30th Assembly of the UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission reviews progress in global ocean science and sets strategic directions
Paris, 4 July 2019 – The 30th session of UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission ended after almost two full weeks of debate. From 26 June to 4 July, delegates gathered at UNESCO’s headquarters to review past work, agree on future priorities, and elect the new IOC Officers and the Members of the Executive Council.
Delegates from the 150 Member States to the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) of UNESCO convened from 26 June to 4 July at the organization’s headquarters in Paris to review progress and provide guidance for the work of the Commission over the next two years.
“The past two years have been more positive than ever for the ocean and the IOC. Many nations and many people now care for the ocean and turn to it as a source of solutions”, said Prof. Peter Haugan, IOC’s outgoing Chairperson during his opening speech. The work towards achieving the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals – particularly SDG 14, the “ocean” Goal – has earned the Commission increased visibility among the United Nations System, policymakers and the general public. In particular, there has been a substantial evolution in the development of the two indicators of SDG 14 for which the IOC plays a “UN custodian agency” role, helping countries monitor and report progress. The indicators on ocean acidification and on countries’ expenditures for marine research are now recognized as conceptually clear and ready to be deployed to collect worldwide data.
A social contract for ocean science
The proclamation by the United Nations General Assembly of the Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development for the years 2021-2030 is at the same time a high-level recognition of the critical societal role of ocean science, as well as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for ocean science to leave its box and offer society new and transformative solutions for conserving and sustainably using our ocean and marine resources.
All programmes and activities coordinated by the Commission have already started, or are about to start aligning with the objectives of the Decade, by finding their unique way to contribute to what aims to be “a new social contract for oceanography”, according to Dr. Vladimir Ryabinin, IOC’s Executive Secretary.
The Assembly also encouraged the IOC Secretariat to strengthen joint activities with partner organizations in support of the science plan of the Decade, while urging Member States to provide voluntary financial contributions in anticipation of the IOC’s unfolding activities in contribution to the Decade. In a fervent presentation, the United Nations Secretary General Special Envoy for the Ocean, H.E. Mr. Peter Thomson further exhorted IOC Member States to step up with budgetary resources not to “undershoot our ambitions for the Decade”.
Partnerships will be at the heart of the Decade, which in its basic texts and continuous messaging invites countries, scientists, businesses, citizens and other stakeholders to “do together what we cannot do separately”.
One of the imperatives of ocean science will be to support countries formulate ocean-related adaptation and mitigation strategies to climate change, defined by the United Nations Secretary General, António Guterres, as one of the major threats to humanity. Cooperation across the ocean-climate nexus between the IOC and key climate research bodies such as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) will be of utmost importance in the next few years.
The Assembly reached a "milestone" decision according to IOC Chairperson Peter Haugan in its partnership with the World Meteorological Organization, an important delivery partner for disaster risk reduction and climate information, by creating a Joint WMO-IOC Collaborative Board.
Ocean observations will be essential to supporting evidence-based decisions on the pathway to sustainable development. Key programmes and initiatives, such as the Global Ocean Observing System, whose 2030 Strategy was adopted by the Assembly; the Second International Indian Ocean Expedition (IIOE-2); and Seabed2030, which seeks to map the world’s entire sea floor by 2030 – will further enhance our understanding of the ocean and provide essential information needed for sustainable development, safety, wellbeing and prosperity.
The IOC Secretariat will continue to provide a platform for global cooperation around ocean science and management to enhance Members States’ capacities, including through the exchange of oceanographic data and information and best practices in ocean sciences, and with particular attention to the most vulnerable countries, such as coastal Least Developed Countries and Small Island Developing States.
The Commission is also actively working to improve interactions between citizens and the ocean by increasing ocean literacy worldwide and by increasing communities’ resilience through its programmes on the management of coastal areas and large marine ecosystems, including through marine spatial planning, supporting the growth of sustainable ocean economy, and warning for tsunami and other ocean-related hazards.
On 3 July, IOC Member States elected new Officers of the Commission (the Chairperson and five Vice-chairpersons) and new Members of the Executive Council. The new Chairperson, Mr. Ariel Hernán Troisi from Argentina, will be supported by Ms Monika Breuch-Moritz (Germany), Mr. Alexander Frolov (Russian Federation), Mr. Frederico Antonio Saraiva Nogueira (Brazil), Mr. Satheesh Chandra Shenoi (India) and Mr. Karim Hilmi (Morocco).
At the end of the traditional Memorial Lectures dedicated to the memory of Dr. Anton Frederick Bruun and Dr. N.K. Panikkar, Dr. Peter A. Thompson from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) and Dr. Jacqueline Uku from the Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute were awarded respectively the IOC Anton Bruun Memorial Medal and the IOC N.K. Panikkar Memorial Medal for their strong work in oceanography.
Around the Assembly
On the margins of the Assembly, a full agenda of thematic side events and the celebration of Ocean Science Day on 27 June offered delegates, UNESCO staff and external public numerous opportunities for further exchanging on the contribution of ocean science to sustainable development.
During the second week of the Assembly, IOC and the Republic of Korea’s Institute of Marine Science and Technology Promotion (KIMST) signed a new Letter of Intent to support the Decade of Ocean Science and the second edition of the Global Ocean Science Report. The Letter of Intent complements the continuous support from the Republic of Korea’s Ministry of Ocean and Fisheries (MOF) and the Korea’s Institute of Ocean Science and Technology (KIOST) to the Decade and the GOSR.
Building on over twenty years of partnership, IOC also renewed ties with Nausicaá, France’s National Sea Center and Europe’s largest aquarium. The cooperation aims to further close the gap between science and citizens through initiatives in ocean literacy, communication and outreach.
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