Elizabeth with AOSIS deputy fellowship director and policy advisor Angelique Pouponneau, who spearheaded the UNOC declaration on equitable and inclusive partnerships.

At the end of June, Elizabeth Stephenson, director of the New England Aquarium’s Marine Conservation Action Fund (MCAF), traveled to Lisbon, Portugal for the United Nations Ocean Conference (UNOC). The UNOC brought together diverse stakeholders from around the world to propel innovative solutions for a new era of global ocean action. 

At the UNOC, the Aquarium was a signatory of a declaration put forth by the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) that aims to propel science-based ocean solutions grounded in inclusive and equitable partnerships. Signing on to this declaration creates opportunities to work with AOSIS and their partners, furthering the adoption of shared best practices for meaningful partnerships. Elizabeth also presented at an International Aquarium Network (IAN) side event on MCAF’s UN Ocean Decade-endorsed project, The Ripple Effect – Capacity Development for the Ocean. This project runs in collaboration with 12 global partners and focuses on strengthening ocean conservation capacity and literacy through equitable and inclusive partnerships. 

Aquarium Conservation Partnership (ACP) executive director Kim McIntyre, who attended as part of the Aquarium’s delegation, spoke about the US-based ACP at the IAN event.  

MCAF fellow Kerstin Forsberg organized and led a major side event and was also a featured speaker at several presentations at UNOC, including at Universidad NOVA de Lisboa.

MCAF was also a partner at a side event, It’s All About People, that was co-organized by MCAF fellow Kerstin Forsberg, founder and director of the Peruvian NGO Planeta Océano. The side event featured an international panel of ocean leaders and focused on building inclusive leadership and fostering collaboration for a thriving ocean. MCAF fellow Dr. Asha de Vos, founder and director of Oceanswell, was also a featured speaker at UNOC. Asha spoke on several panels on the importance of advancing equity in marine science and conservation, noting that “talent is evenly distributed” throughout the world but opportunity is not.” This inequity in opportunity leads to practitioners from low- and middle-income countries being underrepresented in the field. Dr. de Vos wrote an article on this subject, Equity in Marine Conservation: How Local Efforts and Global Partnerships Together Can #SaveOurOcean, which was featured in the UN Chronicle.  

MCAF Fellow Dr. Asha de Vos speaks on the panel for Our Ocean Future: Empowering the Next Generation of Ocean Leaders

Overall, UNOC provided a great opportunity for advancing the Aquarium’s mission by means of learning exchange, sharing our work, and connecting with potential new partners. The New England Aquarium is proud to be part of a global community working together towards a healthy ocean for all.