Capacity-Building, Gender Empowerment and the BBNJ Agreement

On 30 August at the United Nations Headquarters, as part of the Third Session of the Intergovernmental Conference on an international legally binding instrument under the UNCLOS on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction, Dr. Cleopatra Doumbia-Henry, President of the World Maritime University (WMU), delivered a keynote address at the side event entitled ‘Capacity-Building, Gender Empowerment and the BBNJ Agreement.’ The event had a particular focus on the special needs of Small Island Developing States (SIDS), and how capacity building can help address the gender gap in ocean related industries.

Sponsored by WMU, Ireland’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the Government of the Republic of Palau, and The Nippon Foundation, the side event explored the initiatives that are underway in selected multilateral organizations to promote gender equality, and specifically the empowerment of women in ocean affairs, and in the conduct of ocean science in accordance with UN SDG 5, which are important considerations for the BBNJ negotiations. 

In her remarks, President Doumbia-Henry highlighted that the timely focus on gender with this year’s World Ocean Day theme of ‘Gender and the Ocean,’ as well as the 2019 World Maritime Day Theme, ‘Empowering Women in the Maritime Community.’ She conveyed that gender equality is central to the mission of WMU, and that the University is committed to educating maritime and ocean leaders that have a deep and abiding responsibility to manage the ocean sustainably, and become Stewards of the Sea. 

“We stand at a transformative time in human history, marked by both rapid advancement and unprecedented challenges. It is more important than ever that we understand the implications that this has on our relationship with the ocean, anticipate future challenges, and come together to address and mitigate them. The implementation of UN SDG 5 requires transformative shifts, integrated approaches and new solutions. At WMU we are acutely aware that this is particularly important in delivering educational, capacity-building and research services. Education promotes equality and empowers women. It seeks to ensure the full and effective participation and equal opportunities at all levels of decision-making whether in political, economic, academic, business or public life,” said President Doumbia-Henry.

WMU’s commitment to gender equality is evidenced in the recently launched  PhD Scholarship and Post-Doctoral Fellowship Programme on the theme of ‘Empowering Women for the United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development’, which is funded by Fisheries and Oceans Canada. 

Further, in early April, 350 participants from more than 70 countries around the globe gathered at the University for the WMU Third International Women’s Conference on the 2019 theme of Empowering Women in the Maritime Community Conference. The conference addressed the gender gap in the maritime, oceans, ports, fishing and related industries. 

President Doumbia-Henry noted the conference conclusions that identified 17 actions that could be taken to advance gender balance in maritime and oceans. The Conference Report is expected to be published in September in time for the official celebration of World Maritime Day at IMO on 26 September. She identified key outcomes of the conference that would be particularly relevant for the BBNJ negotiations including:

  • Implementing gender-responsive policies;
  • Updating data and statistics on women professionals in all sea-related activities;
  • Promoting role models;
  • Engaging with children in primary and secondary education to raise awareness of career opportunities in ocean and maritime related industries;
  • Establishing mentoring programmes;
  • Securing priority funding for gender related research;
  • Emphasizing gender equality as a business case;
  • Ensuring equal employment opportunities and equal pay for work of equal value.

President Doumbia-Henry urged that “if we each choose at least one action to implement from the list of conclusions, we will be well on our way to affecting real change and progress towards achieving gender parity in the maritime and ocean fields.”

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