The 10x20 initiative was launched by the Republic of Italy and the Ocean Sanctuary Alliance to mobilize UN member-states to achieve target 5 of SDG 14.  The initiative is directed by a steering committee which is chaired by Italy (through 2017) and co-chaired (through 2018) by the Bahamas, Kenya, Palau, Poland, and the Ocean Sanctuary Alliance.

A LITTLE HISTORY                                                                  

In the months after the General Assembly approved the SDG framework in September 2015, OSA in partnership with the UN Mission of Italy, discussed forming an ongoing effort to realize the achievement of SDG 14.  This concept note launched the idea:


Marine scientists and experts at the Rome conference discussing elements of the consensus statement.  (OSA photo)

Marine scientists and experts at the Rome conference discussing elements of the consensus statement.  (OSA photo)



Purpose: To promote a multistakeholder partnership to achieve at least 10% of conservation of coastal and marine areas by 2020

After having devoted vast efforts to accomplish the establishment of SGD14 as a stand-alone goal, the time has come to start working for its overall achievement. To reach such an ambitious objective, we need to focus on concrete and effective actions. This is the reason why we have decided to concentrate initially on the specific accomplishment of Target 5 of SDG14.

The target includes perhaps the only measurable numerical target objective of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals: “by 2020, conserve at least 10 percent of coastal and marine areas, consistent with national and international law, based upon best available scientific information.” 

Currently, according to, 2.18% of the global ocean has some form of protection, and 1.03% is "no-take", which means there are no extractive activities like fishing or mining are allowed. While this number could seem still low, it is the combined result of the national efforts of approximately 140 States that have already decided to establish marine sanctuaries, showing the growing consensus of the importance to increase protection of Oceans and Seas.

We think that the achievement of Target 5 is really an area where we can make the difference. First of all, the establishment of sanctuaries can be measured precisely at any given point, giving us the possibility to monitor progress in reaching the goal of 10%. Moreover, the creation of protected areas is an action that can be realized more quickly than any of the other activities contemplated by SDG14. Finally, compliance is also easier to monitor and to enforce than many of the other measures discussed in SDG 14. 

The Steering Committee aims at accelerating progress in this field, by bringing together governments, international organizations, NGOs, foundations and private companies to work toward a coordinated achievement of the ten percent marine conservation target. 

Participants will have the opportunity to share national and regional experiences (e.g. recent announcements by The Bahamas and Palau governments) and exchange best practices.  At the same time, the Steering Committee will promote new initiatives, both to raise awareness and to contribute to the scientific debate in this sector.

As a kick-off initiative, the Government of Italy in collaboration with the Ocean Sanctuary Alliance, is planning to host a scientific conclave that will take place in Italy at the beginning of March 2016.

A group of around 20 prominent marine scientists from all regions of the world will be invited to engage in a dialogue aimed at providing a coordinated and justified way forward for the achievement of Target 5, specifically to operationalize the “best available science” as called for in the target. 

Some of the key objectives of the conclave will be to compile and synthesize the best available science on marine protected areas; recommend best practices for developing, implementing, and enforcing these areas; and consider how they can be made financially self-sustaining (while compensating for the loss of fishing revenues).

After the first meeting of the steering committee on Nov. 18, 2015, these terms of reference were circulated:

10x20 Steering Committee
Accelerating Actions to Achieve Target 5 Of SDG 14
Terms of Reference for Discussion

I - Background

In September 2015, Member States adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development that includes 17 Goals and 169 targets.  Goal 14 seeks to “Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development”. 

We believe that Target 14.5: “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” constitutes a cornerstone of SDG14. Its measurable numerical objective can be achieved and if we succeed in doing so we will have shown positive results in a relatively short time-frame. This is a historic opportunity that we need to seize.

From this belief the 10x20   initiative and campaign was born.  The oceans are under threat and Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) are underutilized tools apt to protect them – currently the global ocean is only 2% protected. The Steering Committee is intended to be a vehicle for advocacy and support toward the attainment of target14.5 and a forum for sharing practices, problems and possible solutions, knowledge and progress. While the focus of the Steering Committee will be on the full realization of the target, it will also concern itself with issues of sustainability, as well as social and economic impacts and benefits. 

