On 5 December 2017, the United Nations proclaimed a Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development, to be held from 2021 to 2030. This Decade will provide a common framework to ensure that ocean science can fully support countries’ actions to sustainably manage the Oceans and more particularly to achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
The Decade will provide a ‘once in a lifetime’ opportunity to create a new foundation, across the science-policy interface, to strengthen the management of our oceans and coasts for the benefit of humanity.
Ocean Science combines a variety of disciplines (physical, geological and chemical oceanography as well as marine biology) that study and provide data on the global marine environment (marine organisms, ecosystem dynamics, ocean currents, waves, geophysical fluids dynamics, plate tectonics and the geology of the sea floor as well as fluxes of various chemical substances and physical properties within the Ocean and across its boundaries).
Over the decades, Ocean Science evolved to integrate new societal needs and encourage new partnerships among oceanographers working in different disciplines leading to new discoveries about the ocean’s role in climate regulation and coastal ocean processes.
Ocean Science can support business operations (shipping industry, fisheries and aquaculture, etc…) as well as conservation and management activities or coastal communities by predicting Ocean hazards preventing and mitigating disaster risks.
For example, the discovery of oceanic eddies has been important for an understanding of ocean circulation, propagation of sound in the ocean, fisheries productivity, and other ocean processes.
The UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development was born out of the recognition that much more needs to be done to reverse the cycle of decline in ocean health and create improved conditions for the sustainable development of the ocean, seas and coasts.
The First World Ocean Assessment released in 2016 notes the cycle of decline in the ocean health, with changes and losses in the structure, function and benefits obtained from marine systems. Over the coming decades, a changing climate, growing global population and multiple environmental stressors will have significant impacts.
Science-informed mitigation and adaptation policies to global change are urgently needed, but neither science nor policy-makers can accomplish that alone.
We already have a lot of knowledge and data/Ocean Science already provides a lot of knowledge and data about the marine environment and its status but that knowledge could be better used, coordinated an integrated into the decision-making process to support management actions. A better predictability, based on developed knowledge that would allow scientists to build different scenarios and a digital map of the ocean should be promoted to help the decisions-makers in choosing the best management actions and measuring their possible consequences.
The existing knowledge could also be more equitably shared with coastal communities that are the most vulnerable to the current and future changes of the Ocean.
More inclusive approaches of designing and conducting marine scientific research could also support a sustainable Blue Economy, breaking the business model and sharing the responsibility of protecting oceans by complementing the policy and management actions protecting the ocean by encouraging better stewardship of our ocean resources.
The Decade of Ocean Science offers a framework to strengthen connections and weave partnerships between all communities working to study, conserve and sustainably use the ocean and its resources.
Through stronger international cooperation, the Decade will bolster scientific research and innovative technologies to ensure science responds to the needs of society:
How the Decade will strengthen the international cooperation and support the decision-makers and ocean managers’ actions.
The Decade will support the entire 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The Decade proposal was first registered as a voluntary commitment to the 2017 UN Ocean Conference by the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission.
The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is an urgent call for action adopted by all United Nations countries to achieve 17 sustainable development goals, which seek to end poverty and other deprivations while improving health and education, reducing inequality, spurring economic growth, tackling climate change, preserving our shared ocean and its resources.
The Decade will provide a unifying framework across the UN system to enable countries to achieve all of their ocean-related Agenda 2030 priorities. For example, the Decade will help strengthen the development and implementation of science-based solutions for fisheries management. This alone will have a significant impact on helping many countries to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals needed to support the health and wellbeing of their communities and to achieve food security.
The Decade will also contribute to the UN processes protecting the ocean and its resources, such as the Aichi Biodiversity Targets, the SAMOA Pathway, the United Nations Convention for the Law of the Sea and the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction and the most recently proclaimed UN Decade on Ecosystem restoration.
The Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) of UNESCO has been tasked by the UN General Assembly to work with all interested stakeholders to design a Decade of ocean science that will help us to deliver the ocean we need for the future we want.
The IOC of UNESCO is the United Nations body responsible for supporting global ocean science and services.
