23.01.2019 - UNESCO Venice Office

Ocean Literacy and Multi-Stakeholder Processes for Ocean Governance for a sustainable blue planet

IOC-UNESCO /Manifesto

Ocean issues with conceptual ties to science and a global society are capturing the attention, imagination, and concern of an international audience. Global climate change, over fishing, marine pollution, economic trade and commerce, and decreased biodiversity are just a few of the ocean issues highlighted in our media and conversations. The public values the ocean and considers protecting it to be a fundamental responsibility but its understanding of why we need the ocean is superficial.

A very wide gap exists between what scientists know and what the rest of the world population understands about the ocean. Ocean Literacy is the tool to fill in the social knowledge gap to ensure that SDG 14 life below water - Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources is met by 2030. Ocean Literacy is evolving radically from being a tool to be applied in formal education and training contexts to a tool and approach for society as a whole, aimed at triggering actions towards ocean sustainability.

Recognising the need to promote processes to transform ocean knowledge into action, “Ocean Literacy for All: a global strategy to raise the awareness for the conservation, restoration, and sustainable use of our ocean” was registered by UNESCO through its Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC-UNESCO) as a voluntary commitment  to the Ocean Conference convened at United Nations in New York on 5-9 June 2017. This initiative aims to increase awareness on conservation, restoration and sustainable use of ocean resources, by establishing a supportive global partnership.

Within this strategy, and as contribution to the preparatory phase for the United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021-2030), which has as one of its outcomes “A transparent and accessible ocean, where all nations, stakeholders, and citizens have access to ocean data, information, and technologies and are capable of making informed decision”, IOC-UNESCO held the meeting of a group of experts on Ocean Literacy for Multi-Stakeholder Processes in Ocean Governance, on 19-20 November 2018, at UNESCO in Paris.

The meeting gathered 15 professionals from around the world, including Ocean Literacy experts, journalists, researchers, foundations, MSP practitioners, educators, representatives of NGOs  and public authorities. The event was a bridge between “Ocean Literacy for All” and “Marine Spatial Planning (MSP) Global” - a joint 3-year initiative effort between IOC-UNESCO and the European Commission (DG MARE) to promote cross-border and transboundary Marine/Maritime spatial planning.

During the meeting, the experts discussed how to use creative and interactive Ocean Literacy tools to communicate ocean knowledge to different audiences, with particular reference to multi-stakeholders processes, such as MSP, and shared views on the challenges of transforming knowledge into action.

It is necessary to advance professional capacity-building, at times from scratch, to enhance stakeholders’ understanding about the ocean, by using interactive learning tools, such as roundtable discussions, online videos, documentaries,  board games, infographics  and virtual reality. It is as important to understand how to make ocean knowledge actionable, empower social actors to drive concrete decisions, and create needed empathy amongst different ocean users to move towards the same goal of ocean sustainability.

Ocean knowledge needs to be accessible. Therein lies the challenge: while some ocean topics are simple to introduce and discuss, others are often too complex for the general public to understand, or even for those working on topics related to the marine environment. It is necessary to invest in the development of tools to communicate the environmental, social and economic dimensions of the ocean for society.

In MSP, practice is a key factor too because it brings together stakeholders from very different industries and professions who do not necessarily have the same knowledge base on all aspects of the ocean or share a common language.

Efforts should be focused on connecting different online sources of ocean knowledge and ocean data through common protocols - such as Application Programming Interfaces (API) - that would interface the systems and enable the users to easily navigate through different platforms and knowledge hubs. It is necessary to learn from other disciplines - such as social marketing or journalism - and tailor the desired message to specific  audiences.

“Ocean Literacy for all” shall benefit society as a whole by community-based learning and the dissemination of ocean scientific knowledge among multi-disciplinary stakeholders and civil society.

Finally, the experts decided to launch a call to action, through the publication of a “manifesto” on ocean literacy for multi-stakeholder processes to marine scientists and representatives of the media, education, business, and private sectors, as well as society at large to join and enrich this discussion with additional perspectives, values and insights. The ultimate end is to contribute to connecting different  bodies of knowledge and practice towards the common objective: maintain our ocean as healthy, productive and safe!

Link: https://en.unesco.org/mspglobal


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