From voluntary commitments to ocean sustainability
Voluntary commitments by states, governmental or nongovernmental organizations, and other actors, aiming to deliver outcome-oriented activities, have become a well-recognized mechanism in international sustainability policy (1–3). For ocean governance, the calling for and pledging of voluntary commitments could become a game changer, with two major international processes harnessing such voluntary contributions in recent years: the Our Ocean conferences, an annual high-level series initiated by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in 2014, and the United Nations (UN) Ocean Conference, which took place for the first time in June 2017. Such calls and commitments provide opportunities to raise awareness, promote engagement, and catalyze political will for action on the part of states as well as public and private sectors. However, without effective and transparent review systems, it is difficult to link pledged commitments to actual implementation. Quality control and ensuring that commitments are effective and impactful will be difficult to achieve. A uniform global process is required to register and assess commitments, including consistent reporting and monitoring systems with clear targets, baselines, and review systems.