At a memorial for the late Ambassador Stuart J. Beck, one of the founders of OSA, Mr. Amir Dossal, also a co-founder, published this tribute:
A Tribute to Ambassador Stuart Beck:
Ocean and Seas Champion
December 23, 1946 – February 29, 2016
Our good friend and colleague, His Excellency Ambassador Stuart Beck, who passed away earlier this year, was a legend and tireless activist at the United Nations. He had a number of firsts under his belt, including championing the admission of Palau to the United Nations, becoming the first Permanent Representative of Palau to the United Nations, and subsequently serving as its Ambassador for Oceans and Seas.
One seldom comes across a person with great tenacity, passion, and commitment to do good for others. Stuart was all of that and a lot more.
Palau had been governed by a number of colonial powers over the years, and became a trust territory under the aegis of the United Nations in 1947. The Republic has had a historic relationship with the United States, especially on foreign policy and security issues. Ambassador Beck tirelessly negotiated on behalf of the Nation of Palau to obtain its independent status through the Compact of Free Association. In October 1994, Palau became a Member State of the United Nations, and Stuart Beck was appointed as its first Permanent Representative.
Stuart’s interest in Palau goes back many years – long before he met Ebiltulik in 1980. Tulik, as we all know her, became his inspiration as he embarked on the mission to position the Republic of Palau on the global stage. As Chief Counsel for the Palau Political Status Commission (1977-1981), H.E. Beck negotiated the decolonization of Palau from the last United Nations trusteeship to a sovereign nation, organized a constitutional convention and negotiated a Compact of Free Association with the United States.
The Republic of Palau is an island country located in the western Pacific Ocean. It is made up of more than 200 islands surrounded by a barrier reef and is home to approximately 21,000 people. The most populous state in Palau is Koror, which, with about 14,000 people, accounts for over half of Palau’s population.
Palau is renowned for its variegated wildlife and for its commitment to protecting local ecosystems. In 1989, Palau was named one of the Seven Wonders of the Underwater World for its expansive coral reefs and its diverse marine life. One of Palau’s most notable features is the rock islands - small, uninhabited islands formed from coral or limestone.
Although Palau officially became a member of the United Nations in 1994, it did not establish a formal mission until April of 2004.
I had the privilege of meeting Ambassador Beck in 2010 when we had an inspiring conversation about the challenges faced by island nations, especially the coastal communities, which have been negatively affected by overfishing and bottom trawling. He passionately reminded me that at the rate we are going, we would lose 90% of the fish stocks within 10 years, and unless the international community did something concrete, many islanders would suffer. The UN’s Millennium Development Goals, which were adopted in September 2000, did not focus on the protection of oceans and seas, and we needed to do something drastic to change that. Stuart convinced me to join him in this important cause. I had no option except to say “yes, Stuart, I am in.” Together, under his tutelage, we hashed out a plan of action to mobilize the international community, especially Member States, to include the preservation of oceans and seas in the UN’s global development agenda. That was the birth of the Sustainable Oceans Alliance. With the help and support of a number of key member states, including Australia, New Zealand, Monaco, and all the Pacific Islands (Marshall Islands, Tonga, Nauru, Kiribati, and many others), we built a coalition of support, under the dynamic leadership of President Tommy Remengesau Jr., who is equally passionate and committed to giving Palauans a better quality of life that would lead to real sustainability.
In June 2013, with the support and participation of the Permanent Representatives of Australia, Barbados, Costa Rica, Monaco, New Zealand, Pacific Island Developing Countries Group, Papua New Guinea, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Samoa, Stuart and I hosted the first ever dialogue at the United Nations to focus attention on the need for healthy, resilient, and productive oceans, and to mobilize support from Member States of the United Nations to include a dedicated Sustainable Development Goal for Oceans and Seas. This was the genesis of the Sustainable Oceans Alliance, and we were privileged to have many countries come together and lend their support. Moreover, a number of leading civil society organizations, such as the Environmental Defense Fund, Pew Trust, Google Oceans, Global Ocean Forum, Green Inc., Ideapod, and the TerraMar Project, expressed solidarity with our mission. More than 25 Member States came together at this first meeting, and as Stuart rightly put it, “This is the framework that will define the relationship between people and our planet for the coming generation.”
In September 2015, 193 Member States adopted Goal 14: “Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development.” The rest, as we would say, is indeed history. We owe a huge debt of gratitude to our good friend and fearless leader, Ambassador Stuart Beck, for this amazing feat.
In the last 24 months, we came to the realization that in order to “make it happen,” we would need to focus on tangible initiatives that deliver concrete outcomes. As a result, we sharpened our mission to concentrate on the creation of marine protected areas (MPAs). Against this background, we converted the Sustainable Ocean Alliance to the Ocean Sanctuary Alliance, committing ourselves to achieving Target 5 of SDG 14: By 2020, conserve at least 10 per cent of coastal and marine areas, consistent with national and international law and based on the best available scientific information. (At present, less than 3% is protected.) We call this the 10X20 Initiative.
The OSA team includes Mark Newhouse, a longtime friend and advocate for ocean conservation, as our President, along with Dr. Ellen Pikitch, a leading marine scientist with Stony Brook University who started working with Stuart on ocean protection in 2005. We joined forces with the Republic of Italy, under the inspiring leadership of the Permanent Representative, Ambassador Sebastiano Cardi, who very kindly supports and leads our collective mission. The Permanent Mission of Italy to the United Nations is a key anchor for our work, including Ambassador Inigo Lambertini, Deputy Permanent Representative, Ms. Valeria Biagiotti, First Counsellor, and Ms. Laura Fassio-Canuto, Senior Adviser on Environment & Sustainable Development, who are steadfastly committed to the mission of ensuring healthy oceans and seas. We are extremely grateful also for the longstanding commitment of The Bahamas: Ambassador Elliston Rahming, and his resident expert in the Law of the Oceans and Seas, Mr. Craig Powell, who have been a pillar of strength for this unique partnership.
Stuart was very clear in his message to all of us: unless we do something now, we will leave this planet in a worse situation than we found it. We intend to carry his mission forward, and I am confident that together we can.
Amir A. Dossal
President, Global Partnership Forum
Co-Founder, Ocean Sanctuary Alliance
June 17, 2016
For more information visit: www.oceansanctuaryalliance.org