In the context of the 2022 Our Ocean Conference, taking place in Palau on 13-14 April, UNESCO announced a commitment to leverage partnerships and resources to develop scientific solutions and enhance institutional capacities in the Pacific to improve sustainable ocean management.
The ocean is central to global climate, biodiversity and food security ambitions, and its sustainable management is a prerequisite to equitable economic development. Yet critical gaps in ocean knowledge are hindering our collective ability to develop innovative solutions to meet national and global challenges, including the 2030 Agenda.
Nowhere else is this paradox more apparent than among the Pacific Small Island Developing States (SIDS). Though they cover an area representing 15% of the world’s surface, and are responsible for managing nearly a third of the world’s Exclusive Economic Zone, major challenges related to equitable access to data, knowledge and technology impair their capacities to use sustainable ocean management as a means to foster equitable economic development.
The commitment put forward by UNESCO and its Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC-UNESCO) in the context of the Our Ocean Conference will ensure Pacific governments and stakeholders are leaders in the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021-2030), the “Ocean Decade”.
“When relevant ocean science and knowledge is generated and made available to those who need it, it is possible to revert the decline in ocean health. The Ocean Decade brings us a once-in-a-life-time opportunity to convene governments, scientists, industry, philanthropy, UN agencies and civil society to co-design and co-deliver solution-oriented research. It will enable us to manage the ocean sustainably and thus fulfil global ambitions for sustainable development,” said Vladimir Ryabinin, Executive Secretary of the IOC-UNESCO.
The commitment includes three main components: resource mobilisation, implementation of a regional technical facility to catalyse the co-design and co-delivery of projects from Pacific Small Island Developing States, and support for establishing a regional coordination hub for the UN Ocean Decade in the Pacific.
The resource mobilisation axis will focus, in particular, on raising investments through the Ocean Decade Alliance for science-led sustainable ocean management actions in the region.
At the heart of the Ocean Decade, the Ocean Decade Alliance was established to leverage and multiply financial and in-kind resource commitments towards programmes, projects and contributions endorsed as “Ocean Decade Actions”. The Alliance is a network of eminent partners of the Ocean Decade committed to fostering support for the Decade through targeted resource mobilisation, networking, and influence.
Both the regional technical facility and coordination hub for the Ocean Decade will ensure that resources are available to design and implement transformative ocean science initiatives and to ensure long-term coordination of ocean science within existing structures and organisations in the region.
A number of endorsed Ocean Decade Actions are already actively contributing to fostering technical expertise and capacities for ocean management in the Pacific region in the context of the Ocean Decade, including a regional programme to generate ocean knowledge for national ocean policies, led by the Pacific Community, a joint PhD scholarship programme by the University of the South Pacific and the University of Bergen in Norway, the Reef Recovery Programme led by the Great Barrier Reef Foundation, and the PacPath project led by France’s Institut de Recherche pour le Développement.
In addition, UNESCO is leading two transformative initiatives with direct positive impacts for the region: the use of environmental DNA and citizen science as a tool for management of World Heritage Sites, and the establishment of a warning system for marine bio-invasions in the Pacific.
About the IOC-UNESCO:
The Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO (IOC-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:
Proclaimed in 2017 by the United Nations General Assembly, the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021-2030) (‘the Ocean Decade’) seeks to stimulate ocean science and knowledge generation to reverse the decline of the state of the ocean system and catalyse new opportunities for sustainable development of this massive marine ecosystem. The vision of the Ocean Decade is ‘the science we need for the ocean we want’. The Ocean Decade provides a convening framework for scientists and stakeholders from diverse sectors to develop the scientific knowledge and the partnerships needed to accelerate and harness advances in ocean science to achieve a better understanding of the ocean system, and deliver science-based solutions to achieve the 2030 Agenda. The UN General Assembly mandated UNESCO's Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) to coordinate the preparations and implementation of the Decade.