Explore the Decade

About

Preparatory Phase

2018-2020

What is the United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development?

On 5 December 2017, the United Nations proclaimed a Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development, to be held from 2021 to 2030. This Decade will provide a common framework to ensure that ocean science can fully support countries’ actions to sustainably manage the Oceans and more particularly to achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The Decade will provide a ‘once in a lifetime’ opportunity to create a new foundation, across the science-policy interface, to strengthen the management of our oceans and coasts for the benefit of humanity.

Delivering Science for the Future We Want

Ocean Science combines a variety of disciplines (physical, geological and chemical oceanography as well as marine biology) that study and provide data on the global marine environment (marine organisms, ecosystem dynamics, ocean currents, waves, geophysical fluids dynamics, plate tectonics and the geology of the sea floor as well as fluxes of various chemical substances and physical properties within the Ocean and across its boundaries).

Over the decades, Ocean Science evolved to integrate new societal needs and encourage new partnerships among oceanographers working in different disciplines leading to new discoveries about the ocean’s role in climate regulation and coastal ocean processes.

Ocean Science can support business operations (shipping industry, fisheries and aquaculture, etc…) as well as conservation and management activities or coastal communities by predicting Ocean hazards preventing and mitigating disaster risks.  

For example, the discovery of oceanic eddies has been important for an understanding of ocean circulation, propagation of sound in the ocean, fisheries productivity, and other ocean processes.

Discover Ocean Science

Why a Decade of Ocean Science?

The UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development was born out of the recognition that much more needs to be done to reverse the cycle of decline in ocean health and create improved conditions for the sustainable development of the ocean, seas and coasts.

The First World Ocean Assessment released in 2016 notes the cycle of decline in the ocean health, with changes and losses in the structure, function and benefits obtained from marine systems. Over the coming decades, a changing climate, growing global population and multiple environmental stressors will have significant impacts.

Science-informed mitigation and adaptation policies to global change are urgently needed, but neither science nor policy-makers can accomplish that alone.

We already have a lot of knowledge and data/Ocean Science already provides a lot of knowledge and data about the marine environment and its status but that knowledge could be better used, coordinated an integrated into the decision-making process to support management actions. A better predictability, based on developed knowledge that would allow scientists to build different scenarios and a digital map of the ocean should be promoted to help the decisions-makers in choosing the best management actions and measuring their possible consequences.

The existing knowledge could also be more equitably shared with coastal communities that are the most vulnerable to the current and future changes of the Ocean.  

More inclusive approaches of designing and conducting marine scientific research could also support a sustainable Blue Economy, breaking the business model and sharing the responsibility of protecting oceans by complementing the policy and management actions protecting the ocean by encouraging better stewardship of our ocean resources.  

The Decade of Ocean Science offers a framework to strengthen connections and weave partnerships between all communities working to study, conserve and sustainably use the ocean and its resources.

Through stronger international cooperation, the Decade will bolster scientific research and innovative technologies to ensure science responds to the needs of society:

  • A clean ocean where sources of pollution are identified and removed
  • A healthy and resilient ocean where marine ecosystems are mapped and protected
  • A predictable ocean where society has the capacity to understand current and future ocean conditions
  • A safe ocean where people are protected from ocean hazards
  • A sustainably harvested ocean ensuring the provision of food supply
  • A transparent ocean with open access to data, information and technologies

The Decade will Enable Action at all Levels

How the Decade will strengthen the international cooperation and support the decision-makers and ocean managers’ actions.

Strengthening dialogues

The Decade will generate renewed dialogue between the different communities working across the ocean science-policy interface, fostering interdisciplinary research among scientific groups, connecting managers and decision-makers with the academia, and involving designers and innovators in the development of applied ocean technology.

Developing partnerships

The Decade will require the engagement of many different stakeholders to create new ideas, solutions, partnerships and applications, these include: scientists, governments, academics, policy makers, business, industry and civil society.

Developing capacity-building

The Decade will improve the scientific knowledge base through capacity development to regions and groups that are presently limited in capacity and capability, especially Small Island Developing States and the Least Developed Countries.

Leveraging funds/investment

The Global Ocean Science Report found that ocean science accounts for only between 0.04% and 4% of total research and development expenditures worldwide.

