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Secretary Antony J. Blinken At the Ministerial Meeting on Atlantic Cooperation


SECRETARY BLINKEN:  All right, good evening, everyone.  Thank you so much for being here.  I know we have a number of colleagues who are still on their way.  There are certain challenges when it comes to High-Level Week in New York and getting around.  I have a one-word solution: subway.  (Laughter.)  But, and that’s as a native New Yorker.

But let me just say thank you for being here this evening and let me just also take a moment to acknowledge our colleagues from Morocco and Ambassador Hilale and all of our friends.  Our hearts are with you and with all of the people of Morocco after the devastating earthquake this month, and we will be with you as you heal and rebuild.  Thank you.

So I was recently reminded of the rather intriguing fact that the Atlantic Ocean is actually expanding.  The sea floor is widening every year.  And so it’s to me at least only appropriate that our Atlantic cooperation is expanding as well, and that’s what brings us together this evening.  Indeed, the Atlantic connects and sustains us like never before.  More commercial and shipping traffic across the Atlantic than any other ocean.  More data travels along its underwater cables than any other ocean.  It’s home to more than half of the world’s fisheries.  In sum, the Atlantic is an ocean of opportunity and an ocean that connects us in a multiplicity of ways.

I think it’s also fair to say that we’re linked by common challenges.  It’s the heating and cooling of the Atlantic that is driving global climate and weather patterns.  And as the ocean warms and sea levels rise, that in turn is disrupting marine ecosystems and the communities that depend on them, threatening livelihoods, exacerbating food insecurity.  More frequent, more powerful storms have devastated coastal communities in virtually all of our countries, including here in the United States.  Meanwhile, we’ve got the illegal, unreported, unregulated fishing that undercuts the incomes and food sources of coastal communities, fuels corruption, and wreaks havoc on the health and biodiversity of our oceans.  And the spread of giant seaweed blooms is literally smothering coral reefs, killing fish, harming tourism.

Recognizing the Atlantic’s importance to all of our lives and to our shared future, we actually came together here in New York last September to begin creating a framework for regular cooperation among Atlantic nations.  Twenty-three countries, representing every part of the Atlantic, committed to that goal.  Over the last year, we have helped turn that aspiration into action.  I want to thank Ambassador Lapenn to my right and her remarkable team, as well as their counterparts in all of your countries, for actually bringing us together, bringing us together in this moment, bringing us together to underscore the significant progress we’ve made in that period of time.

Tonight we’re excited by the launch of the Partnership for Atlantic Cooperation.  This is the first multilateral entity of this scope open to all Atlantic nations, bridging four continents.  And at a moment when there’s some doubt about our ability to come together in common cause, we’re showing with this initiative that it is indeed possible.  By joining the declaration, each of us is affirming our commitment to the interconnected goals of advancing a peaceful, stable, prosperous, open, safe, and cooperative Atlantic region, and to conserving a healthy, sustainable, and resilient resource for generations to come.  I am grateful to the U.S. Congress for already dedicating $10 million to support this effort.

As a first order of business for our partnership, we will focus on promoting greater scientific and technological cooperation, from sharing ocean data, to exchanging best practices on combating marine plastic pollution, to training the next generation of Atlantic researchers.  We’ll also advance the sustainable ocean economy, encouraging inclusive, broad-based growth throughout the Atlantic.  That means strengthening free and open maritime trade, fostering environmentally sound fisheries and fishing practices, developing resilient coastal economies.

As Atlantic nations, we’re especially invested in addressing the climate crisis and the extreme weather it’s exacerbating.  In many parts of Africa and the Caribbean, for example, people don’t receive early warning when there’s a hurricane, when there’s a flood, when there’s a drought.  So the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is working to expand access to these critical alert systems.  These are the kinds of efforts that our partnership hopes to, in effect, turbocharge for coastal communities throughout the Atlantic.

This new forum will build on, learn from, and support existing Atlantic organizations and initiatives, from the Atlantic Center, to the Friends of the Gulf of Guinea, to the All-Atlantic Ocean Research and Innovation Alliance.  Our commitment to work with Atlantic partners includes the new High Seas Treaty.  This creates a coordinated approach to establishing marine protected areas that are beyond national jurisdictions and safeguarding the health, safeguarding the resilience, of our ocean.  The United States plans to sign this treaty later this week.  We welcome others in this partnership joining us and doing the same, and for that matter, those beyond this partnership.

We’ve now inaugurated this promising partnership, and in the coming months what we’ll work to do is to bring more partners on board who share this vision and are ready to collaborate with us in common cause.  And with all of our nations working together, we believe that we can ensure that the Atlantic continues to advance prosperity and progress for our people. 

I’m very pleased now to present the Declaration on Atlantic Cooperation for your consideration and for your adoption.  And I thank you.

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