Towards a Sustainable Ocean Economy: What Role for Cities?

June 20, 2024 3:00 pm
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Towards a Sustainable Ocean Economy: What Role for Cities?



Approximately 27% of the global population – equivalent to around 2.15 billion people – resides in coastal cities and the near coastal zone. UN Trade and Development estimated the value of the global ocean economy at $2.6 trillion in 2021. Oceans and coastal cities serve as dynamic interfaces where human behavior and urban development intersect with marine ecosystems and climate dynamics.

Webinar Objective

This Geneva Urban Debate (GUD) aims to raise awareness about the relevant activities by UN Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and strengthen two-ways information exchange between the organization and Local and Regional Governments (LRGs) on the way for the United Nations Summit of the Future in September 2024 as well as for the United Nations Ocean Conference in 2025. Speakers will explore the multifaceted roles that cities can assume to foster synergistic relationships between human settlements and their coastal environments. Experts will explore in what areas LRGs can contribute to the work of UN Trade and Development to maximize their local impact. Our aim is to explore how UN Trade and Development can help coastal cities help our global community to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).




Date: 20 June 2024
Time: 15h00 – 16h30
Location: Online
Format: Webinar
Language: English






The vast expanse of oceans and seas around the globe play multifaceted roles: they provide sustenance, harbor minerals, oxygenate the atmosphere, absorb greenhouse gases, influence weather patterns, and serve as vital trade routes, facilitating 80% of international commerce. They sustain livelihoods, employment, nutrition, and drive economic growth in coastal cities and islands. Most ocean and coastal cities share a symbiotic relationship with the sea. They rely on it for connectivity, trade, sustenance, leisure, tourism, and climate regulation. However, this relationship is not unidirectional. Cities are also a huge source of solid, wastewater, and chemical pollution. Particularly in cities where sewage, pollution control and solid and wastewater management and services are not proportional to demand for these services. Given their exclusive and shared responsibilities in urban planning, public services, economic development, transport, health, infrastructure, and environmental controls, Local and Regional Governments play a pivotal role.

They are called upon to champion sustainable development, aligning their actions with relevant Sustainable Development Goals. UN Trade and Development is exploring how the vulnerabilities of coastal cities and regions, such as climate change, sea-level rise, and natural disasters can affect their trade and development prospects. In cooperation with other UN agencies, academia, and civil society actors it promotes sustainable urban development strategies tailored to the unique needs of coastal cities. This includes integrating sustainable ocean or blue economy considerations, promoting green and resilient infrastructure, and fostering inclusive growth to mitigate the adverse effects of urbanization on coastal ecosystems. UN Trade and Development provides, at their requests, policy recommendations to governments – and sometimes to local and regional authorities – to address the challenges faced by coastal cities effectively. These recommendations encompass trade regulatory frameworks, land and ocean space planning, economic diversification, disaster preparedness, and capacity building initiatives aimed at fostering sustainable development along coastal areas. The Geneva Urban Debate connects LRGs and international organizations to advance inclusive multilateralism and make intergovernmental decision-making more effective by integrating voices of local authorities. We believe that UN Trade and Development’s work might benefit by bringing the experiences and needs of local and regional communities into the debate.




  • H.E. Mr. José R. Sánchez-Fung, Permanent Mission of the Dominican Republic to the WTO and UNCTAD
  • David Vivas Eugui, Chief of Section, Ocean and Circular Economy, UN Trade and Development
  • Dr Awni Behnam, Honorary President of the International Ocean Institute, Malta
  • Axel Grael, Mayor of Niteroi (Brazil)
  • Mayors / Representative of city network (tbc)

Moderated by Andras Szorenyi, Senior Policy Advisor, Global Cities Hub

Welcome remarks by Graham Alabaster, Head of UN-Habitat Geneva office



Please register here.




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