The Decade of Ocean Science will help to mobilize partnerships and increase investment in priority areas where action is urgently needed. For example, the International Polar Year (2007-2009) led to a doubling of Norwegian spending on polar research, which remains at a high level to date.

Supporting ocean science that is fit for purpose

The Decade will support the entire 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The Decade proposal was first registered as a voluntary commitment to the 2017 UN Ocean Conference by the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission.

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is an urgent call for action adopted by all United Nations countries to achieve 17 sustainable development goals, which seek to end poverty and other deprivations while improving health and education, reducing inequality, spurring economic growth, tackling climate change, preserving our shared ocean and its resources.

The Decade will provide a unifying framework across the UN system to enable countries to achieve all of their ocean-related Agenda 2030 priorities. For example, the Decade will help strengthen the development and implementation of science-based solutions for fisheries management. This alone will have a significant impact on helping many countries to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals needed to support the health and wellbeing of their communities and to achieve food security.

The Decade will also contribute to the UN processes protecting the ocean and its resources, such as the Aichi Biodiversity Targets, the SAMOA Pathway, the United Nations Convention for the Law of the Sea and the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction and the most recently proclaimed UN Decade on Ecosystem restoration.

Preparing the Decade

The Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) of UNESCO has been tasked by the UN General Assembly to work with all interested stakeholders to design a Decade of ocean science that will help us to deliver the ocean we need for the future we want.

The IOC of UNESCO is the United Nations body responsible for supporting global ocean science and services.

A primary focus of the IOC is to enable its Member States to build the scientific and institutional capacity needed to achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 14 to conserve and sustainably manage ocean and marine resources by 2030.

Our Vision

A Vision for the Decade

Participative & Transformative

The Decade is embracing a participative and transformative process so that scientists, policy makers, managers, and service users can work together to ensure that ocean science delivers greater benefits for both the ocean ecosystem and for society.

This Decade will be designed to facilitate global communication and mutual learning across research and stakeholder communities. It will work to meet the needs of scientists, policy makers, industry, civil society and the wider public, but it will also support new, collaborative partnerships that can deliver more effective science-based management of our ocean space and resources.

The Decade will promote a more targeted and effective information flow as well as innovative ways of conducting and using ocean science by:

  • Encouraging more inclusive and participative approaches in designing and executing the science (well educated citizens will be invited to collect data, scientific NGO will be encouraged to share their data, the business potential for ocean data collection, sharing and management will be explored);
  • building reinforced dialogues (science-policy interface as well as multidisciplinary approaches, bringing new disciplines and integrating natural, social and engineering sciences and giving value to the traditional/indigenous knowledge);
  • Promoting knowledge and information that are more equitably shared around the world (closing the knowledge gaps amongst countries, balancing the knowledge systems and taking into consideration the needs of coastal communities and more particularly the most vulnerable such as the Small Island Developing States and Least Developed Countries);
  • Giving value to the ocean services and sciences (the Decade will be aimed at shifting people’s values and at articulating what are the economic, cultural or security values of the Ocean);
  • Developing innovative ways to communicate Ocean Science by simplifying the language used to communicate, and offering an open, comprehensible and wide access to sound knowledge as well as by raising awareness within the Ocean communities but also beyond the Ocean sphere, by promoting Ocean Literacy);
  • Seeking alternative funding systems (promoting public/private partnerships, new investments, alignment of Decade priorities with the philanthropic sector priorities, or crowdfunding).

The Vision

To develop scientific knowledge, build infrastructure and foster relationships for a sustainable and healthy ocean

Foster new joint research and cooperation within and across ocean basins

Mobilise scientists on critical ocean priorities for Agenda 2030

Synthesise existing research and define trends, knowledge gaps and priorities for future research

New co-designed research strategies

Synthesise results and develop user driven solutions

Bridge science, policy and societal dialogues via: information; communication and, access to data

The Decade will harness, stimulate and coordinate research efforts at all levels, in order to support delivery of the information, action and solutions needed to achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

What will the Decade deliver?

