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Image by Christoffer Engström

The 10 x 20 Initiative

In 2015, the United Nations negotiated and adopted a series of international goals and targets for a more prosperous world, including ending poverty and hunger, improving education and inequality, providing clean water and energy, and implementing solutions for climate and sustainable cities. The set of 17 goals and 169 targets are referred to as the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, or SDGs. 



The Sustainable Development Goals, or SDGs, are a blueprint of 17 goals and 169 targets toward a more prosperous world, for humans and the planet as a whole. Each country uses this comprehensive vision to develop a national strategy to achieve the goals. SDG 14 is a goal for the oceans.

Goal number 14 is called “Life Below Water” and includes 11 targets for addressing problems facing the ocean. SDG 14 Target 5 calls for conserving "at least 10 percent of coastal and marine areas, consistent with national and international law and based on best available scientific information,” by year 2020.


The “10x20 Initiative” was a multi-stakeholder effort led by governments and the Ocean Sanctuary Alliance to catalyze action on SDG 14.5 and achieve protection of 10% of the global ocean by the year 2020.



Achieving a "Standalone Goal" for the Oceans in 2015

Even though the ocean covers the majority or our planet, it was not clear that ocean issues would be specifically addressed by the SDGs as they were being negotiated. In previous global initiatives, such as the Millennium Development Goals, the oceans were folded into other environmental sustainability efforts which did not result in significant ocean progress. 


Realizing this, the late Ambassador Stuart Beck led an effort, along with Ambassadors from several Pacific island nations, to include a “standalone” Sustainable Development Goal devoted to the oceans. In September 2014, IOCS’s Dr. Ellen Pikitch spoke at a high-level event during the UN General Assembly (UNGA) laying out the scientific rationale and benefits that would result from an ocean-focused goal. In October of that year, Ambassador Beck founded a multidisciplinary group, the Ocean Sanctuary Alliance (OSA), bringing together diplomats and scientists to support the ocean goal and inclusion of a component focusing on a clear and measurable target for marine protected areas.


In September 2015, the UNGA adopted the entire SDG package, which included an ocean goal – Goal 14—and within that, Target 14.5, to protect at least ten percent of the ocean by the year 2020. 


IOCS played a key role in the leadup to the SDGs, and during the time period when “10x20” was to be achieved. 


10 x 20 Initiative

In partnership with Italy, Poland, Kenya, the Bahamas, and Palau, OSA co-created and co-organized the 10x20 Initiative at the UN to push for effective achievement of SDG 14.5. Over 70 countries, including many island nations, participated in the 10x20 Initiative. 


IOCS and the Ocean Sanctuary Alliance led many efforts to bring science directly to UN policy makers through high-level events, symposia, and one-on-one meetings with diplomats. 


OSA was unique in that it directly engaged United Nations Member States through their New York City delegations. Dr. Ellen Pikitch and Christine Santora served on OSA’s Board, and IOCS staff and students contributed significantly to OSA’s efforts and events at the United Nations in support of SDG 14.5.

In 2016, Dr. Ellen Pikitch co-led a high-level conference on MPAs: Marine Protected Areas: An Urgent Imperative. This important conference, one of the first to address a specific SDG target, was spearheaded by Italy’s Permanent Mission to the United Nations in New York and hosted by the Italian Foreign Ministry in Rome. In preparation for the Rome conference, Dr. Pikitch wrote a Primer and secured attendance from 25 leading MPA experts from around the world. Diplomats from 33 countries attended a science & policy dialogue held on the third day of the conference, which highlighted successful MPA examples from The Bahamas, Palau, Kiribati, and Italy. 


Two key outcomes of the Rome Conference were the “Consensus Statement on Marine Protected Areas,” providing scientific and experience-based guidance on how to achieve SDG 14.5, and the Rome Call to Action, a companion document that provides a policy blueprint for achieving the target. 


UN Ambassadors visit Stony Brook University

The science & policy dialogues emerging from the Rome Conference sparked an idea: bring UN diplomats directly to a local marine protected area in New York and provide them with a hands-on experience for learning. IOCS’s Christine Santora planned a trip from UN headquarters in Manhattan to Stony Brook Southampton that included a tour of SBU’s state-of-the art research laboratory, an overview of the Shinnecock Bay Restoration Program (ShiRP), and most importantly, a trip into Shinnecock Bay. The field trip included a visit to view hard clam spawner sanctuaries and demonstrate research activities such as survey trawls and tagging summer flounder to show how our lab studies life in the bay.


Diplomats from ten countries participated in the visit to Stony Brook Southampton including Antigua & Barbuda, The Bahamas, Fiji, Israel, Italy, Kiribati, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Poland, and Vanuatu. The UN Secretary General’s Special Envoy for Oceans, Ambassador Peter Thomson, reminded all that “We are One Ocean,” noting that the sediment in Shinnecock Bay looks, smells and feels just the same as the bay bottom he encountered as a child in Fiji. 



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