10X20 Initiative: An Urgent Imperative

The ocean is in a severe and accelerating crisis, threatening the environment and human well-being. First among the problems plaguing the ocean is overfishing, which has caused the collapse of fish stock and the loss of biodiversity. It is threatening food security for many nations, affecting those most where hunger is widespread. 

This is a global problem and it will require a global solution to bring the ocean back from the brink of irreversible decline.  International collective action starting at the United Nations (UN) is the most effective way to create such a solution.  Working within the UN, the Ocean Sanctuary Alliance (OSA) and the Government of Italy have spearheaded the 10X20 Initiative, a plan of action to develop a scientifically-based framework that will assist Member States in achieving the globally agreed commitment to conserve at least 10 percent of coastal and marine areas by the year 2020. This is Target 5 of the UN's SDG 14: Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources. This is the only numerical goal in SDG 14, and it is achievable. 

The 10X20 Initiative's aim is to create a thoughtful, coordinated global network of marine protected areas (MPAs) that achieves the 10 percent target to conserve biodiversity. In addition, the network will enable fisheries to regenerate to sustain food production in an ocean where overfishing and depletion currently prevail. To achieve this objective, Member States working on the 10X20 Initiative will look to generate support for the establishment of MPAs by exchanging knowledge, information and best practices and pursuing advocacy. If this opportunity is missed, the next occasion to debate these issues at the global level will be 2030, when the damage done may be irreversible. 

Conference on Marine Protected Areas- Rome, 7-9 March 2016

As a key component to the 10X20 Initiative, the Government of Italy, OSA, the United Nations Environment Programme, and the Caribbean Environment Programme invited prominent international scientists in the field of MPAs and members of the diplomatic corps to a meeting in Rome, March 7-9, 2016, to discuss the challenges and opportunities for creating MPAs.

 During the first two days of the event, 25 scientists from all regions of the world engaged in discussions and recommended best practices for siting, developing, implementing, governing and enforcing MPAs, and offered how they can be made financially as well as ecologically self-sustaining. Methods to identify and protect critical habitats for all life stages of fishes for commercial and international importance, with a focus on regeneration of fish populations and the maintenance of biodiversity was discussed. An important outcome of the conference was a Scientific Consensus Statement that reflected the knowledge base reviewed and the conclusions drawn during the discussion.    

During the third day, diplomatic representatives from 33 countries from around the world, particularly those from small island developing states, joined the conference to learn more about the best available MPA science, governance, enforcement and financing. They also discussed policy implications of the science of MPAs and what concrete actions can be taken by the international community to help achieve Target 5 of the UN's SDG 14.