The Decade will provide a framework for achieving a number of high level scientific outcomes, these may be clustered around:

  1. Comprehensive digital atlas of the ocean
  2. Comprehensive ocean observing system for all major basins
  3. Quantitative understanding of ocean ecosystems and their functioning as the basis for their management and adaptation
  4. Data and information portal
  5. Integrated multihazard warning system
  6. Capacity building and accelerated technology transfer, training and education, Ocean literacy
  7. Ocean in earth-system observation, research and prediction, supported by social and human sciences and economic valuation
Our Governance

Coordinating the Decade: The role of the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO (IOC)

The IOC of UNESCO is the United Nations body responsible for supporting global ocean science and services. This organisation enables its 149 Member States to work together to protect the health of our shared ocean by coordinating programmes in ocean observations, hazard mitigation, tsunami warnings and marine spatial planning.

The IOC also provides a focus for other UN organisations and agencies with regard to ocean science, observations and data exchange.

The United-Nations General Assembly (UNGA) mandated IOC to coordinate the Preparatory Phase of the Decade and prepare an implementation plan in consultation with the United-Nations member States, the UN bodies and other relevant stakeholders.

IOC reports each year on the progress accomplished in the preparation of the Decade to the Secretary General of the UNGA

The role of UN-Oceans

UN-Oceans is the UN inter-agency mechanism that seeks to strengthen and promote coordination and coherence of United Nations bodies activities related to ocean and coastal areas. UN-Oceans also share ongoing and planned activities of participating organizations with a view to identifying possible areas for collaboration and synergy as well as facilitate inter-agency information exchange, including sharing of experiences, best practices, tools and methodologies and lessons learned in ocean-related matters.

The UN General Assembly’s Resolution proclaiming the Decade also invited UN-Oceans and its participants to collaborate with the IOC on the UN Decade of Ocean Science.

UN-Oceans members were invited to contribute to the development of the Implementation Plan during a meeting held at IOC/UNESCO Headquarters in March 2018. A dedicated task group was established at the last UN-Oceans meeting in February 2019 to structure and reinforce its members’ contribution to the Decade as well as to identify inter-agency activities that could come on the Decade in the context of the SDGs.

Executive Planning Group

The Executive Planning Group (EPG) is an expert group composed of 19 members who were selected with due consideration to expertise, gender and geographical balance, who will serve as an advisory body to the IOC governing bodies with the main tasks to provide advice on the form and structure of the Decade, to support the development of the Implementation Plan as well as to engage and consult relevant communities.

These experts met for the first time from 17 to 19 December 2018, at IOC/UNESCO Headquarters, in Paris, France. They provided guidance on the Decade’s Implementation Plan formulation process (including its structural and programmatic elements, as well as the consultation, engagement and communication strategies to unroll in 2019 and 2020.

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Director General, Institute for Marine and Coastal Research, Colombia

Francisco A. Arias-Isaza

Executive Planning Group

The Executive Planning Group (EPG) is an expert group composed of 16 to 20 members who will serve as an advisory body to the IOC governing bodies to support the development of the Implementation Plan as well as the preparatory activities of the Decade.

Read more
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Senior Research Scientist, Oceans and Atmosphere, Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, australia

Karen Evans

Executive Planning Group

The Executive Planning Group (EPG) is an expert group composed of 16 to 20 members who will serve as an advisory body to the IOC governing bodies to support the development of the Implementation Plan as well as the preparatory activities of the Decade.

Read more
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Director, Swedish Agency for Marine and Water Management, Science Affairs Department, Sweden

Anna Jöborn

Executive Planning Group

The Executive Planning Group (EPG) is an expert group composed of 16 to 20 members who will serve as an advisory body to the IOC governing bodies to support the development of the Implementation Plan as well as the preparatory activities of the Decade.

Read more
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Manager, Ocean Affairs, Pacific Community, Fiji

Jens Krüger

Executive Planning Group

The Executive Planning Group (EPG) is an expert group composed of 16 to 20 members who will serve as an advisory body to the IOC governing bodies to support the development of the Implementation Plan as well as the preparatory activities of the Decade.

