum to discuss and put forth decisive policies and high-level commitments to setting the Sustainable Development Agenda for the Seas of East Asia beyond 2015 towards a blue economy and a blue ocean in the region.

At the forum, ministers, heads of delegation and experts reviewed achievements in implementing the Sustainable Development Strategy for the Seas of East Asia (SDS-SEA) since it was endorsed in 2013 and re-affirmed commitments to achieve a SDS-SEA vision.

Representatives of regional countries also presented views, initiatives and national plans to carry out the SDS-SEA in the coming years.

Vice Minister of Natural Resources and Environment Chu Pham Ngoc Hien said Vietnam will expand the integrated management of seas and coastal areas in parallel with other measures in a bid to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

At the end of the forum, member nations of the Partnerships in Environmental Management for the Seas of East Asia (PEMSEA) signed the Da Nang Compact, committing to strengthen ocean governance and management at both regional and national levels, within the priorities, objectives and capacities of each country.

The ministers and heads of delegation said that the Da Nang Compact directly responds to Sustainable Development Goal 14, which focuses on conserving and sustainably using the oceans, seas and marine resources.

The compact endorsed the updating of the regional coastal and ocean strategy. The updated strategy emphasises the critical importance of coming to grips with climate change, including mitigating the production of greenhouse gases, while adapting to and reducing the social, economic and ecological impacts of severe weather events and other natural and manmade hazards.

It sets four targets that will serve as signposts of individual and collective progress over the next five years:

Target 1: By 2017, PEMSEA will become a self-sustaining organisation to manage and coordinate a suite of products, services and financing mechanisms for advancing SDS-SEA implementation at regional, national and local levels.

Target 2: By 2018, a regional State of Oceans and Coasts reporting system will be set up to monitor progress, impacts and benefits, and to continually improve planning and management of SDS-SEA implementation.

Target 3: By 2021, national coastal and ocean policies will be built and implemented in all PEMSEA partner countries, in line with international environmental and sustainable development commitments and based on best available scientific information.

Target 4: By 2021, integrated coastal management (ICM) programmes for sustainable development of coastal and marine areas covering at least 25 percent of the region’s coastline and contiguous watershed areas, supporting national priorities and commitments under the UN SDGs, UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), Aichi Biodiversity Targets, United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) Post-2015 Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, and other relevant environmental and sustainable development targets subscribed to by PEMSEA partner countries.

The ministers and heads of delegation agreed to cover 25 percent of the region’s coastlines with ICM programmes by 2021. As coastal areas are the most vulnerable areas to natural and man-made disasters. Through the implementation of the ICM programmes at coastal areas, the risk will be hugely reduced and resiliency will be highly strengthened.

They pledged to work on the development of marine and ocean policies in their countries and believe d that sustainable development in coastal and oceans will be initiated by the development of the marine and ocean policies and programmes.

They will also be tracking the efforts in SDS-SEA implementation with the launching of a regional State of Oceans and Coasts (SOC) reporting system. The first regional SOC report is expected to be published and disseminated during the 6th Ministerial Forum in 2018.-VNA