The ocean and seas cover over two-thirds of the earth's surface, provide food and minerals, generate oxygen, absorb greenhouse gases, determine weather patterns and temperatures, and serve as highways for 80% of the volume of international trade.
To sustain life on Earth, sustainable use entails ocean, seas and marine resources conservation whilst contributing to the achievement of sustainable development, economic growth, and livelihoods. About 150 of 195 UNCTAD members have coasts, and 83 of them have a larger ocean space than land territory.
UNCTAD is supporting developing countries to identify the opportunities and challenges that the growing global ocean economy can bring. It also supports national trade and other competent authorities to design and create an enabling policy and regulatory environment that promotes the development and emergence of sustainable ocean economic sectors through the definition and implementation of national and regional oceans economy and trade strategies.
UNCTAD obtained a mandate on oceans and seas at the UNCTAD 14 Conference (Paragraph 100(t) of the Nairobi Maafikiano), which was expanded at UNCTAD 15 Conference (Paragraphs 76 and nn of at the adoption of the Bridgetown Covenant).
These mandates embody conservation and sustainable use, implementation of the WTO Agreement on Fisheries Subsidies as well as marine litter and plastic pollution mitigation.
Five pillars of the oceans economy
UNCTAD's oceans economy pillars help to implement these mandates to pursue sustainable and inclusive development in line with SDG14 and its specific targets, and technological capacity, innovation, and policy and regulatory coherence in areas within and beyond national jurisdiction.
In order to expand the understanding of the value, sizes and sectors of ocean trade, UNCTAD has developed the groundbreaking oceans economy classification and ocean trade dataset for ocean-based goods and services.
With its partners, it convenes knowledge and consensus building and generates policy recommendations under the UN Oceans Forum on trade-related aspects of SDG 14 to support the outcomes of the United Nations Ocean Conference convened biennially.
UNCTAD’s work on the ocean economy contributes to the research and analysis published by The United Nations Economist Network.
Sustainable Ocean Economy Classification
The identification of sustainable ocean economy sectors and their respective Harmonized System codes was conducted in the UNCTAD report "Towards a harmonized international trade classification for the development of sustainable ocean-based economies".
A dataset on Ocean Trade is now available in the UNCTADstat Data Center.