II - Goals and Objectives -- The 10x20 campaign

Ten percent by 2020 – the name is the goal.

The 10x20 campaign is based on the conviction that member-states will live up to the pledges made to the world for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and its targets. Member- states recognise that the pursuit of SDGs will require a massive collective effort at all levels and that this can best be achieved by engaging State and Non-State actors in continuous and innovative collaboration and partnership. 

The 10x20 campaign calls on member-states to voluntarily establish the most effective marine protection that the best scientific knowledge can sustain.  The Steering Committee, established by member-states under the leadership of Italy and with the stewardship of the Ocean Sanctuary Alliance (OSA), is meant to be an instrument of advocacy for the voluntary establishment of MPAs, a means for generating support for these initiatives, a forum for exchanging knowledge, information and best practices, and a vehicle for disseminating information and know-how.

For best results, the Steering Committee aims at bringing together governments, international organizations, NGOs, foundations and private companies, in short, all stakeholders of the marine conservation target. 

III - Leadership/membership

The Republic of Italy has agreed to take the leadership role in the promotion of marine protected areas, and has agreed to chair the Steering Committee initially for 2 years.

Membership of the Steering Committee is open to all United Nations Member States on a voluntary basis, as well as UN organizations and leaders from academia, private sector and civil society, who are committed to the achievement of Target 5 of SDG 14.  Membership will include individuals in their personal capacity as well as representatives of organizations.

The Steering Committee will meet trimesterly, or as needed, and will be chaired by the Permanent Representative of the Republic of Italy to the United Nations.  It will be supported by 5 Vice-Chairs, who will initially serve for a period of 3 years . One of the Vice-Chairs will be a Representative from the Ocean Sanctuary Alliance (OSA).

IV - Role of the Steering Committee

A.        Advocacy

Utilizing to the maximum extent possible international, regional and national gatherings, symposia, seminars and meetings:

         Act as catalyst for experience sharing on policies required for establishing and managing MPAs;

         Operationalize the “best available science” for achieving Target 5;

         Identify issues that inhibit or that may open new flows of investment for MPAs;

         Translate, communicate and constructively present implementation needs (e.g. infrastructure, regulatory procedures, people and skills required) and their cost for the establishment, management and sustenance of MPAs; 

         Using/interpreting existing relevant methodological tools and approaches (surveys, policy task forces, policy proposals, proceedings of scientific meetings and conferences, reports by international organizations) make constructive presentations of issues, challenges, constraints, lessons learnt;

         Devise strategies to facilitate policy decisions through the national legislative process;

         Share national and regional experiences that can benefit other Member States;

B.         Promotion and Support

Utilizing to the maximum extent possible international, regional and national gatherings, symposia, seminars and meetings, as well as individual as well as collective contacts with international and regional organizations, foundations, institutions:

         Promote and support the creation of marine sanctuaries;

         Promote and support science-based planning to protect marine environments;

         Support regional efforts that aim to protect marine ecosystems by coordinating sovereign states’ efforts, in recognition of the fact that the challenge of protecting biodiversity and regenerating fish stocks cannot be met solely by individual member-sates’ efforts;

         Provide advice and guidance on efficient and effective compliance mechanisms, as called for in SDG 14;

         Encourage multistakeholder partnerships, engaging private sectors, civil society, academia, bilateral and multilateral organisations, to achieve Target 5;

         Share ideas and experiences on innovative financing and new investment models for implementing MPAs, noting that this can be best accomplished through multi-stakeholder partnerships;

         Whenever possible support and facilitate resource mobilization efforts by Member States;   

C.        Media and Public outreach

Utilizing to the maximum extent possible international, regional and national public media events, promotional activities for the public at large (such as film and documentary presentations, cultural initiatives and exhibitions, book presentations, Science and Trade fairs, etc.)  Members of the Steering Committee are encouraged to promote, with the aim of inspiring others for action:

         The taking of concrete action for the protection of biodiversity and fish stocks in their own waters;

         The advancement of the 10x20 mission;

         The merging of science and policy for charting the course towards the achievement of the 10x20 target;


 The Rome Conference March 2016
Marine Protected Areas: An Urgent Imperative
A Dialogue Between Scientists and Policymakers
Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Rome (March 7th – 9th, 2016)

The Government of Italy and the Ocean Sanctuary Alliance (OSA) formally launched the 10X20 Initiative in October of 2015. Five months later, in March of 2016, they convened together with UNEP a conference in Rome that brought world scientists and marine protected area practitioners, and diplomats from 34 countries together to discuss this urgent imperative. Outcomes included the Rome Call to Action, which presents a roadmap for meeting Target 5 goals by 2020, and the Scientists Consensus Statement, detailing the best available science for creating effective MPAs.

