WASHINGTON, DC —
While Zimbabwe is a landlocked country, Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe attended Monday's official opening of the Oceans Conference at the United Nations Headquarters in New York, declaring that his country too suffers when oceans are not well protected.
"The oceans and the seas are a vital resource to all of us, irrespective of our geographical location on this planet," said President Mugabe. "Developments around on or under the oceans, affect coastal and landlocked countries alike, admittedly with varying degree."
This point was reinforced by United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres, who challenged world leaders to jointly address problems plaguing oceans and threatening marine life, including global warming, over-fishing and pollution such as plastic.
"The sea indeed belongs to all of us. Improving the health of our oceans is a test for multilateralism, and we cannot afford to fail. We must jointly address the problems of governance that have held us back," said Guterres.
President Mugabe, who was among nine leaders in attendance at the Conference, called on the UN to respect the sovereignty of nations such as his, as they try to combat global threats such as climate change.
"The effects of climate change are not discriminatory, so please down with your sanctions," Mr. Mugabe said. "My country is committed to implementing the SDGs (sustainable development goals) and will do so within the means available to it."
In 2015, the 193 U.N. member states adopted an agenda of 17 goals for the world's sustainable development up to 2030. One of those goals was to safeguard the ocean, while another calls for "urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts."
To this, President Mugabe demanded the UN to "allow my county to act freely within the context of our agreements and its sovereignty."
In 2001, some western countries imposed targeted sanctions on Mr. Mugabe and some of his inner circle, including his wife Grace, over allegations of vote-rigging and human rights abuses, which he rejects. While the sanctions are confined to a few individuals, President Mugabe has blamed the sanctions for his country's economic deterioration.
The Oceans Conference is running under the theme: "Our oceans, our future: partnering for the implementation of Sustainable Development Goal 14."
The UN is expected to adopt a "Call to Action" committing to "conserve and sustainably use our oceans, seas and marine resources," on Friday.
Mugabe's travel to international conferences such as the ocean summit has raised eyebrows in cash-strapped Zimbabwe. Last year Mugabe made at least 20 trips abroad, spending $36 million in the first 10 months, according to government figures. (Reuters)