Partnering toward a more sustainable ocean

As part of the first UNESCO Partners’ Forum held on 11 and 12 September 2018 at its Paris Headquarters, the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) organized a thematic forum on “Ocean for Sustainability” on 12 September 2018 to explore new opportunities for partnerships offered by the United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021-2030).
Through the mandate defined by the UN General Assembly in its resolution of 5 December 2017, the IOC of UNESCO has been tasked “to prepare an implementation plan for the Decade in consultation with Member States, specialized agencies, funds, programmes and bodies of the United Nations, as well as other intergovernmental organizations, non-governmental organizations and relevant stakeholders”.

The forum on “Ocean for Sustainability” highlighted partnerships that can contribute to the programme design of the UN Decade as well as the comparative advantage of IOC-UNESCO in terms of delivering science for society, promoting sustainable ocean management and ensuring resilience of coastal population in the face of climate change and ocean hazards.

Opening the forum, IOC Chair Peter Haugan stressed the importance of developing knowledge-based blue economies and promoting the Decade as a game changer in terms of addressing global issues through scientific partnerships.

Felix Leinemann, European Commission, presented the Joint Roadmap to accelerate Maritime/Marine Spatial Planning (MSP) processes worldwide adopted in 2017 between the IOC and European Commission, and more generally the concepts of blue growth and MSP as a strategic, integrated and forward-looking framework taking into account environmental as well as cultural, social and economic objectives.

Understanding and predicting ocean behavior and long-term changes require sustained observations on a global scale. Craig McLean, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), underlined the role of facilitator of the IOC, which provides an intergovernmental mechanism for marine science experts to meet and discuss issues, enabling “science alignment” and ensuring that national investment in major infrastructure such as research ships and observation platforms and research priority areas can be coordinated with partner nations.

Cameron Diver, Pacific Community, expanded on this point by reminding the audience that Small Island Developing Sates (SIDS) are particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change as well as ocean-related hazards (tsunamis, storm surges). “The Pacific Community is proud to count IOC-UNESCO among our partners for sustainable development in the Pacific. There are exciting opportunities to come during the Ocean Decade to help save our seas and to make a difference in the lives and wellbeing of millions of people,” he added.

The issue of capacity development is a key element to ensure that individuals and institutions are able to use and generate new knowledge and apply it to sustainable ocean management. The IOC assists developing countries in acquiring the necessary expertise and capacity to carry out nationally relevant marine research and management by developing and implementing training mechanisms emphasizing North-North, North-South, South-South cooperation.

Jacqueline Uku, Western Indian Ocean Marine Association (WIOMSA), for instance noted the support from IOC-UNESCO in the hosting of the Kenya National Oceanographic Data Centre (KeNODC) at the Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute (KMFRI); the Global Sea Level Observing System (GLOSS); the OceanTeacher Global Academy and more recently for work focusing on ocean acidification.

The ocean business community has a vital role to play in ensuring the sustainable development of the ocean and coasts, as demonstrated by its increasing investments in ocean research (R&D) resulting in the development of new green technologies and solutions applicable to ocean management.

As representative of the private sector, Marc Simon, SUEZ Group, explained that the IOC and SUEZ have been partners since 2015 to mobilize scientific knowledge, research and innovation and raise awareness about the preservation of the ocean. SUEZ is already developing concrete and local solutions to preserve water resources as well as recycle and recover waste, particularly plastic, thus contributing to the protection of marine environments and strengthening their resilience to climate change.

Vladimir Ryabinin, IOC Executive Secretary, concluded by stating that to achieve the 2030 Agenda and in particular Sustainable Development Goal 14, within the overall context of the Decade of Ocean Science, the engagement of all actors is required: governments, ocean businesses, civil society and scientists. He invited all interested parties to choose the IOC-UNESCO to partner toward a more sustainable ocean.

Other topics of discussions included gender equality and the integration of indigenous and local community knowledge in ocean science. People in the room also had the opportunity to ask questions to the panelists directly from the audience or via the Slido digital interactive tool.

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