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Launching the Race for Ratification of the High Seas Treaty

Background

The High Seas Treaty to safeguard marine life beyond national jurisdiction was agreed on 4 March 2023. It was a momentous achievement celebrated across the world. But, before this historic Treaty can enter into force, it needs to be ratified by at least 60 countries. And that needs to happen as soon as possible, because today just 1% of the High Seas is protected.

Objective

The goal of this campaign was for the High Seas Alliance (HSA) to use the occasion of the Treaty being opened for signature on 20 September 2023, during the United National General Assembly (UNGA) in New York, to launch a “Race for Ratification” aimed at ensuring the Treaty enters into force by the UN Ocean Conference in June 2025.

Approach and delivery

Our strategy centered on creating a big noise around the opening of the Treaty for signature to encourage States to sign during the UNGA and raise the political profile of the Treaty.

We introduced the concept of a “Race” to kick off a lively competition between States and added the ambitious June 2025 deadline to create a sense of urgency. The message was simple: after 20 years of complex negotiations, it’s time to sign and let the Treaty get to work.

To give a face to the Race, a campaign identity was created in the form of a charismatic octopus who features across all campaign materials, including an animation telling the story of the Treaty. We also produced a social media toolkit and key messages for the HSA and its 50+ member organizations, and launched a new microsite – the High Seas Treaty Ratification Tracker – with a feature for people to call on their country’s leader to ratify the Treaty.

The HSA and our campaign team arrived in New York armed with a suite of materials, inspirational spokespeople, and a schedule of high-profile events. The team made sure the Treaty buzz reverberated throughout the week – at the UN itself, around the city, and across social media channels – by participating at events brandishing selfie frames, placards and even temporary tattoos, all featuring our octopus mascot and “Ratify Now!” message. Key mobilization moments included the Climate March, SDG Action Weekend, and a Youth Voices Workshop at New York Zoo. 

The focal point was our High-Level ‘High Ambition for the High Seas’ event on 20 September, where we invited Heads of State and Ministers to sign a symbolic Declaration committing to work together to achieve the 60 ratifications. Over 100 people attended, including Heads of State, Indigenous representatives, actors Jane Fonda and Sigourney Weaver, other celebrities and the media. This got the Race for Ratification out of the blocks with a bang.

Alongside these events, we produced a Daily Updates blog, including video messages and the latest news about the Treaty. The team also held media interviews, posted social media updates, and worked with a local ad agency to have posters of the high seas octopus on bus stops around the city.

Impact

Our campaign made the opening of the High Seas Treaty for signature one of the major events of the 2023 UNGA. By creating a buzz and galvanizing political momentum at this high profile gathering, we convinced governments to sign the Treaty as soon as it was opened. By the end of the week, 83 countries had signed the High Seas Treaty, exceeding campaign expectations and getting the Race for Ratification off to an amazing start.

The octopus mascot and ratification tracker also captured media and public interest. The Treaty signing was covered by multiple media outlets, and our over 120 social media posts using the hashtag #RaceForRatification generated 152,134 impressions and 7,158 engagements. Our video content was watched 14,244 times, with Instagram posts standing out with 11,812 views.

Our activities in New York – and the launch of a global Race with a 2025 deadline – built momentum that we were able to carry to other international events and capital cities. This is helping us meet the ambitious goal of fast-tracking the Treaty’s entry into force by 2025 – and protecting our planet’s last great wilderness.