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UN Ocean conference spotlights on Ocean Literacy for reversing ocean decline

Date: 18 August 2022

The 2022 UN Ocean Conference in Lisbon made significant progress in the arduous battle against the ocean emergency. The conference saw a wave of commitments, pledges and actions towards larger and more effective protection of the ocean, aiming to bring the SDG14 - Life below water to its deserved place as a central pillar of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. UNESCO through its IOC project office at its Regional Bureau for Science and Culture in Europe has had a crucial role in advocating for ocean sustainability and ocean literacy and so was put forward in 3 official events, namely, the Ocean Literacy Dialogues, the second edition of SEA BEYOND finals, conducted in partnership with the Prada Group, and ultimately, the Blue Curriculum: a training session event.

Our ocean, our future, our responsibility

The theme of the UN Ocean Conference (Lisbon, Portugal; 27 June - 1 July 2022), “Scaling up ocean action based on science and innovation for the implementation of Goal 14: stocktaking, partnerships and solutions” was selected to follow the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021-2030) and to stress the critical need for scientific knowledge and marine technology to build ocean resilience.

After launching a red alert for humanity, António Guterres, United Nations Secretary-General, has been pushing for worldwide action, thus, the conference followed themes of conservation, sustainable ocean usage and more importantly, the scaling up of ocean action based on science and innovation. The conference itself brought together more than 6,000 participants, including 24 Heads of State and Government and over 2,000 representatives of civil society, to advocate for urgent and concrete actions to tackle the ocean emergency.

Amongst the outputs of the conference, countries will agree on an action plan that calls for a collective global response to addressing the ocean’s degradation. The new political declaration, adopted at the closing plenary, sets out specific science-based and innovative actions, taking into account the capacity challenges of developing countries, in particular Small Island Developing States and Least Developed Countries.

Ocean Literacy Dialogues

IOC-UNESCO, the European Commission and the EU4Ocean coalition held the high profile Ocean Literacy Dialogues, an event dedicated to underlining methods to promote the inclusion of ocean literacy in future iterations of high-level dialogues. Specifically, the dialogues aimed to combine the many perspectives that form the basis of ocean literacy by highlighting future opportunities and reflecting on Ocean Literacy’s implementation as part of the objectives of the Ocean Decade.

Francesca Santoro, IOC Programme Specialist at the UNESCO Regional Bureau expanded on the reach of the project to potential partners and stakeholders and the connection of ocean topics to subjects across the board, from the science to culture to geopolitics.

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As part of the Ocean Literacy Dialogues, an interactive workshop organised in collaboration of IOC-UNESCO and the International Bureau of Education was held. Titled ‘Blue Curriculum: A Training Session’, it comprised of training, information and tools for educational policy stakeholders. The event followed in the context of the recent UNESCO publication, ‘A new blue curriculum: a toolkit for policy-makers’, which supports members states in adopting Ocean Literacy into their curricula.

32 participants from all over the world and diverse backgrounds attended, expanding their understanding of many aspects of the curriculum framework. During the workshop, participants were encouraged to think out of the box, creating better methods of communication and stimulating dialogue with policy-makers in charge of curriculum frameworks. Overall, the workshop supported the initial steps of promoting the Blue Curriculum to an increasing number of Member States.

Video: Ocean Literacy Dialogues | UN Ocean Conference Official Side Event [2:08:23]

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SEA BEYOND second edition

SEA BEYOND, the partnership between the Prada Group and the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO, stems from the conviction that education and culture are fundamental to train young people adopting an aware stance towards the protection of the ocean and our planet.

 The award ceremony for the winners of SEA BEYOND second edition was also part of the official calendar of side events at the 2022 UN Ocean Conference. The second educational programme, which started in autumn 2021 and ended last spring, involved 10 secondary schools from Brazil, China, Italy, Mexico, Peru, Portugal, United Kingdom and South Africa. Each school took part in a series of webinars led by UNESCO experts and explored the 10 challenges of the Ocean Decade.

 The students responded actively and with great enthusiasm, establishing a network of collaborative relationships on a global scale. Education and culture are fundamental to training young people in adopting active stances and becoming the future change-makers for Generation Ocean.

 First-place winners, Newton College, Lima (Peru), were applauded for their MaArt project, an exhibition where all proceeds are donated to a charity that rescues stranded ocean animals. Second place went to Seaweed Aquaculture – Shanghai High School International Division, Shanghai (China). Ana Luiza M. Thompson-Flores, UNESCO Regional Bureau Director, congratulated the third place prize-winner, Marcelline Tommaseo, Milan (Italy) for its student’s Video Game - Sea Beyond.

Santoro closed the event by questioning the winners on their recommendations on how to stimulate the youth, to which the consensus was to give more power, liberty and education to the young – central ideas to the Ocean Literacy campaign.

"While UN agencies, countries, NGOs, private sector representatives and ocean advocates all gather here in Lisbon to chart the path to a healthy ocean, we must look to the work and commitment of young people from all around the world. This second edition of the SEA BEYOND project showed again that no student is too young the make the difference." - Vladimir Ryabinin, IOC Executive Secretary.

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The UN Ocean Conference provided a platform for Ocean Literacy to expand and underline the importance of education in producing and inspiring the new Generation Ocean. It showed that through successful interaction between UNESCO and the private sector, public campaigns such as the Sea Beyond project, can have huge success whilst also bolstering funding. Through its expansion, wider horizons of science communication can be met, enabling dialogue between larger multi-stakeholder groups.

The Conference stressed that this project is not just about information dissemination but about the transformation of science to become more inclusive, diverse and multidisciplinary. Only by building a strong foundation of education can pivotal concepts for a more sustainable and livable future, such as blue economy, marine policies and climate change action, be approached with the necessary sense of urgency.

Video: SEA BEYOND [2nd Edition]: Students Award Ceremony [1:36:55]

"Ocean Literacy is the central pillar of the Ocean Decade." - Peter Thomson, United Nations Special Envoy for the Ocean.

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