17.06.2012 - Natural Sciences Sector

The Ocean in Focus at Rio+20

The preparations for Rio+20 identified the ocean as one of seven areas which need priority attention. The high turnout and active participation of leaders and institutions in ocean events in Rio speaks to the fact that the ocean community is coming together, with a shared concern that the ocean is not enough of a priority in the context of sustainability.

The very first entry point to discuss ocean governance at Rio was a side event of the Forum on Science, Technology and Innovation for Sustainable Development on 12 June, focusing on Science and Governance for Global Sustainability. The panellists and the public called for more and new research, including in social sciences, to fully understand and evaluate the impacts of global change on the world’s oceans. Noting that current governance remains fragmented along both sectoral and geographical lines that ignore the interconnectivity and scale of ocean issues, they recognized that there is an urgent need for an international framework of cooperation for both ocean research and governance, which will define the conditions for scientist to prepare accurate scenarios for the future.

The Global Ocean Forum’s Oceans Day at Rio+20 gathered over 375 ocean stakeholders from 46 countries and all sectors at the UN Conference on Sustainable Development on 16 June 2012 to highlight the importance of oceans, coasts, and small island developing States (SIDS) in sustainable development. The Oceans Day at Rio+20 also highlighted 12 tangible commitments for oceans, coasts, and SIDS.

The Oceans Day Co-Chairs —Biliana Cicin-Sain, President of the Global Ocean Forum, Tuiloma Neroni Slade, Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, and Wendy Watson Wright, Executive Secretary of the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (UNESCO-IOC)— issued a Rio Ocean Declaration (pdf), calling for strong and immediate action through 7 concrete measures to meet the sustainable development goals for oceans, coasts, and small island developing States (SIDS) at Rio+20 and beyond.

The Global Partnership for Oceans was launched officially during Oceans Day, with 80 countries, civil society groups, private companies and international organizations – including UNESCO - signalling their commitment to work together around coordinated goals to restore the world’s oceans to health and productivity through the partnership.  

Among the partners are 17 private firms and associations including some of the largest seafood purchasing companies in the world, representing over $6 billion per year in seafood sales, as well as one of the world’s largest cruise lines.

Wendy Watson Wright noted that there is an unprecedented focus on the ocean at Rio+20, thanks to the mobilization of the Ocean community, but also to a growing awareness among policy makers that ocean-related issues such as ocean acidification are one of the most important challenges not just to the ocean, but to the planet today.

You can’t have good policy without good science, and you can’t have good science without good observation’, she said, calling for a mechanism for global observation of ocean acidification. She also hoped to see further emphasis on science for underpinning decision making and more emphasis on the need to assist developing countries in terms of capacity building and transfer of marine technology.

In fact UNESCO-IOC has made a Rio+20 voluntary commitment to coordinate a global and regional assessment of capacity development needs in the field of marine scientific research and ocean observation in developing nations and SIDS, leading to the formulation and implementation of a global capacity development strategy to fill identified gaps.

This commitment will be presented by Irina Bokova, Director General of UNESCO, during the side event ‘Know our Ocean, Protect our Marine Treasures, Empower Ocean Citizens’ on 20 June 2012, where a prestigious panel will discuss and present a number of initiatives that support Rio+20 ocean targets leading to the sustainable use of the ocean.

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