By Julia Cirne Lima Weston, Intern at the Division for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea, Office of Legal Affairs of the United Nations, LL.M Graduate at University College London, and Bachelor of Law at Pontifícia Universidade Católica do Rio Grande do Sul.
The views expressed herein are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations.
Humanity has been connected to the oceans since ancient times. However, recent trends, as evidenced by the second World Ocean Assessment, point towards the depletion of the marine environment, overfishing, climate change impacts, among others. Considering the undeniable human links to the ocean, it is important that the world’s population is aware of current trends, risks, and ways of reducing and preventing these impacts. An initiative which seeks to improve public awareness on these topics, which is of utmost relevance, is United Nations World Oceans Day.
World Oceans Day, which happens every year on 8 June, was established by a United Nations General Assembly Resolution in 2008, although it had been a concept since the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, in 1992. World Oceans Day is also connected to all of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), established in a posterior General Assembly Resolution, in 2015. Among those, SDG Number 14 is particularly relevant, as it is the goal to “Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development”. SDG 14 covers ocean governance issues, such as the reduction of and the minimization of the effects of marine pollution, as well as the need for improved resource management, among other relevant issues. It is undoubtably a goal we need to address in order to ensure the conservation of our oceans.
As such, World Oceans Day marks a special date, which seeks to promote awareness of the importance of the oceans for humankind and the good functioning of the Earth, as well as the need for an improved ocean governance. The Division for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea of the Office of Legal Affairs of the United Nations is actively working with its partners to hold World Oceans Day activities.
The importance of the oceans in daily life is often understated or not even considered by people around the globe. This is what the United Nations aims to change through marking World Oceans Day, by reminding the general population of the important, and increasingly important role the oceans play in our daily lives, and how it needs to be adequately preserved to ensure quality of life worldwide.
This year’s theme for World Oceans Day is ‘The Ocean: Life and Livelihoods’. The event places emphasis on the wonder and complexity of the ocean, the importance of what it provides to humanity, and the current state of its depletion and how this impacts humanity.  But it also celebrates the opportunities to rebalance humanity’s relation with the ocean, through understanding and redefining our relationship with the ocean. This is an extremely important endeavor, mainly considering the results presented in the second World Ocean Assessment, published this year, which points towards an increased negative human impact over the oceans’ resources and environment, such as acidification and other kinds of pollution, as well as overfishing.
The official United Nations event itself will include remarks on ‘oceanic discoveries’, ‘humanity’s relationship with the oceans’, ‘intergenerational knowledge-sharing’, blue economy, as well as other relevant topics. The event, which was previously held at the United Nations Headquarters, in New York, is now held virtually due to COVID-19, which ultimately helps raise a more general awareness of the topics it covers.
The United Nation’s marking of World Oceans Day is supplemented by a large number of events organized by the Friends of World Oceans Day community during the month of June. These events relate to the current state of the oceans of diverse sources, such as legal and scientific considerations, relevant book launches, musical numbers and workshops. Presentations on the practical implementation of ocean governance by States are also made in national events, which is a useful tool for increasing the sharing of best practices among States.
As such, World Oceans Day is a most welcome initiative, which makes us confront the need to work on the preservation of the oceans, and to develop and implement ocean governance frameworks in order to achieve this. Its importance is undeniable, as it marks an accessible, international event, which serves to remind the world population about its undeniable link to the oceans, and what it can do to help preserve them.
If you are interested in keeping up to date with World Oceans Day-related events, as well as the official transmission of the event on 8 June, access the United Nations World Oceans Day official website at https://unworldoceansday.org.
 UNITED NATIONS. The Second World Ocean Assessment. Available at: < https://www.un.org/regularprocess/sites/www.un.org.regularprocess/files/2011859-e-woa-ii-vol-ii.pdf>
 For more information see: www.UNworldoceansday.org
 UNITED NATIONS. Resolution adopted by the General Assembly on 5 December 2008. Available at: <https://undocs.org/A/RES/63/111>; UNITED NATIONS. Why Ocean Matters. Available at: <https://www.un.org/en/observances/oceans-day/background>.
 UNITED NATIONS. Resolution adopted by the General Assembly on 25 September 2015. Available at: < https://www.un.org/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=A/RES/70/1&Lang=E>.
 UNITED NATIONS. Why Ocean Matters. Available at: <https://www.un.org/en/observances/oceans-day/background>.
 UNITED NATIONS. 2021 Theme The Oceans: Life and Livelihoods. Available at: < https://unworldoceansday.org/un-world-oceans-day-2021/>.
 UNITED NATIONS. II World Ocean Assessment. Available at: < https://www.un.org/regularprocess/sites/www.un.org.regularprocess/files/2011859-e-woa-ii-vol-ii.pdf>
 UNITED NATIONS. 2021 Theme “The Oceans: Life and Livelihoods”. Available at: < https://unworldoceansday.org/un-world-oceans-day-2021/>.
 UNITED NATIONS. United Nations World Oceans Day Annual Event. Available at: < https://unworldoceansday.org/un-world-oceans-day-annual-event/>.
 UNITED NATIONS. Calendar. Available at: <https://unworldoceansday.org/calendar/>.