Asia-Pacific, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Conferences, Environment, Global, Green Economy, IPS UN: Inside the Glasshouse, Water & Sanitation, Yeosu World Expo


Private Sector and Conservationists Meet on a Big Date

YEOSU, May 14 2012 (IPS) - As schools of whales move to music undersea at image definitions of 6.54 million pixels on the giant ceiling mounted LED screen, 218 X 30 metres in length and width, expectations run high from the International Exposition Yeosu Korea 2012 at harbour town. The expo showcases 104 participating countries’ visions and achievements on the Expo theme: ‘The Living Ocean and Coast: Diversity of Resources and Sustainable Activities’.

The Expo is a modern marketplace where unlikely bedfellows are meeting – the private sector, usually demonised as the exploiter of natural resources for profit, and conservationists.

“The marine realm is facing multiple challenges – from over-fishing and climate change to pollution from hazardous materials. The Expo and the UN Pavilion can inspire people, business and governments to greater awareness and more decisive action,” said UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, through UN press briefings.

Expo 2012 which opened May 11, aims to enhance the international community’s understanding of the function and value of oceans and coasts, share knowledge on sustainable use of marine environment and enhance cooperation in the sector.

An estimated 11 million and targeted 8.3 million footfalls are expected over the three months that the Expo runs.

The Expo’s second largest pavilion is a telling example of the many layers of interaction between conservationists, the public and the business sector.

“The message of One UN – a group of 24 UN organizations – is one of edu-entertainment, more on the lines of imparting information on not commonly known or ignored facts about the oceans, and the resources it provides humans,” UN Commissioner-General, 2012 Yeosu Expo, Samuel Koo told IPS.

The UN Pavilion pitches its conservationist message through the Expo theme expanded to ‘Oceans and Coasts: Connecting our Lives, Ensuring our Future, the Choice is Yours.’

The UN pavilion offers information-packed quizzes, simulated digital coasts that visitors help clean up and other exhibits that depict the wonders of marine ecosystems and the challenges of climate change and pollution.

“Like the Shanghai Expo in 2010, the Korean government has chipped in with a 50 percent or 1.5 million dollar funding partnership,” Koo tells IPS. Part of the private contributions comes from Korean Green Fund, a national level non-governmental organisation which has a track record in building environmental cooperative networks between the government, corporations, civic organizations, and individuals

“The Expo is a happening of many different actors, a stage to present national and corporate development to an international community. It is the conversation that people will begin to have when they go around and when they go home, that will be change-making,” says Achim Steiner, Executive Director UN Environment Programme (UNEP) that is co-ordinating the UN Pavilion.

“It is the informed people’s demand and their choice of new entrepreneur with an environment friendly product or technology that will ultimately drive change,” Amina Mohamed, UNEP Deputy Executive Director told IPS. “For instance the State of California in the United States is investing heavily in renewable energy infrastructure, not waiting the federal government to take the lead,” Mohamed added.

According to a UNEP report, ‘Green Economy in a Blue World’, released January 2012, there is huge potential for economic growth and poverty eradication from well-managed marine sectors.

“We have all the policies and technologies we need to sustainably manage these extraordinary assets. Yeosu 2012 can contribute towards a positive outcome at Rio+20 in June and help us build the future we want,” said Ban Ki-moon.

“We have only tapped into 5 percent of marine resources,” said Steiner. “After land, marine resources may hold the potential to sustain human kind,” said Yeosu’s Member of Korea national assembly, Kim Sung- gon at the UN Pavilion opening on May 12th.

“Ocean is the destination of everything and has enough to provide our needs if we understand its fragile nature,” said Lee Bae-yong, Chair of the Korean Presidential Council of Nation Branding.

According to information from the UN Pavilion, fish products supply over 4.2 billion people with 15 percent of average protein intake. However in 2009, fisheries supported livelihoods of 540 million or eight percent of the world population. Over 30 percent of world fish stocks are overexploited or depleted and 50 percent are fully exploited.

“While one cannot generalise among all businesses, it is undeniable that there are business concerns that are taking the long view”, Raphael P.M. Lotilla, the Executive director of Partnerships in Environmental Management for Seas of East Asia (PEMSEA), told IPS, adding that this coastal country is serious about sustainable management of its marine resources.

Underscoring his point that management of some businesses are taking on greener hues, Lotilla cites an example in the Philippines where 19 corporations led by Petron Corporation have organised the Bataan Coastal Care Foundation, Inc. which provides financial and other support to the Bataan Provincial Government’s Integrated Coastal Management Programme and oversees Bataan’s Land and Sea-Use Zoning Plan.

Another example is Thailand’s Chonburi province’s Oil Industry Environment Group, which is working to formulate an oil spill contingency plan with the national and local government, Rotilla said.

“Business is not some homogenous interest group; there are companies here at the Expo with hi-tech solutions to environmental problems and the fact that Korea chose this theme of oceans, has in fact brought all the exhibitors here, with at least a need to express, what is their contribution to the challenge of sustainable use and management of oceans. And this is as high you should put the threshold, beyond that is expecting too much,” Steiner told IPS. (END)

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