Peace Boat US joined the Our Ocean Conference in Panama from March 2 – 3, and participated as a mentor at the Youth Conference that took place the week prior from February 27th – March 1st, co-organized with our partner organization, Sustainable Ocean Alliance (SOA). The Republic of Panama became the first Central American country to host the Our Ocean Conference. With the theme ‘Our Ocean, Our Connection,’ the Government of Panama highlighted the importance of knowledge as the basis of our actions and policies to ensure protection of our ocean, responsible management of marine resources, and sustainable future economic growth.

During the Youth Conference, Peace Boat US joined nearly one hundred youth from around the world, including Peace Boat Ocean and Climate Youth Ambassador, Khadija Stewart from Trindad and Tobago, who was present at the conference and currently also works as the Caribbean Coordinator for SOA. The event was an opportunity to inspire, inform, and empower youth participants to build holistic solutions that better balance the needs of society, industry, and the ocean environment.

Also during the youth summit, we participated in a scientific field study program about Sea Cucumbers in Panama. Sea cucumbers are echinoderms – like starfish or sea urchins. There are some 1,250 or more known species, and many of these animals are helping keep our ocean floor healthy. Together with youth leaders from Sustainable Ocean Alliance, including Ocean and Climate Youth Ambassador Khadija Stewart, we spent the afternoon learning about how youth can contribute to the UN Ocean Decade through science and innovation.

In Panama City, Peace Boat US met with our partners from the Embera and Kuna indigenous communities. Militza Flaco, an indigenous female leader from the Embera Quera community, has traveled on the Peace Boat as a guest speaker. On Peace Boat’s upcoming 114th Global Voyage, Wago Mendez from the Kuna indigenous community will be joining the ship from Iceland to Panama as a guest speaker to share his traditional knowledge and artwork. This year, Peace Boat US will also support additional scholarships for indigenous youth to join the new “Youth for the SDGs” program focused on the United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development.

During the main conference, several countries announced new commitments to protect our oceans, including through financing, development and infrastructure programs for coastal communities. Panama’s President Laurentino Cortizo Cohen announced the expansion of the Banco Volcan protected area, which covers 54% of the country’s oceans and was supported by our partner organization Mission Blue. Meanwhile, the EU has committed to putting €816.5 million toward ensuring a secure, clean, sustainably managed ocean.

Peace Boat US partner and Executive Director of the International Alliance to Combat Ocean Acidification (OA Alliance), Jessie Turner discussed climate change, impacts, solutions, and response strategies. She stated, “OA is quickly moving from a science and technical issue to a policy and resource management issue—this comes with challenges, but also opportunities.” We are excited to support these inspiring governmental commitments with educational programs and partnerships for ocean and climate action as part of the UN Ocean Decade of Science for Sustainable Development. Peace Boat US will continue to support our commitment for the Our Ocean Conference to increase youth participation in the United Nations Ocean Decade and this year we invite you to join us on our inaugural voyage of the Pacific World! 

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