Free diving world champion Umberto Pelizzari raises a flag to represent Sustainable Development Goal 14: Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development—"Life below water"—off the coast of Formentera, Spain.  ©Global Goals Campaign/Enric Sala

By Maher Nasser

The Earth has been called the Blue Planet, highlighting its most distinctive and unique physical feature: oceans. Indeed, water covers more than 70 per cent of the Earth's surface. The global marine environment can be thought of as a single, planetary ocean. It is home to countless living species, and provides food and livelihoods to billions of people. Our oceans are an integral part of the complex system that regulates the climate and the composition of the air we breathe. They are essential to life itself.

But today, the health of our oceans is deteriorating. Overfishing and pollution have reduced the abundance and variety of marine species. Human-induced climate change is causing ocean acidification, the melting of polar ice and rising sea levels, which in turn impact biodiversity and threaten coastal human communities. These are just a few of the perils endangering oceans and the biosphere as a whole.

Recognizing the urgency of the situation, the international community is coming together to seek common solutions. The Ocean Conference will be convened at United Nations Headquarters in New York from 5 to 9 June 2017. It will adopt a "Call for Action": an intergovernmental declaration aimed at protecting the oceans, in line with Sustainable Development Goal 14: Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development. In addition, governments, businesses and civil society organizations are registering their voluntary commitments to take action.

This special double issue of the UN Chronicle, under the theme "Our Ocean, Our World", explores many of the problems facing the marine ecosystem, with articles by 23 experts and eminent personalities actively engaged in finding solutions. Distinguished contributors include Peter Thomson, President of the General Assembly; Amina J. Mohammed, Deputy Secretary-­General of the United Nations; Wu Hongbo, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs and Secretary-General of the Ocean Conference; and Leonardo DiCaprio, Academy Award-winning actor and UN Messenger of Peace with a special focus on climate change.

We hope this edition of the UN Chronicle will help support the work of the Conference and the achievement of Goal 14, on which the future of our Blue Planet may depend.