Celebrating the 2023 International Day of Peace through Contributions of Ocean Governance to the Sustainable Development Goals

By Alana Malinde S.N. Lancaster

In 1981, by Resolution 36/67, the United Nations designated September 21 as the International Day of Peace. The 2023 celebrations occurred at a time when the world is more than ever, in many parts of the globe, being confronted by the need for peace in many fronts. While the news media is besieged by the events in Ukraine, the former French colonies in Africa, and the long running internal conflicts in Myanmar to name a few, there is also need for peace in many areas not traditionally thought of as battlegrounds, such as our oceans. Further, the effects of climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution are increasingly exacerbating insecurity and conflict risks around the world. This Blog Post reflects on the connections between peace and ocean governance, and some recent international engagements of the One Ocean Hub related to the Sustainable Development Goals.

Actions for Peace

Conflict exacerbates climate change, including action to mitigate and adapt to climate change, especially in States most vulnerable to climate change. Globally, this latter category includes more than half the world’s States, which are also impacted to varying extents by conflicts. Within this context, the theme for the International Day of Peace 2023 is Actions For Peace: Our Ambition For The #GlobalGoals is apposite, as it links directly to a call to action recognising our individual and collective responsibility to foster peace. At the frontlines of the ocean, this action is unfolding from the ranks of under-represented and marginalised groups such as Indigenous peoples, women, children and the disabled.

Additionally, there are avenues for increased agency, and the rise of environmental, climate and ocean defenders (Bennett et. al., 2023; Donger, 2022; Lancaster, Mitchell and Nurse, 2024 forthcoming) in Global North, as well as Global South States at the frontlines of the ocean-climate nexus (Lancaster, Nurse and Young Marshall, 2024 forthcoming).  I take this opportunity to reflect on recent #ActionsForPeace by the One Ocean Hub aimed at fostering linkages between SDG 14 (life below water) and SDG 16 (peace, justice and strong institutions).

In this regard, it is perhaps serendipitous that the 2023 celebrations for the International Day of Peace coincided with the U.N.’s Global Goals Week  and the SDG Summit 2023, as 2023 also marks the mid-point in implementing the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Collectively, the SDGs led by SDG 16, aim to bring the world closer to having more peaceful, just, and inclusive societies, free from fear and violence. Further, fostering peace contributes to the realisation of the SDGs, and achieving the SDGs will create a culture of peace for all. Critical to achieving this peace will be the buy-in and contribution of a wide range of actors including the 1.2 billion young people alive, and concrete actions peace across the Goals which fight inequality, drive action on climate change, and also recognise, promote and protect human rights. Because of the intimate connections at the ocean-climate nexus (Morgera and Lennan, 2022; 2023; Lennan and Morgera, 2022;  Morgera et. al., 2023 a; b; Shields et. al., 2023), mainstreaming equity and justice in ocean spaces has become critical for policy deliberations, management decisions, and program design related to marine conservation, fisheries management, and blue economy development  (Bennett, 2022).

Within this context, over the past five years, One Ocean Hub researchers and their partners have been working tirelessly on various aspects of SDG 14, by underscoring the importance of research and advocacy in this most underfunded SDG.  This has included work on:

  • human rights and small-scale fisheries (here; here);
  • support for the International Year of Artisanal Fisheries and Aquaculture (IYAFA)  (here; here );
  • connecting children’s rights to a healthy ocean (here; here; here);
  • climate and ocean defenders (here; here);
  • marine spatial planning (here; here), and
  • protecting women and girl’s rights to a healthy marine environment (here; here).

The Hub’s approach to transdisciplinarity and transformative ocean governance (Strand et. al., 2022), is also enhanced by the collaboration with other entities working within the sustainability sphere, as well as the participation of Hub researchers in the work related to the SDGs. 

Collaborating with the UNDP

In late 2022, the Hub began a collaboration with UNDP’s Oslo Governance Centre and the German Institute of Development and Sustainability (IDOS) on the synergies between SDG 14 and SDG 16, to advance our understanding of the ocean governance research landscape, foster policy coherence, and maximise synergies between the SDGs. UNDP had previously applied this approach, to investigate linkages between SDG 16, SDG 1 (poverty reduction) and SDG 10 (inequality reduction) (here ;  here). Accordingly, the same approach was utilised to assess how progress on key aspects of SDG 16 affects progress on key aspects of SDG 14. 

Hub researchers collaborated on the study as part of the Analyst Group, who reviewed literature relevant to the study, using UNDP-tested coding protocol (DrAlana Malinde S.N. Lancaster, University of the West Indies, Barbados; Dr Holly Niner, University of Plymouth, U.K., and Dr Bernadette Snow, University of Strathclyde, U.K.). In addition, Hub researchers were included in the Reference Group, who reviewed the initial findings and the final study (Professor Elisa Morgera, University of Strathclyde, U.K.) and Professor Jeremy Hills, (University of South Pacific, Fiji).

