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  • Writer's picture@ Cynthia Adina Kirkwood

Belize at U.N. Ocean Summit; Guterres Speaks Portuguese

Updated: Aug 11, 2022

U.N. Secretary-General Guterres (center, lowest row) with President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa


As a native son of Lisbon, the United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres asked for pardon from member states as he opened his welcoming address to the Ocean Conference in Portuguese.

“It is with particular pleasure that I return to Parque das Naçoes for an event with the greatest relevance to oceans,” the former prime minister of Portugal (1995-2002) told an audience in Lisbon of heads of state from around the world, according to CNN Portugal (June 27).

Antonio Guterres stressed that he shares with other Portuguese “a connection to the sea,” and he called for the “union” of the member nations. Then, he quoted an excerpt from the poem, Infante, by the celebrated writer and philosopher, Fernando Pessoa:

“Deus quis que a terra fosse toda uma,

Que o mar unisse, já no separasse.”

(God wanted the earth to be all one,

For the sea to unite, no longer separate.)

Portugal and Kenya are co-hosting the second U.N. Ocean Conference for sustainable oceans. Scientists, politicians, organizations, businesses and activists are attending the conference from June 27 to July 1.

The dangers plaguing the oceans are so many that we face “an oceanic urgency” equivalent to that of the climate, said Antonio Guterres at Altice Arena, according to Publico (June 27).

President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya, who with President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa is chairing the conference, had said previously:

“Three billion people depend on coastal and marine biodiversity to survive. The ocean provides almost half of all the oxygen we breathe and, yet, every year 8 million tons of plastic debris are dumped into the seas, which threaten the safety and survival of fish populations.”

4 Recommendations

Five years ago at the first ocean conference in New York, the U.N. Secretary-General, who is serving his second term, appealed to countries to present initiatives and partnerships for ocean management and fisheries protection, reported Publico. At this second conference, member states are invited to accept four recommendations, said Antonio Guterres.

The first recommendation is for all parties to invest more in the oceans in a sustainable way, and to meet the objective of producing six times more food at sea and 40 times more energy.

The second proposal concerns the protection of the oceans, namely from maritime and land-based pollution.

The third recommendation concerns both the protection of the oceans and the populations that depend on them from the effects of climate change.

The fourth proposal is to create early warning systems for extreme atmospheric or climatic phenomena, such as hurricanes or heat waves.

More than 7,000 participants are expected from more than 140 countries, 38 specialized agencies and international organizations, more than 1,000 non-governmental organizations, 410 companies and 154 universities according to CNN Portugal.

Belize Prime Minister Leads Delegation

Prime Minister John Briceno is heading a Belizean delegation to the ocean conference, according to the Ministry of Blue Economy and Civil Aviation, reported Breaking Belize News (June 27).

The Belize Barrier Reef is the world's second-largest coral reef after Australia's Great Barrier Reef.

The Belizean delegation includes the Minister of Blue Economy, Andre Perez; CEO Kennedy Carrillo; Director of Blue Economy, Maxine Monsanto; and Senior Fisheries Officer, Adriel Castaneda. Other delegates are from the Office of the Prime Minister and include CEO Narda Garcia; CEO Osmond Martinez; Cabinet Secretary, Stuart Leslie; Beverly Wade, Director of the Blue Bonds and Project for Finance Permanence; Nicanor Requena of the Environmental Defense Fund, and Elmer Rodriguez of the National Fishermen’s Cooperative.

Belize will host an event on fisheries enforcement, and the regional and international instruments to tackle organized crime in the global fisheries industry on June 29. Fellow CARICOM (Caribbean Community) members, Jamaica, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines are also hosting the event along with United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and Norway, according to the UNDP’s Blue Justice Initiative.

Speakers will include Ministers of Fisheries representing the three Caribbean nations and the Norwegian Minister of Trade, Industry and Fisheries.

Guterres Ends With Swahili Proverb

According to CNN Portugal, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres culminated his welcoming speech with a proverb in Swahili, one of Kenya's official languages:

“Bahari inatuhitaji hata hivyo,” which he translated as “The sea needs us anyway.”

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