22.06.2017 - Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission

IOC-UNESCO and Sweden strengthen partnership for ocean literacy

On 8 June 2017, the Kingdom of Sweden announced a financial contribution to UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) during a meeting between UNESCO Director-General, Irina Bokova, and Swedish Minister for the Environment, Karolina Skog, on the margins of the United Nations Ocean Conference in New York.

Among the various areas of cooperation discussed, the field of ocean literacy was particularly highlighted as it constitutes one of IOC’s voluntary commitments to the Ocean Conference, in partnership with over a dozen intergovernmental, scientific and civil society organizations.

This initiative, entitled “Ocean Literacy for All: A global strategy to raise the awareness for the conservation, restoration, and sustainable use of our ocean”, aims to develop an improved public knowledge base across the world’s population regarding our global ocean and the close links between ocean and human well-being. It is also strategically linked to UNESCO’s work on Education for Sustainable Development.

“All of us need to know more about how the ocean influences us, and how we influence the ocean. Sweden is happy to provide financial support to the voluntary commitment on Ocean Literacy for All,” said Ms Skog. “When kids get the possibility to feel for example a starfish in their hands or learn about our ocean, a new world opens to them. To feel and learn is the first step to take action to save our ocean.”

Sweden will also support the IOC’s proposal for an International Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021-2030) at the 29th Session of the IOC Assembly (21-29 June), and the importance of ensuring that the appropriate space is made available to ensure that policy-makers are developing policies based on sound science.

Sweden, alongside Fiji, was co-chair of the Ocean Conference.

Representatives of partner organizations involved in the “Ocean Literacy for All” commitment gave their views at a side event on Ocean Literacy for All at the Conference:

Wendy Watson-Wright, former IOC Executive Secretary and currently Chief Executive Officer of the Ocean Frontier Institute (Canada), added that “ocean literacy does more than teach about the sea. It supports the development of critical thinking and problem-solving skills, increasing both learner and teacher engagement. It’s a key step forward to making a positive impact on the entire planet.”

Ana Noronha, Executive Director of Ciência Viva (Portugal), explained that the initiative is “addressing educators to include more ocean topics in their practice, to share resources and to create new pedagogical materials. We also network with science centers, aquaria and museums to mobilize citizens, decision-makers and industry actors to take action for a sustainable use of the ocean. Being able to communicate a sense of urgency while helping to find solutions will be more important than ever.”

Gail Scowcroft, from the Consortium for Ocean Science Exploration and Engagement (COSEE), for her part insisted on the need for more cooperation at all levels. “We rely on the ocean to moderate our climate, provide food for us and other life on Earth, and support our well-being. Partnerships and collaborations between ocean scientists, education professionals, policy-makers, and business leaders are critical if we are to have a truly ocean literate citizenry,” she said.

All details about the initiative can be found on The Ocean Conference Registry of Voluntary Commitments alongside other commitments undertaken by Governments, international organizations, civil society organizations, the private sector, scientific institutions and other stakeholders towards the implementation of Sustainable Development Goal 14 – to conserve and sustainable use our ocean.

For more information, please contact:

Francesca Santoro (f.santoro(at)unesco.org)

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