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Nien-Tsu Alfred Hu says, "Taiwan’s inclusion is needed for ocean issues."

Taiwan’s inclusion is needed for ocean issues

By Nien-Tsu Alfred Hu

Thursday last week was World Oceans Day and the theme for this year decided upon by the UN was “Planet Ocean: Tides are Changing.”

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres issued a message, in which he pointed out the importance of the oceans and asked: “Humanity counts on the ocean, but can the ocean count on us?”

He further indicated inappropriate human activities that had damaged the environment and the oceans’ resources, and illustrated how tides were changing.

In June last year, after 21 years of negotiations, the WTO concluded a multilateral agreement to end harmful fisheries subsidies. In December last year, the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity adopted, among others, Target 3, calling for 30 percent of the world’s terrestrial and inland water areas, and coastal and marine areas to be subject to effective conservation and management by 2030.

An international legally binding instrument for ending plastic pollution is being negotiated. At the beginning of March, the UN Intergovernmental Conference finished negotiations on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction and completed a draft agreement.

Such significant actions illustrate that the world is moving from ocean utilization toward marine ecological conservation and environment protection. What are the changes for Taiwan?

On Jan. 31, the Ocean Affairs Council, the specialized ocean agency in Taiwan, ushered in a new leader with strong political momentum. Due to council Minister Kuan Bi-ling’s (管碧玲) push, the Legislative Yuan on May 2 adopted amendments to the Act of Use of Weapons and Requisite Instruments by the Coast Guard Authority (海岸巡防機關器械使用條例). A few days later on May 12, the Marine Pollution Control Act (海洋污染防治法) was amended and on May 26 the Ocean Industries Development Act (海洋產業發展條例) was passed. This is a huge legislative achievement.

Under Kuan’s policy objectives of “three safeties and four seas,” meaning “national security, legal order and safety” as well as “ocean pollution prevention and control, ocean waste management, ocean ecological conservation and ocean industries development” the council can further “awaken the public” to bring about a “change in the tide” in Taiwan’s ocean governance.

The council must build up its clientele and ensure professionalism in marine affairs so its authority of “integrated planning, deliberation, coordination and promotion” can be used.

In other words, the primary issue that the council must consider should be how it can improve whole-of-government ocean awareness and whole-of-society ocean literacy so as to lead a social trend and integrate other competent authorities/agencies.

In the international community, given the global nature of marine affairs, Taiwan needs to consider how best to foster closer, mutually beneficial relationships with small island developing states (SIDS) allies, friendly ocean nations and functional ocean-related and intergovernmental conservation organizations, all of which relates to ocean diplomacy, international cooperation and foreign aid.

Establishing an appropriate international mindset and strengthening international affairs capacity within the council should be the foundation and priority for Taiwan if it aims meet this wave of global trends, and consolidate national security and development.

Taiwan is an ocean nation, and the oceans bring security and development, so it must not be left out of global trends. This is what we should take away from this year’s World Oceans Day.

Nien-Tsu Alfred Hu is director of the Center for Marine Policy Studies at National Sun Yat-sen University.


This article is translated by Emma Liu and published in Taipei Times website (Link).

The Chinese version of the article is available at Link.

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