» UN ocean family sets the stage for greater collaboration
29.03.2018 - Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission

UN ocean family sets the stage for greater collaboration

© UNESCO/IOC - Participants at the seventeenth meeting of UN-Oceans (26-28 March 2018, Paris, France)

The ocean knows no national boundaries, often challenging decision-makers with complex, transversal and multinational issues from food security to biodiversity conservation. For the United Nations System, in particular, conserving and sustainably managing the ocean and its resources is a common goal and therefore requires ever-stronger dialogue and cooperation between the twenty-four UN bodies working on ocean issues.

From 26 to 28 March 2018, the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) of UNESCO hosted the seventeenth meeting of UN-Oceans, the coordination mechanism involving all UN agencies working on ocean issues, to examine possible contributions and collaborations in the context of the 2030 Agenda and UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021-2030).

The UN-Oceans meeting sought to identify areas of collaboration and synergy around ongoing and planned activities of individual agencies, notably by contributing information to the UN World Oceans Day Online Portal regarding planned events for World Oceans Day 2018 and updating the UN-Oceans website to enhance visibility of the overall UN-Oceans mechanism and its members.

Discussions also covered measures to strengthen and promote coordination and coherence of the UN system’s activities related to ocean and coastal zones, for instance through collaboration to support the Decade of Ocean Science and contributions to implement the UN’s 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development and its Goal 14 on the ocean.

“It’s your decade, a chance that comes once in a lifetime to do incredibly meaningful work for saving our ocean,” said Vladimir Ryabinin, IOC Executive Secretary, inviting partner agencies to engage in the Decade’s planning process.

Sandor Mulsow, Director of the Office of Environmental Management and Mineral Resources at the International Seabed Authority (ISA), gave an example of how UN agencies can work together to deliver the ocean we need for the future we want. “The ISA can provide all the information it has been collecting in recent decades, in particular in deep sea areas in international waters where few countries have capacity to do science. We sample 1.3 million square kilometers every year so we can support the science-based activities of the Decade,” he explained.

UN-Oceans members called for facilitated and continuous inter-agency information exchange, with sharing of case studies on experiences, best practices, tools, methodologies and lessons learned, such as on the LME:LEARN platform. The LME:LEARN project brings together several UN agencies and a dozen other partners to improve global ecosystem-based governance of coastal and Large Marine Ecosystems (LMEs). These are relatively large areas of ocean space (at least 200,000 km2) with unique marine productivity and food chain interactions.

“The Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development in my view is absolutely critical in reversing the decline that the ocean has slipped into in recent decades. We must reverse that decline for the sake of our children and our grandchildren, but to do so we need to have good science on which to base our decisions. We cannot do this just as a guessing game. We need the data, we need the databank, then we can do the analysis which allows us to make the right decisions. (…) It is a huge task but I am confident that by the time we get to 2030, we will have lifted humanity’s game hugely in terms of what we know about the ocean and our decision-making will have improved as a result,” affirmed Peter Thomson, UN Special Envoy for the Ocean.

Highlighting the critical need for partnerships for the success of UN-Oceans and the Decade, Wenjian Zhang, Assistant Secretary-General of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), added that “only in this way can we convince governments to pay greater attention to investment in research and observations. We at WMO often say that with a one dollar investment in observations and meteorological services, society can get forty times the investment in return through national socio-economic development.”

The UN-Oceans inter-agency mechanism works across the United Nations system and the International Seabed Authority to enhance the coordination, coherence and effectiveness of competent organizations, in conformity with the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, the respective competences of each of its participating organizations and the mandates and priorities approved by their respective governing bodies.

For more information, please contact:

Julian Barbière (j.barbiere(at)unesco.org)

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