ATHENS (April 17, 2024) — The United States Department of State and the Advisory Committee of the annual Our Ocean Conference announced the formation of a new permanent Secretariat for the Conference, which will be hosted by World Resources Institute’s (WRI) Ocean Program. The Secretariat will be funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Bloomberg Ocean Initiative and Oceans5.

Launched in 2014 by the U.S. Department of State and former Secretary of State, John Kerry, the Our Ocean Conference is an annual event where governments, private sector representatives, NGOs and the academic community collaborate to protect the ocean. The Conference is a crucial moment for the ocean community year-after-year, championing diverse voices and generating commitments towards protecting and improving the ocean. In the past decade the conference has seen over 2,100 announcements worth nearly $128 billion.

WRI has extensive experience in acting as Secretariat or Co-Secretariat for major international groups, including the High Level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy (Ocean Panel), NDC Partnership, Champions 12.3 (food loss and waste reduction), High Ambition Coalition for Nature and People (30x30 conservation), Global Commission on Adaptation and more. WRI’s Ocean Program is uniquely suitable as the Our Ocean Conference Secretariat given its role supporting the Ocean Panel, with significant experience developing and hosting international events, running global communications and tracking and analyzing commitments. 
“The Our Ocean Conferences provide a world stage for ocean leadership and impact,” said Dr. Tom Pickerell, Global Director, WRI Ocean Program. “Ten years of conferences so far has built up a strong legacy for the event, which has given rise to thousands of commitments toward sustainable and equitable management of the ocean. As the new Secretariat, we look forward to working with successive hosts, and supporting governments and partners to take ambitious action for the ocean and the people that rely on it.”

“We welcome the establishment of the Our Ocean Conference Secretariat,” said Jennifer R. Littlejohn, Acting Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs, U.S. State Department. “We look forward to working with the Secretariat to ensure that OOC continues to mobilize concrete, ambitious, and meaningful action to protect and preserve our ocean."

The Our Ocean Conference is held in a different country each year with the hosts setting forth priority action areas. As the Conference prepares for its next iteration in 2025 in Busan, South Korea, the Secretariat will support capacity building and knowledge sharing through technical assistance and tracking to improve upon ‘institutional memory’ of the event from year to year.

Bloomberg Philanthropies’ funding for the Secretariat builds on its longtime partnership with the Our Ocean Conference. The Bloomberg Ocean Initiative has provided support to host governments since 2019 to ensure successful conferences while championing initiatives and outcomes to restore and protect critical ocean ecosystems in support of the global goal of protecting 30% of the world’s ocean by 2030. 

"Ensuring the success of the Our Ocean Conference is no small feat. It demands the collaboration of governments, businesses, and civil society to drive tangible action for ocean conservation,” said Melissa Wright, who leads the Bloomberg Ocean Initiative at Bloomberg Philanthropies. "That's why Bloomberg Philanthropies is pleased to support the World Resources Institute in hosting the Secretariat for the Our Ocean Conference. This provides a crucial platform for host countries to continue building on the incredible work underway, and with our support, they can achieve even greater strides in ocean protection."

The ocean acts as humanity’s life support — responsible for around 50% of the oxygen produced on earth and protects us by absorbing more than 90% of global excess heat caused by human activity and around 25% of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. It is a source of protein for 3 billion people and provides millions of jobs worldwide. The ocean is also a critical solution to fighting climate change, with the potential to deliver up to 35% of the annual greenhouse gas emission cuts needed in 2050 to limit global temperature rise to 1.5°C.

However, today the ocean’s health is off track. It’s under intense pressure from pollution, harmful fishing practices, habitat loss and climate change. 2023 saw the hottest temperatures ever recorded in the ocean, its oxygen levels are decreasing and it is now at its most acidic in at least 26,000 years as it absorbs and reacts with more CO2 in the atmosphere.

About World Resources Institute

WRI is a trusted partner for change. Using research-based approaches, we work globally and in focus countries to meet people’s essential needs; to protect and restore nature; and to stabilize the climate and build resilient communities. We aim to fundamentally transform the way the world produces and uses food and energy and designs its cities to create a better future for all. Founded in 1982, WRI has nearly 2,000 staff around the world, with country offices in Brazil, China, Colombia, India, Indonesia, Mexico and the United States and regional offices in Africa and Europe.