The Permanent Mission of Italy to the United Nations hosted the first meeting of the 10X20 Steering Committee, an effort at the United Nations founded by the Ocean Sanctuary Alliance to promote successful implementation and achievement of SDG 14, Target 5, which states: By 2020, conserve at least 10 percent of coastal and marine areas, consistent with national and international  law and based on the best available scientific information. This Steering Committee represents an important step in mobilizing action towards achieving one of the SDG targets -- perhaps the first effort by Member States to do so. 

Eighteen Member States from around the globe attended the Steering Committee meeting, along with representatives from the EU Delegation, The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and the Ocean Sanctuary Alliance (OSA). H.E. Ambassador Sebastiano Cardi, Permanent Representative of the Italian Mission chairs the Steering Committee, and Vice Chairs include Permanent Representatives of The Bahamas, Kenya, Palau and Poland. At this meeting, terms of reference for the Steering Committee were discussed and adopted, with Member States supporting the forum as an informal way of catalyzing leadership, best practices and information sharing on marine protected areas (MPAs), the primary component of SDG 14, Target 5.

Equally significant was the announcement and discussion of the Conference of scientists and diplomats in Rome, 7-9, March, 2016, which is being funded by the Republic of Italy. Target 5 calls for utilizing the "best available science" for implementing MPAs, but contains no written guidance. OSA is helping to facilitate a group of esteemed MPA experts to draft a Scientific Consensus in Rome, the results of which can be considered a "road map" for moving forward on achieving the 10 percent marine protection by 2020. The Italian government, an ardent supporter of ocean issues and island nations, recognized the need not only for clear scientific guidance to underscore action, but also for more profound dialogue between scientists and policy makers, and it is generously financing the Conference and supporting it through its Ministries of Environment and Foreign Affairs. Dozens of diplomats, particularly those from small island developing states, will attend the Rome Conference and have the  opportunity to directly  interact with scientists and experts and learn more about the best available MPA science, governance, enforcement and financing. 

At one time, it was unclear whether the SDGs would even include a stand-alone goal focused on ocean issues. Now, the next challenge is effective and timely implementation of SDG 14,Target 5. Establishment of the 10X20 Steering Committee at the UN and a scientific consensus on the way forward are two major steps toward ensuring progress on this important global target. These actions and those that follow will be important ways to assess SDG 14's progress at the planned 2017 conference in Fiji.