Read more
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Director, Scripps Institution of Oceanography/Vice Chancellor, University of California-San Diego, United States

Margaret Leinen

Executive Planning Group

The Executive Planning Group (EPG) is an expert group composed of 16 to 20 members who will serve as an advisory body to the IOC governing bodies to support the development of the Implementation Plan as well as the preparatory activities of the Decade.

Read more
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Vice-Chair, National Scientific Committee of Global Change and Mitigation, Ministry of Science and Technology, People's Republic of China

Fangli Qiao

Executive Planning Group

The Executive Planning Group (EPG) is an expert group composed of 16 to 20 members who will serve as an advisory body to the IOC governing bodies to support the development of the Implementation Plan as well as the preparatory activities of the Decade.

Read more
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Acting Chief Scientist, Assistant Administrator, National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration, United States

Craig McLean

Executive Planning Group

The Executive Planning Group (EPG) is an expert group composed of 16 to 20 members who will serve as an advisory body to the IOC governing bodies to support the development of the Implementation Plan as well as the preparatory activities of the Decade.

Read more
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Head, Center for Coordination of Ocean Research, Russian Federation

Sergey Shapovalov

Executive Planning Group

The Executive Planning Group (EPG) is an expert group composed of 16 to 20 members who will serve as an advisory body to the IOC governing bodies to support the development of the Implementation Plan as well as the preparatory activities of the Decade.

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Emeritus Professor, University of Tokyo, Japan

Mitsuo Uematsu

Executive Planning Group

The Executive Planning Group (EPG) is an expert group composed of 16 to 20 members who will serve as an advisory body to the IOC governing bodies to support the development of the Implementation Plan as well as the preparatory activities of the Decade.

Read more
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Manager, NOAA National Weather Service Caribbean Tsunami Warning Program, Puerto Rico

Christa von Hillebrandt-Andrade

Executive Planning Group

The Executive Planning Group (EPG) is an expert group composed of 16 to 20 members who will serve as an advisory body to the IOC governing bodies to support the development of the Implementation Plan as well as the preparatory activities of the Decade.

Read more
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Institute of Marine Sciences and Limnology, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de Mexico, Mexico

Elva Escobar Briones

Executive Planning Group

The Executive Planning Group (EPG) is an expert group composed of 16 to 20 members who will serve as an advisory body to the IOC governing bodies to support the development of the Implementation Plan as well as the preparatory activities of the Decade.

Read more
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Senior High Seas Advisor, Global Marine and Polar Programme, IUCN

Kristina Gjerde

Executive Planning Group

The Executive Planning Group (EPG) is an expert group composed of 16 to 20 members who will serve as an advisory body to the IOC governing bodies to support the development of the Implementation Plan as well as the preparatory activities of the Decade.

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President, National Institute of Oceanography and Fisheries, Egypt

Suzan Kholeif

Executive Planning Group

The Executive Planning Group (EPG) is an expert group composed of 16 to 20 members who will serve as an advisory body to the IOC governing bodies to support the development of the Implementation Plan as well as the preparatory activities of the Decade.

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Professor/Principal Research Scientist, Korea Institute of Ocean Science and Technology, Republic of Korea

Youn-Ho Lee

Executive Planning Group

The Executive Planning Group (EPG) is an expert group composed of 16 to 20 members who will serve as an advisory body to the IOC governing bodies to support the development of the Implementation Plan as well as the preparatory activities of the Decade.

Read more
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Director, National Institute of Ocean Technology, India/Chair, IOCINDIO (UNESCO)

Atmanand Malayath

Executive Planning Group

The Executive Planning Group (EPG) is an expert group composed of 16 to 20 members who will serve as an advisory body to the IOC governing bodies to support the development of the Implementation Plan as well as the preparatory activities of the Decade.

Read more
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Global Ocean Lead Scientist, World Wide Fund for Nature/International Chair of Excellence, European Institute for Marine Studies, Brest, France

Linwood Pendleton

Executive Planning Group

The Executive Planning Group (EPG) is an expert group composed of 16 to 20 members who will serve as an advisory body to the IOC governing bodies to support the development of the Implementation Plan as well as the preparatory activities of the Decade.

Read more
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Member of the European Parliament, Portugal

Ricardo Serrão Santos

Executive Planning Group

The Executive Planning Group (EPG) is an expert group composed of 16 to 20 members who will serve as an advisory body to the IOC governing bodies to support the development of the Implementation Plan as well as the preparatory activities of the Decade.