A primary focus of the IOC is to enable its Member States to build the scientific and institutional capacity needed to achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 14 to conserve and sustainably manage ocean and marine resources by 2030.
The Decade is embracing a participative and transformative process so that scientists, policy makers, managers, and service users can work together to ensure that ocean science delivers greater benefits for both the ocean ecosystem and for society.
This Decade will be designed to facilitate global communication and mutual learning across research and stakeholder communities. It will work to meet the needs of scientists, policy makers, industry, civil society and the wider public, but it will also support new, collaborative partnerships that can deliver more effective science-based management of our ocean space and resources.
The Decade will promote a more targeted and effective information flow as well as innovative ways of conducting and using ocean science by:
The Decade will harness, stimulate and coordinate research efforts at all levels, in order to support delivery of the information, action and solutions needed to achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
The IOC of UNESCO is the United Nations body responsible for supporting global ocean science and services. This organisation enables its 150 Member States to work together to protect the health of our shared ocean by coordinating programmes in ocean observations, hazard mitigation, tsunami warnings and marine spatial planning.
The IOC also provides a focus for other UN organisations and agencies with regard to ocean science, observations and data exchange.
The United-Nations General Assembly (UNGA) mandated IOC to coordinate the Preparatory Phase of the Decade and prepare an implementation plan in consultation with the United-Nations member States, the UN bodies and other relevant stakeholders.
IOC reports each year on the progress accomplished in the preparation of the Decade to the Secretary General of the UNGA
UN-Oceans is the UN inter-agency mechanism that seeks to strengthen and promote coordination and coherence of United Nations bodies activities related to ocean and coastal areas. UN-Oceans also share ongoing and planned activities of participating organizations with a view to identifying possible areas for collaboration and synergy as well as facilitate inter-agency information exchange, including sharing of experiences, best practices, tools and methodologies and lessons learned in ocean-related matters.
The UN General Assembly’s Resolution proclaiming the Decade also invited UN-Oceans and its participants to collaborate with the IOC on the UN Decade of Ocean Science.
UN-Oceans members were invited to contribute to the development of the Implementation Plan during a meeting held at IOC/UNESCO Headquarters in March 2018. A dedicated task group was established at the last UN-Oceans meeting in February 2019 to structure and reinforce its members’ contribution to the Decade as well as to identify inter-agency activities that could come on the Decade in the context of the SDGs.
The Executive Planning Group (EPG) is an expert group composed of 19 members who were selected with due consideration to expertise, gender and geographical balance, who will serve as an advisory body to the IOC governing bodies with the main tasks to provide advice on the form and structure of the Decade, to support the development of the Implementation Plan as well as to engage and consult relevant communities.
These experts met for the first time from 17 to 19 December 2018, at IOC/UNESCO Headquarters, in Paris, France. They provided guidance on the Decade’s Implementation Plan formulation process (including its structural and programmatic elements, as well as the consultation, engagement and communication strategies to unroll in 2019 and 2020.
The overall formulation of the Decade’s Implementation Plan will be supported through a consultative and planning process, implementing a regionally driven approach:
Two physical meetings of the Stakeholder Forum will be organized, back to back with the global meetings in the preparatory phase. It will provide inputs through the expertise, knowledge, data, information and capacity-building experience of its members on the work carried out by the EPG.
During the Planning Phase between 2018 and 2020, the United Nations General Assembly has tasked the IOC with preparing and coordinating the development of an Implementation Plan for the Decade which includes:
Member States, through IOC Governing Bodies, will review progress and endorse the Implementation Plan in 2020.
IOC will also provide information and report to the UN Member States on the development of the Implementation Plan. It will then be submitted to the United Nations General Assembly for its consideration.
The UN General Assembly mandated IOC to coordinate the Preparatory Phase within the available resources.
Following IOC Executive Council Resolution urging Member States to provide voluntary contributions for the preparation of the Decade, IOC issued a Call for expression of interest in June 2018. UN agencies and partners’ organisations expressed strong support to the Decade and several Member States offered to host regional, global or thematic workshops scheduled during the Preparatory Phase or to support the communication and engagement activities of the Preparatory Phase.
