07.06.2017 - Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission

IOC-UNESCO recognizes champions of global ocean science during high-level celebration at The Ocean Conference

On 6 June 2017, UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC), in collaboration with the Governments of Iceland and Peru, UN Environment and Sky TV, organized the first ever “Ocean’s 8 Celebration” in honor of national ocean science champions at the United Nations Ocean Conference in New York.

The event, co-hosted by UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova, Peter Thomson, President of the UN General Assembly, and the Governments of Iceland and Peru, recognized eight nations having made remarkable contributions towards building the capacity needed in global ocean science to achieve Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 14, building on the findings of the IOC Global Ocean Science Report to be launched on 8 June.

Missed the Ocean's 8 Celebration? Watch the highlights of the ceremony and high level panel.

“We need an action-oriented global partnership across all pillars of ocean science,” said Irina Bokova. She invited all participants to join UNESCO in calling for 2021-2030 to become the International Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development that will provide Governments, the scientific community, civil society and all other actors with a framework for coordinating and consolidating observations and research to achieve SDG 14.

This “Ocean’s 8 Celebration”, named in reference to World Oceans Day on 8 June, opened with an awards ceremony honoring among others innovative financing, gender equality, and education and outreach in ocean science. For a list of all categories and honorees, please click here.

A panel discussion then took place with guests from the world of ocean science, ocean plastics and the international media, including Irina Bokova and Peter Thomson; Karolina Skog, Minister for the Environment of Sweden; Erik Solheim, UN Environment Executive Director; Adrian Grenier, actor and UN Environment Goodwill Ambassador; Peter Haugan, IOC Chairperson; and Thomas Moore from Sky News. These speakers focused on the key question: “Does the ocean need more science or more action?

“The reason why we don’t see much action is that a lot of what happens in the ocean is not seen, or known about. So we need to go back to the basics of ocean science and explain life in the ocean, through ocean literacy,” added Karolina Skog.

Distinguished panelists also included H.S.H. Prince Albert II of Monaco, a long-time supporter of ocean research, preservation and protection and UNESCO partner, and Craig McClean, Deputy Assistant Administrator of the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Addressing the UNESCO Director General’s comment on an International Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainability, H.S.H. Prince Albert II vehemently agreed that “to have a Decade to look at an issue as vast and complex as the ocean will give us clearer understanding and allow for cross-fertilization of contributions of different stakeholders involved.”

David Eades from BBC World moderated both segments.

Earlier in the day, UNESCO’s IOC took part in the Partnership Dialogue on marine and coastal ecosystems. Second in a series of seven thematic sessions organized throughout the Conference, it presented a scientific update on the current state of marine and coastal ecosystems and focused on solutions and practical recommendations to address identified gaps and challenges.

Major negative impacts to these ecosystems stem from climate change, unsustainable use of marine resources, physical alteration and destruction of marine and coastal habitats and landscapes, as well as marine pollution, which act cumulatively. These impacts are expected to increase if no countermeasures are taken, especially as global population is projected to grow to 9.7 billion people by 2050.

“Many countries are moving towards a more integrated and ecosystem-based management of marine environment, which is the only path to sustainable development, but much more must and can be done to save our ocean,” called Vladimir Ryabinin, IOC Executive Secretary.

To address these challenges, IOC is working with the Global Environment Facility, UNDP and other partners to implement a project to improve global ecosystem-based governance of Large Marine Ecosystems (LMEs) and adjacent coasts. The IOC Executive Secretary also highlighted the role of marine/maritime spatial planning (MSP), which brings together policy-makers, stakeholders and citizens to coordinate and co-design human activities in marine areas to achieve sustainable development objectives.

Beyond these more scientific aspects, UNESCO’s long-standing work for the protection and conservation of 49 Marine World Heritage sites in 37 countries – covering about 10% of all existing marine protected areas – as well as its network of 212 biosphere reserves with marine, island and coastal areas in 74 countries, is a further step to achieving SDG 14.

“These sites are in a unique position to lead by example and inspire the improved management of marine and coastal protected areas around the world,” said Vladimir Ryabinin.

Other prominent speakers in this Partnership Dialogue included H.E. Mr. Tommy Remengesau, President of Palau; Ms. Cristiana Pasca Palmer, Executive Secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity; and Mr. Lin Shanqing, Deputy Administrator of China’s State Oceanic Administration.

Before engaging in an interactive debate, the IOC Executive Secretary and participants called for the scope of new partnerships to emerge from this event to focus not only on scientific approaches and tools, but on coordinating and aligning management efforts across all levels – local, national, regional and global – as ocean management is by its very nature transboundary.

Please visit our page “UNESCO @ UN Ocean Conference” for a comprehensive view of the programme, our side events and all our voluntary commitments.

For more information, please contact:

Vinicius Lindoso (v.lindoso(at)unesco.org), for information about the “Ocean’s 8 Celebration”.

Julian Barbière (j.barbiere(at)unesco.org), for information about the participation of UNESCO’s IOC at the Ocean Conference.

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