Today marks the 29th celebration of World Maritime Day, the annual occasion when the International Maritime Organization (IMO) leads the world in honouring shipping. This year the theme for World Maritime Day is Technical Co-operation: IMO's response to the 2005 World Summit.
Addressing the international maritime community in his World Maritime Day message, IMO Secretary-General Efthimios E. Mitropoulos said that "maritime activity has a key role to play in meeting the millennium development goals, for shipping not only moves the world's burgeoning trade, but can also contribute substantially to sustainable development, while international commerce promotes production, job creation and greater socio-economic prosperity. And the combination of all these has, undoubtedly, the potential to lift people from hunger and poverty and also eradicate life-threatening diseases."
IMO's technical co-operation activities help ensure that developing countries are better equipped to play a full part in shipping and also to carry out their obligations as members of the wider maritime community.
Six years ago, the adoption of the Millennium Declaration by the General Assembly of the United Nations was a defining moment for global co-operation in the 21st century
. The Declaration sets out the key challenges facing humanity in the new millennium; outlines the response the world community should provide; and establishes concrete measures for judging performance. The measures to realize those challenges are embodied in the Millennium Development Goals - the MDGs - which were reaffirmed by the 2005 World Summit. The MDGs pursue the quest for a peaceful, secure and poverty-free world, and emphasize the need to focus development efforts on areas in which they can be translated into clear, measurable and sustainable improvements in the quality of lives of people, especially the poor.
"The World Maritime Day theme reflects how important it is that the work of IMO should be seen, not just in terms of the service it provides to the maritime community itself, but also in the wider context of the international agenda set by the United Nations. It was chosen in order to give the Organization the opportunity to contribute, from its perspective, to the fulfilment of the MDGs," Mr. Mitropoulos said.
IMO's work strongly supports certain of the MDGs and will contribute substantively to the delivery of the 2005 World Summit Outcome. In particular, the Organization's technical co operation activities make a valuable contribution to the UN's wider goals by promoting sustainable development, human resource development and capacity-building. Although IMO adopts international shipp
ing regulations, it is the responsibility of Governments to implement those regulations. IMO's technical co-operation program is, therefore, designed to assist Governments that lack the technical knowledge and resources needed to oversee a shipping sector successfully.
Thus, by fostering capacity-building in the maritime sector, IMO's technical co-operation activities help countries to ensure safe, secure and effective shipping services and protect their waters and coasts from the environmental degradation that can be caused by ships and related maritime activity.
Mr. Mitropoulos added that maritime activity has a key role to play in the eradication of extreme poverty and hunger. It already provides an important source of income and employment for many developing countries, through such activities as the registration of ships, the supply of sea-going manpower and ship recycling, as well as shipowning and operating, shipbuilding and repair and port services, among others.
"But, seen in a wider context, shipping has an even more important role to play. Sea transport remains by far the most cost-effective way to move goods and raw materials en masse around the world, and the vast majority of global trade is carried in ships. The part played by the maritime sector as an enabler of global trade and thereby global prosperity, as well as its direct, beneficial input to many developing economies, has made and continues to make a substantial contribution towards the goal of halving poverty by the year 2015. Such a welcome development will lead, in time, to progress with other Millennium Goals, particularly those related to education and health," he added.
IMO's technical cooperation activities, therefore, help ensure that developing countries are better equipped not only to play a part in this vital activity that is shipping but also to carry out their obligations as members of the wider maritime community.
IMO's program for the Integration of Women in the Maritime Sector continues to support measures to increase the participation of, and the establishment of formal regional associations for, women in the maritime industry, and supporting the MDG of gender equality.
Of all the MDGs, perhaps those with which the work of IMO is most closely aligned are to ensure environmental sustainability and to develop a global partnership for development, Mr Mitropoulos said.
"As far as the environment is concerned, shipping and IMO are also making a notable contribution thanks to the comprehensive array of measures developed and adopted by the Organization and put in place by its Members and by the maritime industry to improve ship safety and thereby reduce accidents. Fewer vessel casualties mean that less pollutants find their way into the sea, and there are any number of statistical indicators that reveal shipping's record of steady improvement in this regard over many years. Enhancing marine environment protection along the coasts has an impact in greater access to protein through improved catches (especially in artisanal fisheries), cleaner waters and coasts, increased tourism and integrated coastal zone management," he said.
In terms of efforts to promote a global partnership for development, for many years, IMO's technical co-operation program has played a leading role in training and, therefore, in building and reinforcing the maritime capacity in developing countries to deal with the wide range of maritime activities which are now helping to boost so many of their economies.
"IMO's technical co-operation activities are, in fact, conceived and developed through partnership arrangements - between the recipient countries, the resource-providers and the Organization - which are based on three complementary factors: the assessed needs of developing countries, and their full ownership and direction of the assistance process; the interests of the resource-providers in supporting sustainable maritime development; and the promotion of uniform implementation and enforcement of IMO's rules and standards. Partnership development continues to be the main thrust of the Organization's strategic approach for technical co-operation," Mr. Mitropoulos said.
UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan has often stressed the link between security and development, re-iterating that we cannot enjoy one without the other. As well as adopting a comprehensive range of measures designed to raise the protective barriers of the shipping and port industries against the threat of terrorism, IMO has also put in place a technical co-operation programme to assist Governments to strengthen maritime and port security.
Meeting the special needs of Africa is one of the key objectives of the Millennium Declaration. Most of the UN system's work in Africa is channelled through the New Partnership for Africa's Development, or NEPAD. IMO has, since the mid-1990s, given priority to Africa in the allocation of its technical assistance resources and the Integrated Technical Co-operation Programme (ITCP) activities in that region also take into account the action plans of NEPAD. Some $2,125,000, or 22 percent, of the total allocation of the Technical Co-operation (TC) Fund for the current biennium was assigned to the ITCP's Africa programme and, through the ITCP, IMO is also addressing the "Transport Targets and Indicators related to the Millennium Development Goals", set out in the 2005 report of the Ministers of Transport of the African Union. Furthermore, the Secretary-General decided, in June 2006, to transfer an additional sum of up to US$800,000 from the un-programmed reserves of the TC Fund to support maritime capacity-building activities in Africa.
Special mention should also be made here of the continued support to African countries through IMO's regional presence, with offices based in Côte d'Ivoire, Ghana and Kenya assisting in the upgrading of African maritime institutions and improving the ability of African countries to respond to the threat of marine pollution.