The Our Ocean Conference (OOC) was first launched under the initiative of the U.S. Department of State and then Secretary of State John Kerry in 2014, aiming to fill in the then-existing gap in global ocean governance. A key objective of all Our Ocean Conferences is to foster collaborative efforts and encourage the submission of clear and measurable voluntary commitments anchored in the six Areas of Action: Marine Protected Areas; Sustainable Blue Economies; Climate Change; Maritime Security; Sustainable Fisheries; and Marine Pollution. The 9th Our Ocean Conference took place in Athens, Greece from 15 -17 April, 2024 with the theme of, “An Ocean of Potential.” In addition to the six areas of action, the conference also included sessions on Sustainable Tourism in coastal areas and islands; Green Shipping; Plastic and Microplastic Pollution; and the Green transition in the Mediterranean Sea.

Peace Boat was invited to participate in the ninth Our Ocean Conference, for the fifth time consecutively since the 2018 Conference in Bali, Indonesia.  Specifically, Peace Boat was invited to speak at a Round Table on Ocean Literacy – Blue Skills – Youth Engagement and Empowerment. Held on the opening day of the conference, the round table was chaired by Professor Michael Scoullos, Scientific Coordinator of the 9th Our Ocean Conference.

The first session focused on ocean literacy and featured panelists including Konstantina Toli,  IW:LEARN project Coordinator, UNESCO IOC; Dr Drosos Koutsoubas from the University of the Aegean; and Yolanda Koulouri, Senior Researcher, Hellenic Centre for Marine Research (HCMR). The panel discussed what institutions are doing to promote ocean literacy through both formal and informal channels. 

Peace Boat International Coordinator Karen Hallows and Stefanie Torres, a Youth for SDGs scholar and hub leader for Sustainable Ocean Alliance Peru, spoke on the second panel together with Laura Hernandez Merlano, ECOP Programme Canada Node, Stella Apostolaki from the American College of Greece and Antonia Mascarenhas from Parley for Oceans. The panel addressed ways to enable youth engagement in Ocean Action and in meaningful contributions to the Blue Economy. Panelists emphasized the importance of skills, including building partnerships, cross-sector collaboration, and connecting fundamental knowledge about the ocean crisis with other crises. The need for greater inclusion of minorities, underserved communities and youth from the Global South in the marine sciences and international fora was also discussed.

Alongside the Our Ocean Conference, a Youth Leadership Summit was organized by the Sustainable Ocean Alliance (SOA). Several of Peace Boat’s youth alumni took part in and helped organize the youth summit, includingDaniel Caceres, a Youth for the SDGs scholar from Peru and SOA Latin American coordinator, who moderated a panel on the importance of deep sea conservation and Hope Spots around the world with Dr Sylvia Earle, National Geographic Explorer and Founder of Mission Blue. 

Khadija Stewart, who joined Peace Boat’s Ocean and Climate Youth Ambassador Program in 2019 and later Youth for SDGs in Latin America in 2023, and has represented Peace Boat in many international fora, was a lead organizer of the summit. Khadija is now the Caribbean Representative for Sustainable Ocean Alliance, having met Program Coordinator Brandon Levy onboard Peace Boat, and is an inspiring leader on ocean action. She spoke in the closing plenary of the Our Ocean Conference representing youth and sharing the Youth Statement, an outcome of the Youth Leadership Summit.  The Our Ocean Conference 2024 closed with 469 commitments worth over an estimated $11 billion USD. The next Our Ocean Conference will take place in 2025 in the Republic of Korea.