Read more
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Director, Department of Science and Technology, South Africa

Dismore Gilbert Siko

Executive Planning Group

The Executive Planning Group (EPG) is an expert group composed of 16 to 20 members who will serve as an advisory body to the IOC governing bodies to support the development of the Implementation Plan as well as the preparatory activities of the Decade.

Read more
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Head, Research Unit “Physical Oceanography”, GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research, Kiel University, Germany

Martin Visbeck

Executive Planning Group

The Executive Planning Group (EPG) is an expert group composed of 16 to 20 members who will serve as an advisory body to the IOC governing bodies to support the development of the Implementation Plan as well as the preparatory activities of the Decade.

Read more
Our Planning

Preparing for the Decade

Consult and Engage Decade Stakeholders

The overall formulation of the Decade’s Implementation Plan will be supported through a consultative and planning process, implementing a regionally driven approach:

  • Global Planning Meetings will aim to assess the status of ocean research vis-a-vis the 2030 Agenda requirements and to consolidate inputs from various consultations (including the regional workshops).
  • The first Global Planning Meeting will provide a forum that will bring together approximately 200 leaders to represent ocean science and technology, ocean policy and sustainable development, businesses and industries, NGOs and civil society, donors and foundations at the National Museum of Denmark, from the 13th to the 15th of May 2019. This first meeting will offer a crucial opportunity to co-design mission-oriented research strategies in support of the Decade expected societal outcomes, taking advantage of cross-cutting supporting developments such as transforming knowledge systems; accelerating transfer of technology; enabling training and education; and fostering science-policy dialogues. This meeting will facilitate in-depth and interdisciplinary discussions across sectors to identify concrete deliverables and partnerships to meet the Decade’s societal outcomes. This first Global Planning Meeting will launch a series of regional workshops and establish a Stakeholder Forum.
  • Regional workshops will communicate the purpose and expected results of the Decade to all stakeholders and will also be an opportunity to engage and consult with them, enriching EPG and Stakeholder Forum debates. Regional stakeholders will have the opportunity to further discuss and prioritize the challenges identified at the first Global Planning Meeting, as well as to identify knowledge gaps and define users’ specific needs. The overall schedule of these regional meetings will be shortly posted here.
  • A Stakeholder Forum composed of institutional members, representing various interest groups, will act as a consultative body to the IOC governing bodies, and aims to engage a wide range of relevant stakeholders. It will provide inputs through the expertise, knowledge, data, information and capacity-building experience of its members on the work carried out by the Executive Planning Group.

Two physical meetings of the Stakeholder Forum will be organized, back to back with the global meetings in the preparatory phase. It will provide inputs through the expertise, knowledge, data, information and capacity-building experience of its members on the work carried out by the EPG.

Draft Implementation Plan

During the Planning Phase between 2018 and 2020, the United Nations General Assembly has tasked the IOC with preparing and coordinating the development of an Implementation Plan for the Decade which includes:

  • A Science Plan to define key issues, priority scientific questions of high relevance to sustainable development (Agenda 2030) and propose scientific themes and outcomes to structure the implementation of the Decade.
  • A Capacity Development Plan to improve the scientific knowledge base, transfer of marine technology, and education in regions and for groups that are presently limited in capacity and capability, especially SIDS and LDCs. The Plan will provide details on the strategy and actions needed to significantly enhance the opportunities and equitable access to economic benefits arising from marine resources and technology, including from areas beyond national jurisdiction;
  • A Resource Mobilisation Plan to define the specific financial mechanisms critical to the success of the Decade;
  • A Communications & Engagement Plan to define the networking, engagement and communications tools required to involve key stakeholders and demonstrate the value the Decade will provide for society

Member States, through IOC Governing Bodies, will review progress and endorse the Implementation Plan in 2020.

IOC will also provide information and report to the UN Member States on the development of the Implementation Plan. It will then be submitted to the United Nations General Assembly for its consideration.

