» Mobilizing ocean science in preparation for the UN Ocean Conference
02.03.2017 - Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission

Mobilizing ocean science in preparation for the UN Ocean Conference

©UNESCO/Lindoso. Right-to-Left: Head of the IOC-UNESCO Delegation to the preparatory meeting, Vladimir Ryabinin, with Officers of the IOC Executive Council Ariel Troisi (Vice-Chair, Argentina) and Peter Haugan (Chair, Norway).

A preparatory meeting for the “Ocean Conference: Our Oceans, Our Future: Partnering for the Implementation of Sustainable Development Goal 14” in New York on 15-17 February laid the structure for the United Nations Ocean Conference (5-9 June), with a strong multi-stakeholder mobilization in favor of scientifically-robust policy actions toward implementing Sustainable Development Goal 14 related to the ocean.

UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) joined UN Member States, UN agencies and other major stakeholder groups to discuss the proposed themes for seven partnership dialogues to be convened during the UN Ocean Conference in June 2017, and to help lay out elements for the “Call for Action” that will be launched at the Conference. The meeting was led by the two co-facilitators of the preparatory process for The Ocean Conference, H.E. Álvaro Mendonça e Moura, Permanent Representative of Portugal, and H.E. Burhan Gafoor, Permanent Representative of Singapore.

Main Outcomes for IOC and UNESCO

IOC Executive Secretary Vladimir Ryabinin headed the UNESCO delegation to the preparatory meeting. During plenary discussions on the seven partnership dialogues, Dr Ryabinin spoke on behalf of both the IOC and UNESCO’s Director General, promoting ocean research and the Global Ocean Observing System as “key enablers” for nations looking to implement the SDG14 targets.

He further emphasized that “based on our mandate in the UN System, IOC stands ready to support co-facilitators in developing a consolidated program of actions in all aspects related to ocean science and observations, capacity development and transfer of marine technology, through relevant partnerships.”

Taking the opportunity to address the major groups in the extended ocean community, IOC through its Chair, Prof Peter Haugan, informed the meeting of a proposal led by IOC Member States to develop an International Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021-2030). Prof Haugan described the decade as a “framework for concerted action of all states to achieve the targets in SDG 14, while contributing to other related SDGs and progressing ‘Towards the ocean we need for the future we want’

The Decade would support the global agenda and facilitate marine scientific research and its application, contributing to the development of related capacity within and across regions—in line with the provisions of SDG target 14.a, but also responding to the needs identified in the SAMOA Pathway. The process of designing and implementing this International Decade could strengthen cooperation between the different organizations and institutions involved in ocean science and observations and establish closer integration of science within the ocean policy and decision-making realms.

The idea met the approval of key delegations, including Venezuela and Monaco, which supported the inclusion of IOC’s Decade proposal in the “Call for Action.” Several member states highlighted in their intervention the need to strengthen marine scientific research, the access to marine data and information, as well as the establishment robust capacity development mechanisms specifically developing nations, and particularly Small Island Developing States and Least Developing Countries.

Side Events

Side events took place on the day before as well as during the preparatory meeting. IOC and UNESCO side events covered a wide array of issue areas, including ocean observations, scientific developments in the deep ocean, blue economy, capacity development and the transfer of marine technology, blue carbon, and underwater cultural heritage. These events helped to anchor IOC’s continuous call for the integration of ocean research and science-based policies on the implementation of the sustainable development goals.

The side event “Building ocean science, technology and related capacities towards achieving sustainable development of the ocean and seas” was an excellent opportunity for the IOC to highlight its global mobilization to support countries toward achieving SDG14. In a panel discussion co-moderated by the Permanent Representative of Samoa to the UN, H.E. Aliioaiga Feturi Elisaia, and by Counsellor Andreas Kravik of the Permanent Mission of Norway, scientific, policy and regional perspectives came together to reiterate the need for effective financing and means of implementation for scientific research. The present capacity and knowledge gaps between the developed and developing worlds require the setting up of multi-stakeholder partnerships focused on scientific knowledge, capacity development and transfer of marine technology, if all countries are to achieve SDG14 by 2030.

The IOC and UNESCO also took an active role in the following side events:

“Building partnerships for Integrated Ocean Observing and Information in support of the implementation of SDG14”, co-organized with the Global Ocean Observing System, GEO Blue Planet, and the AtlantOS Project (14 February)

“Sustaining Integrity of Ecosystems in the Deep Half of the Planet”, co-organized with the Deep-ocean Stewardship Initiative and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (14 February)

“Oceans and Climate and the Blue Economy”, co-organized with the Governments of Grenada and the Seychelles, the Global Ocean Forum, the Oceano Azul Foundation, and the Sasakawa Peace Foundation (15 February)

“Legacy of the Ocean through preservation of underwater cultural heritage” (15 February)

“Coastal Carbon Ecosystems. Fundamental for Ocean and Human Health”, co-organized with the IUCN and Conservation International (16 February)

Next steps toward The UN Ocean Conference

The next steps for the Conference will come in the form of a zero draft of the “Call for Action”, which is set for release in early March, with consultations on the document taking place on 7, 9, 20 and 21 March. The IOC will closely follow and participate in the preparatory process, always with a view to ensuring ocean science and science-based marine policies are well represented in the conference discussions and outcome.

Check the IOC-UNESCO Flickr account for photos of our participation in the Preparatory Meeting for the UN Ocean Conference in pictures.

For more information, please contact:

Julian Barbière (j.barbiere@unesco.org)

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