18.06.2012 - Natural Sciences Sector

Becoming ocean citizens

Joe Bunni+- 5 mètres

Building a green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication is at the centre of discussions at the Rio+20 conference. However, the development of this ‘green economy’ will rely in part on the sustainable management and use of the ocean and its resources.

The ocean, our common heritage, covers over 70% of the globe’s surface. The ocean shapes the Earth’s climate and influences the distribution of ecosystems, biodiversity, and thus food availability across the globe. This single, contiguous body of water is crucial to human life. Yet, despite the scientific research promoted via international cooperation over the past 50 years, the ocean remains relatively unexplored.

To mitigate the continued degradation of the ocean and its marine treasures, and to restore and sustain its critical market and ecosystem services, a transition must be made towards blueing the green economy. Blueing the green economy – that is developing sustainable economic activities which generate jobs and assists in poverty alleviation while at the same time embracing integrated environmental management and adapting to and mitigating climate change and other existing and emerging challenges – is one of the major challenges of our time, and the only viable path to achieving a sustainable future.

To transition to a blue-green economy, we must develop a new relationship with our ocean where we endeavor to live with and from the ocean in a sustainable way. To make this transition will require greater scientific research and cooperation, as well as observation and monitoring systems, including early warning systems, to gain a better understanding of this complex system. Reliable scientific information and data must inform decision-making processes so as to develop sound policies for the sustainable management of our ocean. Indigenous knowledge about the ocean and its resources must also contribute to this process. Appropriate tools and mechanism must be developed to protect ocean resources and biodiversity while sustaining livelihoods that are compatible with healthy ecosystems. The transition towards such a blue‐green approach will require a shift in human behaviour which can only be instrumented through ocean education and awareness‐ leading to the emergence of a true ‘ocean citizenship’.

These three interconnected dimensions – know our ocean, protect our marine treasures, empower ocean citizens- will structure the side event organized by the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (UNESCO-IOC) 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.

Know our ocean: How can science and technology serve coastal nations for the sustainable management of ocean and coastal resources, the protection of their coastal populations, and to maintain ecosystem services?

Protect our Marine Treasures: How can we better preserve the natural and cultural heritage of the ocean and coasts and the essential services that ocean provides to society?

Empower Ocean Citizens: Effective Ocean stewardship requires the participation of all parts of society in defining a common ocean future and in promoting behavioural change towards the ocean. How do we empower ocean citizens and society?

A newly published information document, 'Healthy Ocean, Healthy People' (.pdf), goes into further detail and presents intitiatives, programmes and proposals.

The Director General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova, will also present the Rio+20 Volontary Commitment made by UNESCO-IOC in response to the widely recognized need to strengthen marine science capacities of developing nations in order to advance sustainable ocean management at all levels. UNESCO-IOC is pledging 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 is based on one the proposals of UN Blueprint on Ocean and Coastal Sustainability. It will be implemented in close cooperation with the Global Ocean Forum led Voluntary Commitment on building global capacity for integrated ocean governance, in partnership with countries, UN Agencies, global financial institutions, and the private sector.

The side event is organized in cooperation with the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO), Fond Tara, the Government of Denmark , the Sandwatch Foundation and the UNESCO World Heritage Centre.

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