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Sustainable Development Goals and the Ocean

The Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) of UNESCO holds a universal mandate and global convening power for ocean science and capacity development in support of the 2030 Agenda and its sustainable goals. With a strong regional presence in Africa, the Caribbean, the Indian Ocean and the Western Pacific, the IOC provides field expertise in all ocean basins, and works in cooperation with UN and international partners to coordinate ocean-related activities in 148 Member States.

Over its 55 years, UNESCO’s IOC has developed a strong outreach capacity to mobilize national policy makers, scientific institutions and civil society toward conserving ocean health; coordinating early warning systems for ocean hazards such as tsunami; ensuring ecosystem resilience to climate change; and constantly developing knowledge of emerging ocean issues.

UNESCO and its IOC have shared UN leadership in core areas of the 2030 Agenda. The IOC contributed in formulating the Sustainable Development Goal 14 (SDG 14), which calls on Member States to conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources. The IOC is actively supporting the preparations for a major UN Conference to Support the Implementation of SDG 14 (New York, 5-9 June 2017). 

The IOC is moreover engaged in other United Nations ocean-related processes, such as the World Ocean Assessment, the negotiations on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity in the high seas, and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. These processes may go beyond the 2030 Agenda, but they are essential to the achievement of the sustainable development goals.

UNESCO’s IOC provides important contributions to the implementation of the 2030 Agenda’s global goals in a number of areas:

Capacity development and transfer of marine technology

Agenda 2030 explicitly highlights the IOC’s role through the transfer of marine technology in developing Member States’ capacities to protect the ocean and sustainably use its ecosystem services. IOC resources and convening power help to develop capacities of Member States as well as to broker innovation and learning in national scientific communities. The IOC will engage in the development of a UN wide technology transfer facilitation mechanism to support SDG implementation by Member States.

Demonstrated monitoring, assessment and benchmarking capacities

The IOC has wide expertise for analysing the state of the ocean, building on operational programmes such as the Global Ocean Observing System. The IOC is also responsible for monitoring a set of SDG 14 “ocean” indicators, based on regional and global internationally comparable data from the Transboundary Waters Assessment Programme (TWAP), the IOC Global Ocean Science Report (GOSR), and a global network of national ocean data centers.

Cross cutting mandate relevant to other SDGs

The IOC is involved in monitoring the role of the ocean in the climate system and improving disaster risk reduction, providing a major contribution to implementing SDG 13 on climate change and SDG 11 on sustainable cities. Considering the significant impact of the ocean on several aspects of our daily lives, IOC activities also strengthen efforts to achieve other global goals such as food security (SDG 2), learning opportunities (SDG 4), gender equality (SDG 5), sustainable economic growth (SDG 8), and human health (SDG 3).

In Focus