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‘Our Ocean Conference’ unveils global action to mobilize science for healthier ocean

6 October, Malta – As countries announce at the 2017 edition of Our Ocean Conference measures to combat ocean degradation and advance sustainable development, the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) of UNESCO announced three major commitments to boost global science and awareness-raising actions for the conservation and sustainable use of the ocean.

Ocean Decade

Our ocean provides livelihoods for millions by contributing to poverty eradication, global food security, economic growth and regulating the Earth’s climate. We still know very little about this vital lifeline, and what is our planet’s largest ecosystem – but we know for certain that the ocean is in trouble because of human activities.

The IOC has set forth to develop a global framework for coordination and ambitious partnerships that can deliver the ocean we need for the future we want. Actively calling for a United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development in 2021-2030, the IOC aims to mobilize scientists, policy-makers, businesses, and civil society around an international programme of research and scientific innovation with applied solutions to boost the sustainable development of nations.

Because ocean science is transdisciplinary by its very nature and no single country can measure all the changes taking place in the ocean, this Decade of Ocean Science would help identify and close the gaps in our knowledge of the ocean. After all, we cannot manage what we cannot measure. The more we know about the world’s ocean, the better countries can apply science to developing smart and effective policies to use ocean resources sustainably.

Coming out of this Decade, a new generation of decision-makers and citizens will be better equipped to veil over the state of the ocean and ensure it can continue providing the benefits and resources we need to ensure our future wellbeing.

The Decade of Ocean Science will contribute to achieving the ocean sustainable development goals of the United Nations 2030 Agenda, and many international frameworks touching on disaster reduction (Sendai Framework), the development of Small Island Developing States (SAMOA Pathway), and other important issues.

Marine Spatial Planning

Over the past 15 years, Maritime/Marine Spatial Planning (MSP) has been recognized as a way to meet multiple objectives – ecological, economic, and social – within an increasingly crowded ocean, working across borders and sectors to ensure human activities at sea take place in an efficient, safe and sustainable way.

The IOC is a leading global organization on the matter. Its guide on MSP, published in 2009, has become an internationally recognized standard and has inspired countries to foster the technical and institutional capacities to reduce biodiversity loss and manage their marine ecosystems sustainably.

In Malta, IOC will announce the plans to implement the IOC-European Union “Joint Roadmap to accelerate Maritime/Marine Spatial Planning processes worldwide” adopted on 24 March 2017 at the 2nd International Conference on MSP in Paris. The implementation will see collaboration between the European Union and IOC to develop international guidelines on cross-border MSP, and to launch two MSP pilot projects in early 2018: one in the Mediterranean and another in the Southeast Pacific.

Furthermore, an International Forum for MSP will be created to facilitate discussions on how MSP, including cross-sectorial actions in the context of a sustainable blue economy, should be applied globally. A first workshop is to take place in spring 2018.

Ocean Literacy

As the marine environment takes center-stage in world politics, it has never been as important to ensure that citizens are well equipped in their knowledge of how human and marine wellbeing are tightly connected – that is the purpose of ‘Ocean Literacy’, one of the pillars of IOC activities.

Since 2015 IOC has been engaged in ocean literacy through the European Union’s “Sea Change” collaborative project, which seeks to raise awareness among European citizens on the medical, economic, social, political and environmental importance of the sea, in order to make informed and responsible decisions for its protection.

For the Our Ocean Conference, IOC is committed to growing the reach of its ocean literacy activities. Entitled “Ocean Literacy for All: A global strategy to raise the awareness for the conservation, restoration, and sustainable use of our ocean”, the IOC commitment will involve 15 institutions and networks and benefit from funding from Sweden. It will take the form of a programme to enhance global cooperation on ocean literacy through the development of:

  • An ocean school programme to foster ocean literacy among youth ages 10-18;
  • An online platform to share resources, projects and people on ocean literacy for sustainable development; and
  • A comprehensive ocean literacy training programme for business, policy, and education sectors.

This initiative builds on the Call for Action issued by the United Nations General Assembly, following the UN Ocean Conference (New York, June 2017), which calls on stakeholders to: “Support plans to foster ocean-related education”.

For more information, please contact:

Julian Barbière (j.barbiere(at)unesco.org)

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