Meld. St. 22 (2016–2017)

The place of the oceans in Norway’s foreign and development policy— Meld. St. 22 (2016–2017) Report to the Storting (white paper)

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1 Introduction

This is the first time a Norwegian government has presented a white paper on the place of the seas and oceans in the country’s foreign and development policy. Its aim is to highlight the opportunities the oceans offer for Norway and the challenges we will need to deal with, and to describe how Norwegian foreign and development policy can be used to safeguard Norway’s ocean interests and promote the achievement of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Norway has a range of vital national interests relating to the seas and oceans. More than 80 % of Norway’s population lives less than 20 kilo- metres from the coast. This has been a key factor in shaping Norwegian identity and in influencing how Norway is seen by others. Ever since the Viking Age, coastal waters have linked the various parts of the country and brought them together into a single kingdom, and the seas have connected Norway to the rest of the world.

The oceans are not only crucial to our understanding of the past; they also hold an important key to the future – in Norway as in the rest of the world. The Norwegian Government is actively promoting a transition to a greener Norwegian economy. If we are to succeed, we must safeguard biodiversity for current and future generations. At the same time, we must make the most of opportunities for economic development in maritime areas, and promote production and consumption patterns that have less negative impact on the climate and marine environment than is the case today. The importance of this was made clear in 2015 when world leaders adopted the 17 SDGs, including one specifically concerning the oceans: SDG 14, to conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development.

The oceans offer huge potential for human development. According to the UN, the world’s population is set to reach 9.7 billion in 2050. Most of the growth will be in developing countries, particularly in Africa and Asia. All these people will need food and energy, and population growth will drive an expansion of trade and maritime transport. Shipping has a key role to play in promoting global trade and growth.

However, there is also concern about the state of the world’s oceans. Population growth, urbanisation and the concentration of human activity in coastal areas will increase pressure on the oceans. Climate change, pollution, marine litter, overfishing and the destruction of coastal ecosystems are all threats to the oceans.

Global development trends indicate that Norway, as a coastal and maritime nation, will face a complex set of challenges and opportunities in the decades ahead. The choices we make and the priorities we set will have important implications for our relations with the rest of the world and our ability to exploit the potential of the oceans.

The UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, often referred to as the ‘constitution of the oceans’, is of key importance in this context. Just as a country’s constitution ensures predictability and stability at the national level, the Law of the Sea promotes peaceful international cooperation on conservation and sustainable use of the world’s oceans. The Convention regulates the rights and obligations of states as regards use of the seas and oceans, utilisation of marine resources and conservation of the marine environment. This ensures a predictable framework and stability for investments and economic activity. The Convention is vital for Norway, with its strong environmental, energy, seafood and shipping interests. Together with other international legal instruments, it provides the legal framework for Norway’s cooperation with other countries on conservation and sustainable use of the oceans and marine resources at the global, regional and bilateral levels.

There is considerable potential for growth in many sectors of the ocean economy, including the seafood industry, marine biotechnology, energy (renewable and non-renewable), seabed mining, maritime transport and trade, coastal and maritime tourism and maritime surveillance. Together these sectors make up the ocean or ‘blue’ economy. Policies and tools to promote economic development and reduce poverty must take ecological limits and climate change into account and ensure an integrated approach to different kinds of activities and environmental pressures. Ensuring sustainable use is a priority for Norway and vital for ocean-based activities in Norway and the world as a whole. Growth in the blue economy may include both steps to improve the environmental performance of existing industries – for example by deploying new technologies – and the development of new ocean-based industries that have less environmental impact.

The SDGs provide a global framework for the international community’s efforts to promote development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. SDG 14 requires us to include the oceans in this concerted global effort. Achieving SDG 14 is important in itself, and will also have positive ripple effects in other strategically important areas that are vital to peace, stability and security. With its extensive experience and knowledge of ocean-based activities, Norway is well placed to make an important contribution in this area.

This white paper makes it plain that the oceans are a key focus area in Norwegian foreign and development policy, and highlights three priority areas: sustainable use and value creation, clean and healthy oceans, and the role of the blue economy in development policy. Together with the Government’s ocean strategy, the integrated management plans for Norwegian sea areas and other important policy documents, the white paper will promote a clear and integrated Norwegian approach to ocean issues.

Textbox 1.1 Sustainable Development Goal 14: Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development

Figure 1.1  

Figure 1.1  

  • 14.1 By 2025, prevent and significantly reduce marine pollution of all kinds, in parti- cular from land-based activities, including marine debris and nutrient pollution

  • 14.2 By 2020, sustainably manage and protect marine and coastal ecosystems to avoid significant adverse impacts, including by strengthening their resilience, and take action for their restoration in order to achieve healthy and productive oceans

  • 14.3 Minimize and address the impacts of ocean acidification, including through enhanced scientific cooperation at all levels

  • 14.4 By 2020, effectively regulate harvesting and end overfishing, illegal, unrepor- ted and unregulated fishing and destructive fishing practices and implement science-based management plans, in order to restore fish stocks in the shor- test time feasible, at least to levels that can produce maximum sustainable yield as determined by their biological characteristics

  • 14.5 By 2020, conserve at least 10 per cent of coastal and marine areas, consistent with national and international law and based on the best available scientific information

  • 14.6 By 2020, prohibit certain forms of fisheries subsidies which contribute to overcapacity and overfishing, eliminate subsidies that contribute to illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing and refrain from introducing new such subsidies, recognizing that appropriate and effective special and differential treatment for developing and least developed countries should be an integral part of the World Trade Organization fisheries subsidies negotiation

  • 14.7 By 2030, increase the economic benefits to Small Island developing States and least developed countries from the sustainable use of marine resources, inclu- ding through sustainable management of fisheries, aquaculture and tourism

  • 14.A Increase scientific knowledge, develop research capacity and transfer marine technology, taking into account the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission Criteria and Guidelines on the Transfer of Marine Technology, in order to improve ocean health and to enhance the contribution of marine biodiversity to the development of developing countries, in particular small island developing States and least developed countries

  • 14.B Provide access for small-scale artisanal fishers to marine resources and markets

  • 14.C Enhance the conservation and sustainable use of oceans and their resources by implementing international law as reflected in UNCLOS, which provides the legal framework for the conservation and sustainable use of oceans and their resources, as recalled in paragraph 158

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