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The Ocean Race Summit Genova marks a milestone in the global race for ocean rights

by The Ocean Race 28 Jun 2023 12:37 UTC 28 June 2023
The Ocean Race VO65 Sprint Cup 2022-23 - 14 June 2023. VO65 In-Port Race in The Hague. Austrian Ocean Racing - Team Genova © Sailing Energy / The Ocean Race

The event held during The Grand Finale of the 2022-23 edition of The Ocean Race will be followed by a gathering of experts to finalise guidelines that could inform a Universal Declaration of Ocean Rights, which will be shared with the UN General Assembly in September.

A milestone in the journey towards a Universal Declaration of Ocean Rights is being reached this week in Genova, Italy, as two years of efforts to drive support for a Declaration, and expert input on what it should include, enters the final leg.

Earlier today, The Ocean Race Summit Genova, the penultimate event in a series of high-level discussions, examined how recognising the inherent rights of the ocean could be vital to its protection. The Summit will be followed on Thursday (29th June), by the final stage of the Genova Process, where draft principles on ocean rights will be completed, before being shared with members of the United Nations General Assembly in September.

The Genova Process is an initiative, started in March 2022, that has gathered together over 150 experts, policymakers, business leaders, lawyers, Indigenous Peoples, scientists, NGOs, and other stakeholders to develop principles on ocean rights that could form the basis of a potential Universal Declaration of Ocean Rights at dedicated 'Innovation Workshops'.

Opening today's event, The Ocean Race Chairman Richard Brisius drew parallels between the extreme and difficult conditions experienced during the round-the-world Race and the fight to protect the ocean. He said, "Just as Genova marks the end of a gruelling and exhilarating Race for our sailing teams, it also marks the final stage of another significant feat of teamwork: the Genova Process. Armed with the expertise and support gathered across four continents, we will have a strong proposition for members of the UN General Assembly that could help to secure a healthy ocean in our future.

"Our ambition for the ocean's rights to be recognised don't end there, but this is a significant moment in our race to protect our blue planet."

The Ocean Race and the government of Cabo Verde - with support of US-based Earth Law Center - are leading discussions with governments to increase formal support at the UN and national levels. Additionally, local governments have also formally supported the idea, including stopover city Itajaí, and the State of Santa Catarina, Brazil; stopover city of Newport, Rhode Island, USA, as well as the House of Representatives of Rhode Island; the first-ever Danish stopover city of Aarhus; Kiel in Germany and The Hague.

At today's Summit, Mayor of Genova, Marco Bucci, also signed a declaration of support on behalf of the city: "Today we are bringing Genova to the world: not only through an international sport competition, but also through a challenging fight to protect our oceans. The scientific research and the cultural heritage that the sea provides us are the foundations of the Genova Process and we are proud that it is named after our city. This is an essential step towards a Universal Declaration of Ocean Rights, an essential way to set the rules agreed among the countries to help protect our ocean and help a thriving ocean. Genova is a port city but above all, it is a city of the sea, giving us even more reasons to fight to preserve it," he said.

Genova, Italy's top maritime city and the Mediterranean's largest commercial port, is the host city for the Grand Finale of the 2022-23 edition of The Ocean Race - the first time that the around-the-world race has culminated in the Mediterranean.

Antonio di Natale, Marine Biologist, Special Advisor on Ocean Rights, Secretary-General of the Genova Aquarium Foundation, and a key player in the Genova Process, said: "We would like the ocean to have a voice, supported by the comprehensive framework that the main life support system of the planet deserves."

Also highly supportive of ocean rights was Kestutis Sadauskas, Deputy Director-General, DG MARE, European Commission, who acknowledged that the European Union shares the Race's ambition to protect and restore the ocean by 2030: "We are all in the race against time. If we do it together, if we do it with a sense of urgency and responsibility, we will definitely succeed."

Global leaders, top athletes and young voices speak up for ocean rights

The first of the 2023 series was The Ocean Race Summit Mindelo, held in Cabo Verde in January 2023, where the UN Secretary-General António Guterres delivered a keynote speech. Other renowned speakers included the Prime Minister of Cabo Verde, Ulisses Correia e Silva and Prime Minister of Portugal, António Costa.

Recent Summits have also been held in Itajaí, Brazil; Newport, Rhode Island and Aarhus, Denmark. Throughout the series of events, top athletes have shared their connection with the ocean and what they are doing to raise awareness on ocean protection and restoration.

Earlier today in Genova, Lily Xu Lijia, Olympic Sailing Gold Medallist at the London 2012 Olympics in the Laser Radial class, Broadcaster & Presenter for The Ocean Race China Show, said: "All nations should be part of the global conversation to protect ocean rights. China is a key player, given its' reliance on the ocean and the fact that a Chinese sponsored team, Dongfeng Racing won the last edition of the race. The nation has already shown commitments to reduce marine plastic pollution with the single use plastic ban. There is still scope for enhancing public awareness."

Cecilia Zorzi participated live on the Austrian Ocean Racing Team powered by Team Genova boat before arriving into the city this afternoon, and said: "As sailors we must protect the ocean. We really need to be aware, to care, to do all we can to preserve it, to defend it, to tell the stories to the people on land. We are the people who must give the ocean a voice."

The Ocean Race Summits are a key part of The Ocean Race's multi-award winning 'Racing with Purpose' sustainability programme developed in collaboration with 11th Hour Racing, a Premier Partner of The Ocean Race.

Alongside the high-level support for a Universal Declaration of Ocean Rights, the public are being asked to show their support for giving the ocean a voice by signing the One Blue Voice petition, which has gathered almost 30,000 signatures. The petition will be presented to global leaders in New York, alongside the principles on ocean rights, to show that citizens around the world demand accelerated ocean action.

The Ocean Race started from Alicante, Spain, on 15 January 2023 and will end in Genova The Grand Finale this week. It consists of seven legs with stopovers in eight cities around the world: Mindelo, Cabo Verde; Cape Town, South Africa; Itajaí, Brazil; Newport, Rhode Island, USA; Aarhus, Denmark; and The Hague, The Netherlands.

Speakers at The Ocean Race Summit Genova

High level participants in the event, who underlined the significance of ocean rights, included Kestutis Sadauskas, Deputy Director-General, DG MARE, European Commission; Lorenzo Schiano di Pepe, University of Genoa, Sea Study Centre; Elisabetta Balzi, Head of Unit at European Commission, DG Research and Innovation, Healthy Seas and Ocean, EU Mission Restore our Ocean and Waters; Marla Lise, Sustainability Project Manager, Archwey; Emanuela Rusciano, Science and Communications Coordinator, OceanOPS (IOC/UNESCO-WMO); Milan Meyberg, Sustainability Strategist, Founder Emissary of GAIA; Daniela Picco, Executive Director, MSC Foundation; and Mohamed Maray Elshikhi, Youth4Climate Champion.

Lucy Hunt, Senior Advisor Summits & Learning, The Ocean Race and Johan Strid, Policy and The Ocean Race Summits Director were also amongst the speakers.

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