On June 8, children from more than 10 UNESCO marine World Heritage sites including Papahānaumokuākea (USA), Lord Howe Island Group (Australia) and the Wadden Sea (Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands) will call upon world leaders to sign a pledge to protect the ocean for future generations. The children will launch the pledge in front of over 40 Heads of State at the United Nations General Assembly on World Oceans Day.
Four of the children, ages 12 to 15, come from Denmark, Germany, and the Netherlands, representing the Wadden Sea World Heritage. One of the 49 marine World Heritage Sites, the Wadden Sea is the largest tidal flats system in the world, where natural processes are largely undisturbed. To ensure the protection of the Wadden Sea, the three countries have been joining their forces for the conservation of the area since 1978. This is the first time that children from the three Wadden Sea countries attend such an international event together.
Each child on stage lives in a UNESCO marine World Heritage site, an area that has been recognized for its Outstanding Universal Value, and protected for humanity under the 1972 UNESCO World Heritage Convention. The international community has committed to care for our natural wonders, and these children are bearing a message of hope: if we work together, we can overcome today’s ocean challenges.
Like the rest of the world’s ocean, World Heritage marine sites are suffering from the impacts of climate change, including warming waters, stronger storms, rising seas, and ocean acidification. The children know that decisions made today will have ripple effects for generations to come.
They will unveil the pledge, titled My Ocean Pledge, on stage at the United Nations General Assembly Hall, and then invite world leaders to sign their commitment during a signature ceremony.
People from across the globe will be invited to sign the pledge digitally on the website of UNESCO’s World Heritage Marine Programme, http://whc.unesco.org/myoceanpledge. Children who live in UNESCO marine World Heritage sites, but who were unable to travel to New York in person, have made video pledges launching a social media movement #MyOceanPledge. Video pledges have been posted from across the planet including sites such as the Galápagos Islands in Ecuador, the Wadden Sea in Netherlands/Germany/Denmark, The Great Barrier Reef in Australia and the Phoenix Islands Protected Area in Kiribati to name a few.
Mechtild Rössler, Director of the World Heritage Centre, said “The world’s ocean is at a tipping point. Climate change is already affecting several World Heritage marine sites, and no place on earth is immune to this global threat. There is hope, however. We still have a chance to save our ocean treasures. But we must act now, and we must work together. Future generations will inherit the consequences of our actions − or inaction.”
This initiative is made possible by the generous support of the Government of Flanders, the Explorers Club, Stefan & Irina Hearst and the Khaled bin Sultan Living Oceans Foundation. The participation of the four Wadden Sea children is sponsored by the Danish Wadden Sea National Park, the Danish Wadden Sea Secretariat, the Dutch Ministry for Economic Affairs, the Dutch NGO Waddenvereniging, and the German Ministry for Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety.
Marleen from the Netherlands, Silja from Germany, and Jens and Johannes from Denmark (from left) presenting the Wadden Sea World Heritage to their fellow delegates. UNESCO/Joel Sheakoski.