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Excellencies, distinguished participants, dear friends,

I feel privileged to be again among friends of the oceans and seas, in particular with you President Remengesau, to deepen our understanding of the role of the oceans and seas as protectors of life on Earth and fundamental drivers of sustainable development. I am also convinced today’s event will stimulate all of us into the commitment of safeguarding future generations from additional loss of the capacity of the oceans and seas to play the role nature has entrusted them with through a vigorous implementation of initiatives aimed at the Sustainable Development Goal on the oceans we all worked so hard to secure.

The Convention on Biological Diversity has long recognized that the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity is of critical importance for meeting the food, health and general wellbeing of the world population. The Convention has also stressed the role that safeguard of marine and coastal protected areas, which are one of the essential tools for both conservation and sustainable use of marine and coastal resources, can play in strengthening friendly relations among States thereby contributing to conflict prevention and peace.

Furthermore, the establishment and maintenance of a global network of marine and coastal protected areas that are effectively managed, can significantly contribute to the achievement of several Aichi Biodiversity Targets and, above all, of the Aichi Target 11. As we all know, this fundamental target calls for having by 2020 at least 17 per cent of terrestrial and inland water, and 10 per cent of coastal and marine areas conserved through effectively and equitably managed protected areas.

Dear friends, Italy is a peninsula that has enjoyed centuries of productive and cultural life in a symbiotic relationship with the sea. My country has learned since long that the preservation of this relationship requires heavy investments in the future of our shores and islands and marine resources. With its 27 marine protected areas and 2 underwater parks covering more than 200 thousand hectares of sea around 700 km of coastlines, Italy has developed a large experience and capacity in the management of marine protected areas. The Sanctuary of “Cetaceans” that we share and manage together with France and Monaco, provides valuable insights on transboundary cooperation.

I am sure we will learn from today’s symposium that marine protected areas can produce important positive ecological effects, among which protection of species and biodiversity in general, recovery of damaged areas, increased fertility, and increased stability and resilience of the marine ecosystems. In the Mediterranean Sea, marine protected areas have proved to ensure increase of biomass, to restore the natural structure of populations subject to commercial exploitation, and to improve the yields of local fisheries.

We are therefore very encouraged by the initiative taken last year by Palau to establish the First Nationwide Marine National Sanctuary in Palau as a long-term adaptation response to the impacts of climate change on marine ecosystems. We are proud of being able to provide the necessary seed resources to make the Sanctuary a reality. As climate change has already produced serious damages to the oceans, it is key to their health and to the wellbeing of the people that depend on them that the marine ecosystems be managed sustainably. The Palau initiative is part of the successful and long-standing partnership between Italy and the Pacific Small Island Developing States that began in 2007 and has proven to be a powerful instrument for providing tangible benefits to the most vulnerable populations of the Pacific Islands.

Dear friends, let me finally say that the ties our successful partnership with the Pacific Small Island Developing States has helped to enhance testifies to the spill over effects that a shared agenda for the protection of the marine environment can exert by acting as a “political catalyzer” of peace and cooperation. I can therefore confirm our strong commitment to further enhance this partnership which has already established itself as an international good practice.

Thank you.