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First Global Virtual Summit celebrates World Oceans Day and upcoming UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development

Date: 15 June 2020

During a four-hour session, ocean experts, sports and business people, high-level government representatives, and artists from across the globe exchanged ideas, experiences and insights on the future of Ocean Literacy in the context of the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021-2030).

Defined as the understanding of the ocean's influence on us, and of our influence on the ocean, Ocean Literacy is a key framework to create a society able to make informed and responsible decisions. As a global leader in Ocean Literacy, UNESCO’s IOC celebrated the 2020 World Oceans Day with a deep dive into this increasingly influential field that combines ocean research and management with education and learning.

Under the theme "Ocean Literacy in the context of UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development 2021 – 2030", the summit focused on answering questions such as how Ocean Literacy can help transform ocean knowledge into action; which Ocean Literacy strategies are needed to contribute to the achievement of Sustainable Development Goal 14; how to bring together different backgrounds, actors and perspectives to use Ocean Literacy as a vehicle to inspire action; and how to create learning opportunities through worldwide collaboration and partnerships.

"In the face of COVID-19, World Oceans Day is a key to bring together the global ocean community, strengthening international collaboration and maintaining momentum for decisive and innovative actions. This is particularly important as we move towards the launch of the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development. (…) However, innovation and action can only happen when knowledge is available to everyone." said Audrey Azoulay, General Director of UNESCO.

The new European Ocean Coalition (EU4Ocean) initiative on Ocean Literacy was officially launched during the event through a video of the Commissioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries, Virginijus Sinkevičius. Aligned with the theme of the year’s ("Innovation for a Sustainable Ocean"), an Ocean Literacy video was produced by "The Experiential Atelier" with an artist collective featuring Altın Gün's new music "Kesik Çayır" with an immersive computer-generated animation by Mixed Reality Specialist Can Büyükberber.

"Everyone is a stakeholder in education for sustainable development and every country should benefit from the conservation and sustainable use of the ocean and seas. UNESCO’s Ocean Literacy framework and approach are encouraging capacity building programs, supporting communities of practice and promoting continuous professional development in the field of marine science and climate change", explained Vladimir Ryabinin, Executive Secretary of UNESCO’s IOC.

The summit consisted of three panels that investigated the role of the ocean in connecting, inspiring and engaging people from across the globe. It featured 19 speakers** from a vast diversity of sectors including the media, private sector, governments, civil society, arts, NGOs and the scientific sector.

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Interactive discussions, with the more than 1600 participants, centered on how ocean literacy can catalyze advocacy for sound marine policy and public action, mainstream ocean topics into educational systems, foster more responsible citizenry and behavioral changes, encourage ocean aware corporate practices, and stimulate young people to start a career in the ocean affairs.  Participants highlighted the potential that the UN Decade of Ocean Science offers in term of developing innovative and transformative actions across different groups of stakeholders

"While the ocean is suffering from climate change – including ocean acidification, sea rise level, and deoxygenation – the Decade will provide a common framework to ensure that science can fully support countries’ actions to sustainably manage marine ecosystems. Ocean science should remain at the heart of the education system while our ocean is being jeopardized." stated Peter Thomson, UN Special Envoy for the ocean.

UNESCO’s IOC will continue to work in close collaboration with all the players involved in environmental and scientific education to develop tools that will improve the dissemination and mainstreaming of Ocean Literacy methodologies. An "Ocean Literacy Strategic Plan to support the UN Decade of Ocean Science (2021-2030)" will be released by UNESCO’s IOC on January 2021.


For more details, please contact:

Francesca Santoro, Programme Specialist


*in collaboration with: IPMEN, COSEE, Canadian Ocean Literacy Coalition , NMEA, Australian Marine Education Network, Ocean Literacy Italia, European Marine Science Eucators Association, Direção-Geral de Política do Mar, Aquamater, Asia Marine Educators Association, Irish Ocean Literacy Network, Oceano Azul Foundation, Ciência Viva, Universidade Federal de São Paulo, Red de Educación Latinoamericana para el Océano, and the EU4Ocean coalition supported by DG MARE, European Commission. 

**List of speakers:

Vladimir Ryabinin (Executive Secretary of UNESCO’s IOC), Peter Thomson (UN Special Envoy for the Ocean), Tyler-Rae Chung (Member of the Early Career Ocean Professionals Group of the UN Decade of Ocean Science), Ricardo Serrão Santos (Minister of the Sea of Portugal), Thomas Remengesau Jr. (President of Palau), Chip Cunliffe (Head of Sustainability, AXA), Helen Ågren (Ambassador for the Ocean - Sweden), Margaret Leinen (Director of Scripps Institution of Oceanography), Kerstin Forsberg (Founder and Director Planeta Oceano), Nina Jensen (CEO REVOcean), Jyotika Virmani (Executive Director Schmidt Ocean Institute), Markus Reymann (Alligator Head Foundation and TBA21 Academy), Sylvia Spalding (International Pacific Marine Educators Network and National Marine Educators Association), Can Büyükberber (Visual Artist), John Canning (Interactive and MR Producer), Altin Gün (Musician), Drėėėmy (Sound artist and ethnomusicologist), Görkem Hayta (Cultural Diplomacy Expert), Lorenzo Bertelli (Head of Corporate Social Responsibility Prada S.p.A), Alexia Barrier (Skipper, International Monohull - Open Class Association), Virginijus Sinkevicius (European Union Commissioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries), Kenza Khallafi (Mohammed VI Foundation for Environmental Protection), Julian Barbière (Head, Marine Policy and Regional Implementation Section, UNESCO’s IOC).