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Today three members of Ocean Rebellion stood in front of the United Nations Ocean conference in Lisbon. Their heads were bound and made sightless by bandages, their mouths gagged by a dead fish.

The performance highlights the plight of the high seas and all Ocean life. It describes the blindness of the UN, and nation states, to the degradation of the Ocean and the need for an ambitious UN High Seas Treaty.

un unfit for purpose - ocean-rebellion-blinded-joao-daniel-pereira-013-8667


The bandaged eyes are the sightless eyes of the UN International Maritime Organisation (IMO) and the UN International Seabed Authority (ISA). Blinded by a subordination to industry their inaction furthers the destruction of the Ocean.

The gagged mouths are the silenced mouths of the UN negotiators involved in the failure of the UN High Seas treaty, and its passage through the UN processes which allow self-named ‘developed’ nations to block reform.

We call on all UN delegates to hang their heads in shame: you are blind, gagged and unfit for purpose.

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With the UN IMO and ISA bodies complicit in the destruction of the Ocean and the failure of a treaty to protect the High Seas (or the likelihood of a treaty which certainly won’t protect the high seas) isn’t it time for the UN to put its collective hands in the air and declare ‘this isn’t working’? It’s all very well for the UN to make statements like ‘arson of our only home’ but talk is cheap. Stop the pointless talk and geopolitical gaming, tell the truth, sit down afresh and start real change. Call out the companies and governments who are obstructing the saving of the Ocean, and name the implications of what they are trying to achieve. We need the Ocean to thrive again, as the sea dies we die.

Ocean Rebellion demands:
The UN must form a new, transparent, and representative body to govern the Ocean for the benefit of ALL life. This new body must have the restoration and replenishment of the Ocean as its only measure of success. It should replace corporate power with people power. And it should represent the many forms of marine life who actually make the ocean a home.

Tell the Truth

Chris Armstrong says:
“The governance of the High Seas is an ecological disaster. Its founding principles were dreamt up in a time when we thought the ocean’s bounty was inexhaustible, and its ecosystems too robust to ever fail. We have now pushed that idea beyond breaking point. We urgently need a revolution in High Seas politics, with protection and participation replacing corporate pillage.”

Sophie Miller adds:
“Ocean Rebellion has visited the IMO many times, each time with a different issue but all related to mismanagement and fossil fuels. The first time it was Wakashio, the oil disaster that decimated the Mauritian coast. Then it was Fossil fuel lobbying and ties to the Baltic Exchange and fake shipping laws. Next it was HFO and insider influence at the hands of actual representatives like ‘Captain Ian Finlay’. It just goes on – the IMO is useless, what’s the point of them? They don’t even protect seafarers, all they do is greenwash shipping profits”

Clive Russell adds:
“The UN International Seabed Authority (ISA) is clearly unfit for purpose. How does decimating the deep sea bed, releasing carbon stored in deep sea sediments, and disrupting the Earth’s largest (and most undisturbed) ecosystem, fit with the UN’s aims for the future of this planet?

Suzanne Stallard adds:
“The UN talks a great talk. The International Maritime Organisation and International Seabed Authority, both UN bodies, are unfit for purpose. Both are totally corrupted by industry and both govern the Ocean on behalf of industry. We are living in an age of unprecedented ecological breakdown, the UN must recognise this by governance not just in words. We ask the UN to call out its rogue subsidiaries, more harmful to life on earth than rogue states.”

Roc Sandford adds:
“As the seas die, we die, and the seas are dying. If the collapse of marine biodiversity is not halted immediately, release of blue carbon currently sequestered in the oceans will accelerate climate breakdown and condemn countless people to an agonising death. We must rush reforms of the existing UN ocean-focussed structures, currently criminally unfit for purpose, whilst simultaneously building a new and effective ocean governance body to take their place. It’s now or never. I don’t understand why everyone isn’t screaming, given what we know about what is happening in the Ocean and what that means for us.”

Photos: João Daniel Pereira. ‘U.N. UNFIT FOR PURPOSE’ Illumination of the Torre de Belém, Lisbon, during the UN Ocean Conference 2022.

The fate of the Ocean depends on us all.
Our interventions depend on support.

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