29.06.2017 - Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission

“Towards the ocean we need for the future we want” – IOC Member States raise call for Decade of Ocean Science

© UNESCO - Peter Haugan, IOC Chairperson (left), and Vladimir Ryabinin, IOC Executive Secretary (right), hand over the resolution on the Decade of Ocean Science to Peter Thomson, President of the UN General Assembly (center) – 29 June 2017, UNESCO Headquarters.

The second day of the 29th Session of the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission’s (IOC) Assembly was dedicated to the future of the ocean and the role UNESCO’s IOC can play in shaping it. Delegates joined high level panelists in a special discussion forum to share views on the proposal for an International Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021-2030).

The IOC Chairperson, Peter M. Haugan, moderated a high-level plenary discussion panel during the afternoon session. Speakers tackled issues of fundamental importance to the successful implementation of the Decade, such as knowledge gaps, interdisciplinarity, the science-policy interface, partnerships, data sharing and capacity building mechanisms, and outcomes.

UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova initiated the dialogue by highlighting the need for increased public awareness and better transformation of the scientific knowledge and understanding of the ocean into effective policies for improved governance. 

“The ocean is vital for our cultures, our economies, our lives, and the very survival of our planet. How many wake up calls do we need? ‘Business as usual’ will lead humanity to disaster – we need action now,” she called on Member States. 

Both the President of the UNESCO General Conference, Stanley Mutumba Simataa, and the Chair of the UNESCO Executive Board, Michael Worbs, echoed her. “It is heartening to see so many representatives from Member States, sister UN agencies and the scientific community present in this room and poised to commit themselves,” said Mr Worbs.

Dessima Williams, Special Adviser to the President of the UN General Assembly, explained that only scaled up action in the form of an Ocean Decade could help deliver the targets and goals set in the 2030 Agenda. She also mentioned the voluntary commitments made to the UN Ocean Conference (5-9 June), noting that “45% of voluntary commitments come from Governments, 26% from NGOs and civil society, and 6% from academic and scientific institutions.”

The World Meteorological Organization (WMO), long-time partner of IOC, was represented by its Assistant Secretary-General, Wenjian Zhang. “We are partners in nature, by nature and for nature because we all belong to one nature system. We need a holistic approach including observations, research, services and international cooperation to maximize synergy among all stakeholders in order to have a successful Ocean Decade,” he explained.

On the topic of how best to co-design the Decade, Heide Hackmann – Executive Director of the International Council for Science (ICSU) – suggested to Member States three priorities: inclusivity and diversity of actors from all sectors (Governments, private sector, civil society, scientific community); the establishment of effective and mutually beneficial partnerships; and the necessity of strong investment in public outreach initiatives from the very beginning.

Robert Ward, Secretary General of the International Hydrographic Organization (IHO), underlined cross-organisational observations. “The Decade provides the most wonderful opportunities to bring all interested parties together under one banner to work towards collaborative efforts to improve our knowledge of our seas and oceans,” he declared, before adding that the IHO “can be and wants to be part of the Ocean Decade.”

Lisa Emilia Svensson, Coordinator of the Marine and Costal Ecosystems Branch at UN Environment, insisted for her part on an improved science-policy interface for a successful Decade. “It’s time for ocean diplomacy – to bridge the gap between science and policy-makers. We need to move outside the comfortable zone and translate science into a language that has meaning. We need to have people from all sectors into the same room and break down institutional barriers. The Ocean Decade would bring transformative leadership through strong partnerships.” 

To conclude, Satish Shenoi, Director of the Indian National Centre for Ocean Information Services, spoke about the types of data sharing and capacity building mechanisms that will need to be built throughout the Decade; while Gunnar Kullenberg, former IOC Executive Secretary, shared his experiences and lessons learnt from previous UN Decades. 

The following week on 29 June, building on the panel and Assembly debates, IOC Member States endorsed the proposal for an International Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development, to be established for the period 2021-2030. The resolution was symbolically handed over to the President of the UN General Assembly, Peter Thomson, who visited the IOC Assembly on its last day.

“I would like to congratulate you all on adopting the International Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development – Towards The Ocean We Need For The Future We Want. I think this is going to prove to be a very important step for the IOC but also for the ocean community. This Decade would cover the last ten years of SDG 14’s life so it is going to be a very critical part of SDG 14’s implementation,” said Mr Thomson.

The Decade of Ocean Science resolution is set to be presented at the 72nd session of the UN General Assembly for its consideration in the fall, triggering the preparation of an implementation plan for the Decade over a two-year period to be coordinated by IOC.

For more information about the Ocean Decade, please visit: http://en.unesco.org/ocean-decade

For more information about the IOC Assembly, please visit:

Public Information - http://en.unesco.org/IOC-29
Official documents - http://ioc-unesco.org/ioc-29 

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