The Preparation Phase Timeline

5th December: UN General Assembly Resolution (A/RES/72/73) proclaiming the UN Decade and mandating IOC/UNESCO to prepare an implementation plan
March: Interim Planning Group (IPG) established;

March: UN-Oceans meeting at IOC/UNESCO HQ, Paris, inviting its members to co-design the Decade;

July: IOC Executive Council (51st session) Resolution on the Decade (Executive Planning Group Terms of Reference approved and Member States invited to support the consultative process);

Nov: Executive Planning Group (EPG) established;

Dec: 1st Meeting of the EPG
February: UN-Oceans meeting establishing a Task Group on the Decade

May : First Global Planning Meeting, Copenhagen, Denmark;

June/July: Interim report to the 30th IOC Assembly;

July to December: Regional workshops
January: 2nd meeting of the EPG

June: Endorsement of the Implementation Plan by the IOC Executive Council 52nd

June: 2nd Global Planning Meeting;

November: UN General Assembly consideration of the Decade Implementation Plan
Official start of the Decade: kick-off conference

Our Donors

The UN General Assembly mandated IOC to coordinate the Preparatory Phase within the available resources.

Following IOC Executive Council Resolution urging Member States to provide voluntary contributions for the preparation of the Decade, IOC issued a Call for expression of interest in June 2018. UN agencies and partners’ organisations expressed strong support to the Decade and several Member States offered to host regional, global or thematic workshops scheduled during the Preparatory Phase or to support the communication and engagement activities of the Preparatory Phase.

Thanks to the Government of Flanders of Belgium, the Government of the United-Kingdom, the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology of Japan, the Korea Institute of Ocean Science and Technology of the Republic of Korea’s support, a Decade brochure, a dedicated website, generic and animated videos as well as communication materials for the consultative and planning meetings were developed.

The Decade will also promote alternative funding mechanisms such as public/private partnerships, as well as contributions of the philanthropic sector.

Our Community

Stakeholder Groups

The success of the Decade will rely on the contributions of many different stakeholders including scientists, policy-makers, civil society, funders and the private sector. It will also benefit these different groups in the following key ways;

Ocean Science & Technology

Contribution: Scientists will formulate priorities and plan for the global ocean science agenda.

Benefit: The Decade will provide an opportunity for ocean scientists to demonstrate the societal value of the work and generate greater investment.

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Ocean Policy & Sustainable Development

Contribution: Policy-makers will connect ocean science activities with the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda.

Benefit: The Decade will actively help policy makers find solutions to ocean sustainability challenges.

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Business & Industry

Contribution: The private sector will develop and share new technologies needed to achieve key Decade objectives.

Benefit: The Decade will open up access to tools, information and investment needed to create solutions for ocean sustainability and the blue economy.

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Donors & Foundations

Contributions: Donors will support the development of ocean science that meets the needs of society.

Benefits: The Decade will improve alignment between investments and high impact global ocean research.

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Civil Society / NGOs

Contribution: Civil society will help to connect ocean science to societal needs and interests.

Benefit: The Decade will support a new cooperative framework to ensure that global ocean science provides greater benefits for ocean ecosystems and wider society.

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Public

Contributions: Citizen scientists will contribute directly towards achieving the aims of the Decade.

Benefits: Communities worldwide will benefit directly through improved management of coastal resources, reduction of hazards and improved livelihoods.

Explore the Decade

Our Community Forum

  • The Forum is structured along 6 Decade societal outcomes:
  • A Clean Ocean
  • A Sustainable and Productive Ocean
  • A Healthy and Resilient Ocean
  • A Transparent and Accessible Ocean
  • A Predicted Ocean
  • A Safe Ocean

These will act as “Rooms”, within which partners and experts can continue the conversation online in between Decade activities.

Should you have any questions about the Forum, please contact the Moderators at oceandecade@unesco.org

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Our Partners

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Donate to The Decade
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About the Decade

How can you help?

Contribute to the Planning Process

Submit ideas or participate in Decade dedicated workshops

Host and organize events

Consult stakeholders, communicate about the Decade and identify opportunities for investment and resource mobilisation

Communicate about the Decade

Share the purpose and expected results of the Decade, its planning phase and preparatory activities.

Provide staff and/or financial support

Help IOC and its preparatory activities

Join the Decade