The Global Partnership for the Oceans (GPO) was a public-private partnership announced in 2012 that brought together a wide coalition of different organizations with the aim of addressing pollution, habitat loss and issues related to seafood harvesting. Planning for the GPO started in 2011. The GPO ceased operations in 2015.
Creation and Supporters
The GPO was formally launched in February 2012, during a speech delivered by then-president of the World Bank, Robert Zoellick. “This Partnership will bring together countries, scientific centers, NGOs, international organizations, foundations, and the private sector to pool knowledge, experience, expertise, and investment around a set of agreed upon goals,” Zoellick said.
In his 2012 speech, Zoellick proposed that the GPO focus on four specific goals over the next ten years: “rebuild[ing] at least half the world’s fish stocks identified as depleted”; “increase[ing] the annual net benefits of fisheries to between $20 and $30 billion,” including by “reforming subsidies,”; “doubl[ing] the [ocean] area covered by marine protected areas,” and increase[ing] sustainable aquaculture to provide two thirds of the world’s fish.”
In addition to the World Bank, Zoellick said GPO had the support of environmental organizations such as Conservation International, National Geographic Society, the Nature Conservancy, the International Union for Conservation of Nature, and the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF; formerly World Wildlife Fund).
Alongside these organizations, Zoellick indicated that the following agencies connected to the United Nations were also ready to work with the GPO: the Global Environment Facility; the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO; the UN Development Program; UN Environment Program; and the Food and Agriculture Organization.
Other supporters listed included: Aquaculture Stewardship Council, Clinton Climate Initiative, Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), Ocean Recovery Alliance, Conservation International, Counterpart International Inc., Oceana Conservation International, Plastic Pollution Coalition (a project of Earth Island Institute), Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), Wildlife Conservation Society, Marine Stewardship Council, World Wide Fund for Nature (formerly World Wildlife Fund), and Marine Watch International.
Following Zoellick’s speech, the World Bank organized the completion and publishing of two major papers intended to advance the GPO. The first was a series of recommendations authored by a specially-appointed panel of experts, published in 2013 by the World Bank. The second was a framework document laying out a more formal plan for the realization of the GPO’s agenda, published in 2014 by the World Bank.
The GPO committed itself in 2012 “to mobilizing at least $300 million in catalytic finance.” Working with governments, the scientific community, civil society organizations, and the private sector, we aim to leverage as much as $1.2 billion to support healthy and sustainable oceans. This would total $1.5 billion in new commitments over five years,” Zoellick said in his 2012 speech.
In 2015, despite the release of the 2013 recommendations and 2014 framework document, the GPO came to a sudden end, with the World Bank formally announcing that it was “no longer acting as the GPO Secretariat,” without further public explanation.
John Virdin, the World Bank employee who served as the GPO’s acting program manager, subsequently joined Duke University’s Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions. Prior to his work with the World Bank, Virdin had also worked at the World Resources Institute, the Munson Foundation, the World Conservation Network, the World Wildlife Fund, and the Natural Resources Defense Council.