Thanks to the Government of Flanders of Belgium, the Government of the United-Kingdom, the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology of Japan, the Korea Institute of Ocean Science and Technology of the Republic of Korea’s support, a Decade brochure, a dedicated website, generic and animated videos as well as communication materials for the consultative and planning meetings were developed.
The Decade will also promote alternative funding mechanisms such as public/private partnerships, as well as contributions of the philanthropic sector.
The success of the Decade will rely on the contributions of many different stakeholders including scientists, policy-makers, civil society, funders and the private sector. It will also benefit these different groups in the following key ways;
Contribution: Scientists will formulate priorities and plan for the global ocean science agenda.
Benefit: The Decade will provide an opportunity for ocean scientists to demonstrate the societal value of the work and generate greater investment.
Contribution: Policy-makers will connect ocean science activities with the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda.
Benefit: The Decade will actively help policy makers find solutions to ocean sustainability challenges.
Contribution: The private sector will develop and share new technologies needed to achieve key Decade objectives.
Benefit: The Decade will open up access to tools, information and investment needed to create solutions for ocean sustainability and the blue economy.
Contributions: Donors will support the development of ocean science that meets the needs of society.
Benefits: The Decade will improve alignment between investments and high impact global ocean research.
Contribution: Civil society will help to connect ocean science to societal needs and interests.
Benefit: The Decade will support a new cooperative framework to ensure that global ocean science provides greater benefits for ocean ecosystems and wider society.
Contributions: Citizen scientists will contribute directly towards achieving the aims of the Decade.
Benefits: Communities worldwide will benefit directly through improved management of coastal resources, reduction of hazards and improved livelihoods.
These structures will play a key role in guiding regional activities to support the development of programmes, projects and activities that will be endorsed as "Decade Actions".
The Western Tropical Atlantic Regional Planning Group (WTA IPG) was established in July 2020 to advance and coordinate strategic partnerships and actions for the Western Tropical Atlantic region, and benefits from the support of IOCARIBE as its official Secretariat. In 2020, WTA IPG developed a framework of major challenges and actions around each Decade outcomes and will organize a series of virtual workshops to support the elaboration of a regional action plan.
Contact point: IOC- of UNESCO Sub-Commission for the Caribbean and Adjacent Regions (IOCARIBE), Cesar Toro, firstname.lastname@example.org
The Arctic Task Force is presently preparing an Arctic Ocean Action Plan that will offer stakeholders an opportunity to identify actions and priorities for the Arctic Ocean in the Ocean Decade. Lead by the Danish Center for Marine Research, the Task Force has organised a series of virtual working group meetings around the Ocean Decade seven societal outcomes and will hold an online consultation on the first version of the Arctic Ocean Action Plan (March 2021). It will also offer participants of the working groups networking opportunities with other Arctic actors from science, governments, industry and NGOs.
Contact point: Danish Centre for Marine Research, Colin Stedmon and Christian Riisager-Simonsen, email@example.com
National Decade Committees (NDC) have been established to facilitate national coordination of Decade activities. These national multi-agency and multi-stakeholder platforms involve the national political and scientific institutions and actors concerned by the ocean and its management. Existing national coordinating mechanisms can provide the basis for performing such functions.
The NDC will engage the national ocean community (a wide variety of local and sub-national stakeholders) and facilitate co-design of initiatives (programmes, projects and contributions) across groups of stakeholders that can be endorsed as Decade Actions. They will also facilitate hosting of sub-regional or regional meetings related to the Decade.
The Global Stakeholder Forum will provide a platform to promote exchange and cooperation between National Decade Committees.
List of NDC contact points:
These will act as “Rooms”, within which partners and experts can continue the conversation online in between Decade activities.
Should you have any questions about the Forum, please contact the Moderators at firstname.lastname@example.org
Submit ideas or participate in Decade dedicated workshops
Consult stakeholders, communicate about the Decade and identify opportunities for investment and resource mobilisation
Share the purpose and expected results of the Decade, its planning phase and preparatory activities.
Help IOC and its preparatory activities