The Rome Call to Action promotes further dialogue between the scientific community and policy makers, and the development of a “toolkit” that will assist nations in the identification, design, finance and governance of appropriate MPAs and MPA networks.

The Scientists Consensus Statement includes 34 detailed points of agreement, covering the characteristics of MPAs, the principles of governance, and the financing mechanisms most likely to lead to effective MPAs. A Marine Protected Area is an umbrella term that encompasses virtually any type of refuge that provides protection to marine life. A wealth of scientific studies have documented that MPAs can assist in restoring overfished populations and the ecosystems in which they live, Rebuilding ocean health can play a key role in food security, as seafood products are a major source of protein for three billion people. A typical result is a three-to-five times increase in previously fished species within five to ten years. A marine reserve in the northern hemisphere in the Pacific, saw an 11 times increase in top predator biomass within a decade. The first shark sanctuary was declared by Palau in 2009 and now there are more than 20 shark sanctuaries around the world, the result of a strong coalition of UN countries advocating together While virtually every country with a coastline has declared one or more marine sanctuaries, the reserves tend to be small and not connected. Only three-and-a-half percent of oceans worldwide are currently under protection. The most reliable forecasts indicate that upwards of 30 percent of the ocean surface must ultimately be protected to meet global sustainability goals. While this target may seem distant, the 10X20 goal is attainable as a waypoint to long-term sustainability.

25 Marine Scientists and MPA experts representing 18 countries worked to achieve a broad consensus on issues related to defining, governing, and financing ocean sanctuaries.  They reached agreement on 34 individual points in trying to answer these three questions:

1) What are the characteristics of MPAs that will make them most effective at conserving biodiversity and regenerating fish populations?

2) What governance structures might best support the successful implementation and management of MPAs?

3) How can MPAs be made financially self-sustaining?

The complete statement can be read at the Best Available Science section of this website.

Here are some of the key findings that were presented to the Rome conference:

• Marine protected areas work best when they are fully protected from exploitation and other sources of harm.

• They do not work well when they receive only light protection, as is common practice today.

• Therefore, in meeting the 10% MPA target, countries should seek to maximize the inclusion of fully or strongly protected MPAs (IUCN categories, I and II), including fully protected zones within large, multiple use MPAs.   MPAs often fail for lack of finance, management, poor design etc.  But many today are failing because of lack of ambition, based on the incorrect assumption that degraded ecosystems are actually in good shape (shifting baseline syndrome). The protection given must be sufficient to facilitate recovery.  The 10X20 Initiative will continue to draw attention to the solutions that exist to the problems of ocean health and overfishing.  The Initiative supports continued dialogue between policy makers and scientists and the involvement of citizens dedicated to restoring the health of the world’s oceans and its marine populations.  Coalitions of United Nations states have had powerful results. A similar solidarity is needed to achieve 10X20. Countries and world leaders must together seize this singular opportunity to restore marine life in our oceans, or risk they be forever lost.


From left:  Mrs. Marijcke Thomson, PGA Ambassador Mr. Peter Thomson, Dr. Ellen Pikitch at the Rome conference, March 2016.  (OSA photo)

From left:  Mrs. Marijcke Thomson, PGA Ambassador Mr. Peter Thomson, Dr. Ellen Pikitch at the Rome conference, March 2016.  (OSA photo)


Rome, March 9th 2016

We the scientists and diplomats gathered in Rome on 7 – 9 March 2016 to initiate a dialogue on responding to the imperative of increasing the geographical scope of Marine Protected Areas by 2020, as mandated by Agenda 2030 and embodied into target 5 of Sustainable Development Goal 14,

