Today, we know that there’s no route to a sustainable future for our planet without a healthy global ocean – and the vast areas beyond national jurisdiction known as the high seas, which include some of the most important and threatened ecosystems in the world, are key to that future. But in 2011 things were very different. There was no international consensus on ocean protection, and little coordination between the organisations advocating for change. That was when the High Seas Alliance (HSA) was formed – and from the very beginning, Communications INC have been integral to both its strategy and its communications activities.
The HSA is an umbrella group of more than 40 ocean-focused NGOs, ranging from global charities to niche on-the-water specialists. Its aim is to secure a legally binding UN treaty to effectively protect the 50% of the planet that the high seas make up. At a minimum, this treaty must include a strong process for designating and managing protected areas, rigorous measures on environmental impact assessments, and arrangements to establish a global decision-making body. Our objective, quite simply, has been to use our skills and knowledge to help make this happen.
Approach and delivery
It’s impossible to overstate the complexity of a process of this kind: for well over a decade Communications INC have been close to the heart of the HSA’s operations, during which time the alliance has established itself as the voice of global civil society at the ocean protection table. Our role has been three-fold, developing organically as the campaign for a treaty has gained momentum. First, we’ve produced all of the HSA’s communications material from day one – its branding, website, social media presence, events and so on. In addition, we’ve worked closely with HSA members to ensure their independent communications initiatives are in line with HSA messaging, and we’ve helped coordinate the regional activities of a number of autonomous member groups. Finally there’s our continuous strategic work in support of HSA policy, where Communications INC’s deep knowledge of the global ocean governance space has enabled HSA experts to reach the right audiences and achieve maximum impact – from the earliest days of awareness-raising, to lobbying national governments, to the most recent negotiations at the UN concerning the detail of the treaty itself.
Since the launch of the HSA, the high seas have gone from being essentially ‘out of sight, out of mind’, to becoming a central priority for international action – and if future events play out as expected, an international treaty to protect the high seas will finally become a reality sometime in 2023. This would simply not be happening without the game-changing work of the HSA – and we’re proud that Communications INC has played an integral part in the alliance’s operations at every step of the way.