The Report on the synergies between SDG 14 and SDG 16 titled Connections that Matter: How Does The Quality Of Governance Institutions Help Protect Our Ocean? was successfully launched at the 2023  Blue Justice Conference in Copenhagen, Denmark. The findings of the Report reveal empirical evidence from across the globe that meaningful stakeholder engagement in marine protection efforts fosters trust, ownership and cooperation which makes these efforts more accepted and legitimate, and thereby more effective. In turn, protection efforts, such as the setting up of marine protected areas, which neglect stakeholder engagement and fail to acknowledge local interests, needs, identities, and expertise can provoke resistance, conflict, and illicit activity, which ultimately cause harm to both the ecosystems and society.

Another critical finding is that the different elements of governance can mutually reinforce each other, leading to even better outcomes on SDG 14. For example, regulation efforts are more effective if they are combined with stakeholder engagement. Finally, the Report identifies gaps in the SDG14-16 nexus, reflects on reasons for these gaps, and offers suggestions for future work to make sure research translates into action. For example, it was clear from the Report, that most of the research is focused on the Global North, meaning there is a vast void with respect to Global States, including small island developing states (SIDS), the latter of which due to their geographical circumstance as large ocean states (Frazão Santos et. al., 2022; Hume, 2021; Chan, 2018) are heavily reliant on the ocean.

Additionally, there is much research on marine and coastal protection, but hardly any on ocean pollution, and there is less research on SDG 14 related to accountability and the rule of law, as well as transparency and control of corruption and crime. These findings provided a great opportunity to deepen the Hub’s own reflection on SDG synergies from an ocean research and governance perspective and its various streams of research on human rights as an essential  pre-condition for justice and strong institutions (see herehere and here).  

Cambridge Conservation Initiative-funded Project on Defining and Measuring ‘Destructive Fishing’

The linkages explored with the UNDP-IDOS are consolidated by further action in the form of the ongoing collaboration of Hub early-career researchers Alana Malinde S.N. Lancaster and Senia Febrica, and Bolanle Erinosho on the Cambridge Conservation Initiative (CCI)-funded Project on defining and measuring ‘destructive fishing.’ Participating in the series of workshops provided Hub Researchers with an opportunity to contribute their thinking on the subject (here; here), as part of the Project conducted by Flora & Fauna International, BirdLife, International, the UN Environmental Programme World Conservation Monitoring Centre (UNEP-WCMC) and the University of Cambridge. The Project is conceptualised within the context that while there has been progress in addressing ‘overfishing’ and ‘IUU fishing’, the concept of ‘destructive fishing’ has received far less focus. Therefore, guided by Goal 14, Target 14.4, [b]y 2020, effectively regulate harvesting and end overfishing, illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing and destructive fishing practices and implement science-based management plans, in order to restore fish stocks in the shortest time feasible, at least to levels that can produce maximum sustainable yield as determined by their biological characteristics.

collaborators on the Project aim to ensure that ‘destructive fishing’ is seen as a distinct problem, worthy of increased political and corporate action. The workshop built on the initial findings by Project researchers (Willer et. al., 2022), and served as a forum for an expert review of the literature, and to have discussions towards a working definition of ‘destructive fishing,’ the difficulties it causes, and to develop a proposed framework to provide decision-makers with an improved understanding to drive action on this issue.  

The deliberations during the workshop were combined with data from three rounds of expert surveys following the Delphi Method, which captured perceptions of what the term ‘destructive fishing’ means to different stakeholder groups. Collectively, this data helped participants to determine areas of consensus and polarity in regard to what should, and what should not, form part of a definition for ‘destructive fishing.’  The results of the workshop, in addition to the results from the three survey rounds, will be included in a peer-review paper to be published in late 2023.


The Hub’s collaboration with UNDP continues, with a focus on the role of biodiversity and the ocean in the context of human right to a healthy environment. Hub Director Elisa Morgera continues to work in partnership with UNDP, in particular by providing strategic advice and peer review of a draft guide on the integrated approach to human rights and environmental due diligence, with a view to clarifying the role of businesses in respecting the human right to a healthy environment.

In the follow-up to the workshop hosted by the Cambridge Conservation Initiative, Hub Co-Is Alana Malinde S.N. Lancaster, Senia Febrica and Bolalane Erinhosho are among the co-authors of an article titled ‘Defining and Measuring the Quasi Concept Of Destructive Fishing’ which captures the results of the Project with respect to defining and measuring ‘destructive fishing.’                    

Additionally, the Hub’s partnerships on these themes are expanding to other UN agencies. In  November 2023, Hub researchers Alana Malinde S.N. Lancaster and Bolanle Erinosho will utilise their expertise gained on the linkages between SDG14-SDG16, when they participate on behalf of the Hub, in an expert group meeting in Vienna, Austria, organised by the United Nations Office of Drug and Crime (UNODC) to develop a Legislative Guide to Combatting Pollution Crime, and its Annex on the Pollution of the Marine Environment.