5 June 2017
Authors: Mara Ntona and Elisa Morgera, Strathclyde Centre for Environmental Law and Governance (SCELG), UK
Despite the oceans’ incontrovertible contribution to the realisation of sustainable development, the importance assigned by the Millennium Development Goals to the conservation and sustainable use of marine resources was marginal. The adoption of a stand-alone Sustainable Development Goal on oceans (SDG 14) thus represents an important paradigm shift, insofar as it attempts to tackle some of the most intensely debated issues with relevance to marine environmental protection. However, SDG 14 remains one of the least well-integrated components of Agenda 2030, revolving almost exclusively around environmental considerations and omitting to address the wide range of socioeconomic issues raised throughout the goal-setting process. This gap risks undermining Agenda 2030’s internal consistency and, by extension, the realisation of its transformational vision.
Accordingly, this article endeavours to contribute to the scholarship on SDG linkages by conceptualising the intricate interconnections between SDG 14 and other Goals based on the diverse services provided to humankind by marine ecosystems, with a view to facilitating the transition to an “environment for well-being” approach to development. The article does so by relying on emerging guidance on marine spatial planning (MSP) under the Convention on Biological Diversity. By bringing ecosystem services and MSP into the SDG linkages discussion, this article seeks to investigate the role of the ecosystem approach, and of fair and equitable benefit-sharing within it, in fostering participatory ocean management tools. Ultimately, it seeks to assess to what extent MSP, building upon such tools and drawing on ecosystem services mapping, should be used to promote equity, prevent conflicts and enhance SDG synergies.