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The One Ocean Summit kicks-off ocean “super year” with major commitments

Date: 2 February 2022

The One Ocean Summit took place in Brest in Brittany in the northwest of France on 9-11 February 2022, mobilising the international community to take tangible action towards preserving and supporting a healthy and sustainable ocean.

Held in the context of the French Presidency of the Council of the European Union, with the support of the United Nations, the One Ocean Summit was the first major event of a “super year” for the ocean. It raised the collective level of ambition of the international community on marine issues and helped to generate tangible commitments to protect the ocean and reverse its declining health.

Between 9 and 10 February, the Summit held more than thirty events (workshops, forums, roundtables and other initiatives), culminating in a high level segment on 11 February with interventions by Heads of State and Government, the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, the UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay, business and civil society leaders announced sweeping measures to revitalize the ocean and foster ocean-based solutions for sustainable development.

The Science We Need For the Ocean We Want

UNESCO worked closely with the Government of France to coordinate the scientific programme for the Summit and ensure it addressed the major challenges and emerging knowledge trends when it comes to unlocking ocean solutions for sustainable development. The Summit was instrumental to further increased the momentum of the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development Ocean Decade, 2021-2030, at the beginning of its second year.

On the 10 February in the morning, UNESCO and its Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC-UNESCO) organized a workshop entitled “The Science we need for the ocean we want”. The discussion highlighted the existence of critical gaps in the ocean mapping and observations, knowledge of marine biodiversity and the ocean-climate nexus. In order to achieve global and national ambitions for equitable and sustainable ocean management, a step change is needed in the way that ocean science is generated, used, and resourced.

The workshop participant called on all actors to contribute to the goals and aspirations of the Ocean Decade by ensuring that data, information and knowledge are accessible and shared, and that actors around the world have the capacity and resources to use data and information to underpin ocean policy and management decisions.

Governments, industry, philanthropy, civil society and international and regional organizations were called upon by high level speakers from UN agencies, the scientific community and international organisations to actively engage in the Ocean Decade, catalyse new partnerships between generators and users of ocean knowledge, and increase investment in priority transformative ocean science initiatives across all geographies.

Reshaping Humanity’s Relationship with the Ocean through Education

Combining global scientific and education expertise, UNESCO and its Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC-UNESCO) also contributed to mainstreaming ocean literacy into the summit programme, with a dedicated workshop to take stock of the development of ocean education initiatives and challenges across the world. The workshop presented the many dimensions and key stakeholders of ocean literacy and related education today as well as discussed challenges and explored opportunities for progress, announcing new initiatives.

To mobilise people from around the world and from different backgrounds to restore and protect the ocean, the Ocean Decade launched its first official public-facing campaign at the event, Generation Ocean (GenOcean). The campaign uses transformative personal narratives to connect citizens with ocean knowledge and drive action to restore, protect, and live better with the ocean.

UNESCO Director-General announces Two Major Commitments

Speaking at the high level segment of the One Ocean Summit, UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay made two major commitments, around ocean mapping and education.

UNESCO’s Director General announced the commitment of the Organisation to convene governments and the private sector to map at least 80% of the seabed by 2030. This will be a significant step towards achieving the objectives of the International Hydrographic Organization (IHO) and IOC-UNESCO General Bathymetric Chart of the Ocean (GEBCO) and a contribution to the ambitious Nippon Foundation / GEBCO Seabed 2030 Initiative striving to map in high-resolution the whole ocean by 2030. Knowing the depth and relief of the seabed will play a major role in providing vital knowledge and data for ocean management.

UNESCO also committed to including ocean education in school curricula around the world by 2025. To achieve this ambitious goal, UNESCO unveiled a common repository of educational content for policymakers and curriculum developers. This new tool, entitled the   New Blue Curriculum: A toolkit for policy makers was launched with the support of AXA XL and numerous other partners and experts, providing the tools and policy frameworks to integrate ocean education at every level of the educational chain: from the drafting of national curricula to the preparation of lessons by teachers.

A stronger Ocean Decade Alliance

The Ocean Decade Alliance supports all forms of ocean science to successfully deliver the Decade’s vision and thus contribute to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. On the margins of the Summit, the HE Wavel Ramkalawan, President of the Republic of Seychelles and HE Jonas Gahr Støre, Prime Minister of Norway accepted UNESCO’s invitation to become Patrons of the Alliance. This significantly strengthens the Alliance capacity to catalyse support for the Ocean Decade through targeted resource mobilization, networking and influence, leveraging and multiplying financial and in-kind resource commitments.

Initiatives to convene the ocean community to generate critical missing knowledge

Several other important initiatives were launched or announced during the Summit, in particular focused around more systematic and multi-stakeholder support for observing an increasingly changing ocean.

OceanOPS, a joint centre of the World Meteorological Organization and the IOC-UNESCO, launched the Odyssey project endorsed by the Ocean Decade in support of the Global Ocean Observing System (GOOS).

The Odyssey project calls on civil society to support the GOOS implementation and unlock the potential of citizens, ocean race sailors, mariners, NGOs and private sector to ensure a more complete knowledge of the ocean and the atmosphere above it, delivering data for effective prediction of how the ocean and climate may change in coming years.

UNESCO also announced the endorsement of the POLAR POD Expedition as forming part of the 166 transformative ocean science initiatives known as Ocean Decade Actions.  This expedition, led by explorer Jean-Louis Etienne, will circumnavigate Antarctica twice between 2024 and 2026 on board the “zero emissions” oceanographic platform POLAR POD.

Along with the other Decade Actions endorsed as part of the Ocean Decade, POLAR POD will contribute to achieve the Decade’s vision of unlocking by 2030 “the science we need for the ocean we want”.

About the IOC of UNESCO:

The Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) of UNESCO promotes international cooperation in marine sciences to improve management of the ocean, coasts and marine resources. The IOC enables its 150 Member States to work together by coordinating programmes in capacity development, ocean observations and services, ocean science and tsunami warning. The work of the IOC contributes to the mission of UNESCO to promote the advancement of science and its applications to develop knowledge and capacity, key to economic and social progress, the basis of peace and sustainable development. 

About the Ocean Decade:

The United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development 2021-2030 (Ocean Decade) provides a convening framework for scientists, governments, academia, businesses, industry and civil society to develop the transformative solutions and partnerships needed to achieve a better understanding and protection of the ocean. These science-based advances will contribute to achieving the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The UN General Assembly mandated UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) to coordinate the preparations and implementation of the Decade.