Mr. President of Palau,
Mr. Deputy Secretary-General,
Excellencies, dear friends
I am honored to welcome all of you to this gathering, and pleased to be among such distinguished and knowledgeable leaders.
Alarms have been sounding over the health of the oceans and seas for years now. Indeed, many of us are already facing stark realities and the prospect of losses beyond anything imaginable just 50 years ago. The oceans and seas have been transformed from friends of humanity to almost enemies by harmful human activities such as burning fossil fuels, transporting marine species from one habitat to another, overfishing, and unsustainable and dangerous waste disposal. The ocean food chain has been disrupted, fish populations are retreating, and sea levels are rising. The oceans are becoming harbingers of devastation, danger, and loss.
Italy is hardly immune to these effects. Surrounded by the seas, Italy has already suffered loss and destruction from the angry response of the seas to the activities I have just listed. We are investing heavily in the future of our shores and islands through a series of efforts to fight pollution and erosion. We are establishing protected areas and sanctuaries. We are monitoring aggregations of invasive species to reduce their negative impact on marine ecosystems.
One example. For a thousand years the city of Venice has enjoyed a productive and culturally rich life in symbiotic relationship with the sea. For Venice the sea has been both shelter and provider of material and cultural wealth. Traditionally this relationship has been depicted in art as the “marriage” between the city and the sea. But now the sea has turned into a major threat to the survival of the city and its way of life.
Ever since the 14th century we have taken measures to safeguard and maintain the relationship of the Venetian lagoon with the sea. In recent years we have had to take major steps to protect Venice from the collective impact of human activities on the health of the sea and the surrounding land. A massive program is underway to protect and rebuild the lagoon habitats, rehabilitate polluted sites and strengthen the barrier islands and jetties. Our purpose is to make Venice live forever, happily married to the sea ……
Venice is one battle and we will fight it valiantly. This battle has already taught us a very important lesson: the odds are enormous when we address the health of the oceans and seas. Even before a local challenge, no single community, no single country or group of countries, can go it alone. The only way to halve or reverse the damage already done is by joining forces and working together. Building on existing principles and rules of international law, such as the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, the international community must double its efforts to protect the oceans and seas. We must develop appropriate forms of cooperation to increase sustainability in the use of their resources.
Some industrial practices have had a devastating impact on the environment. At the same time, we must remember that technology is also a powerful tool. Combined with a new global awareness of the fragility of the oceans and seas, technology can change the world for the better.
We are now poised to formulate the new development architecture. Therefore, we need decisive global responses in the form of global commitments. And one of these commitments must be the preservation of the capacity of the oceans and seas to guarantee the well being of the planet and its inhabitants.
I am confident that our discussion today will have a strong impact on how we perceive the vital role that the oceans and seas have on our way of life, and guide us toward a common vision and a common path. A deeper understanding can only inspire in us a greater desire to safeguard future generations from even a partial loss of the capacity of the oceans and seas to provide for the peoples of the planet and preserve our way of life.