ACKNOWLEDGING that the scientific knowledge about MPAs constitutes a sound and reliable basis for providing guidance and direction for achieving Target 14.5,

RECOGNIZING that the social, cultural, environmental and economic benefits deriving from Marine Protected Areas, that include increased food security, provision of livelihood options, better economic returns from marine resources, and greater resilience and disaster risk reduction in the face of climate change, are among the basic building blocks on which to advance sustainable development,

RECOGNIZING that the achievement of globally representative and ecologically networked protected marine ecosystems is integral to Target 14.5 and that MPAs are also needed in areas closer to human population centres,

CONSIDERING that well-planned and fully or strongly protected MPAs are the most effective in realizing the many potential benefits,

ACKNOWLEDGING that diversity is key to resilience and that the potential conflicts between use and conservation of marine resources can be addressed and resolved by means of a sound and robust MPA governance capacity,

ACKNOWLEDGING that the achievement of SDG Target 14.5 is a process that should aligned and coordinated with existing legal frameworks contained in MEAs, such as CBD (including Aichi Biodiversity Strategy 2011-2020, Target 11), the SAMOA Pathway and the new Paris Agreement on Climate, as well as ongoing intergovernmental discussions regarding the development of a legally binding instrument under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction, and other international initiatives such as the Micronesia Challenge, the Coral Triangle and the Caribbean Challenge Initiatives and the Parties to the Nauru Agreement.

We have taken account of the foregoing aspects and issue the following


1.    Incorporate the establishment of MPAs into the national strategies that are being adopted to implement and localize the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development;

2.    Make use of the best available science as well as institutional and operational experience to establish, maintain, and effectively manage MPAs[1];

3.    Consider that Target 14.5 represents an important waypoint rather than an endpoint in our quest towards the implementation of Sustainable Development Goal 14 and the achievement of healthy, resilient and productive oceans;

4.    Map and describe areas where MPAs are especially needed and prioritize protection of vulnerable species and habitats as an initial measure in view ofthe year 2020 target, giving the highest consideration to both biodiversity distribution and ecosystem functioning ;

5.    Promote and help develop MPA governance frameworks that are appropriate to the specific MPA context and draw in an integrated manner on economic, knowledge, legal and participative incentives;

6.    Devise approaches for sustainability of MPAs that can best ensure the long term benefits of MPAs and their fair and equitable distribution among all sectors;

7.    Devise and help develop approaches to consistently involve all stakeholders, including local communities in a just and equitable manner in the assessment, designation and management of MPAs to improve ownership, benefit from traditional knowledge and practices, and stimulate the creation of livelihoods, thereby increasing the likelihood of success and sustainability;

8.    Increase focus on the economic issues related to MPAs and help devise and develop updated cost-benefit analysis that take into account the existing gap between the short term nature of investments and the long term character of MPA benefits;

9.    Support resource mobilization activities from all sources with a view to promoting and accelerating investment in the establishment and maintenance of MPAs, as part of the international effort towards the achievement of sustainable development;

10.   Help countries with capacity building and identification of resource opportunities.


11.   The international scientific community to continue research on Ocean issues on an urgent priority basis;

12.   The group of scientists and other MPA experts gathered in Rome to offer their assistance in the implementation of Target 5 of Sustainable Development Goal 14 both globally and in specific regions, including the application of their recommendations provided in the Rome Scientists’ Consensus;

13.   The Steering Committee of the 10x20 Initiative to:

          (a)      intensify its advocacy and support role to bring the present Call to Action to the attention of the international community;

          (b)      devise appropriate and effective follow-up activities to the CALL to ACTION;

          (c)      promote further dialogue between the scientific community and policy-makers including calling upon and engaging the group of MPA experts gathered in Rome;

          (d)      develop a “tool-box” that will assist in the identification, design, finance and governance of appropriate MPAs and MPA networks in a multiplicity of contexts, including transitional challenges for the establishment of MPAs.

The Steering Committee of the 10x20 Initiative to bring to the attention of Member States, including through the High Level Political Forum, the present CALL to ACTION and to convey to them the request to include into the Agenda of the forthcoming international conference on the Oceans – Fiji, 2017 – consideration of progress made towards the achievement of Target 14.5.