European Commission and IOC-UNESCO join forces on the UN Ocean Decade

European Commission and IOC/UNESCO

European Commission and IOC-UNESCO join forces on the UN Ocean Decade

European Commission and IOC-UNESCO join forces on the UN Ocean Decade 1920 1080 Ocean Decade

A roadmap now aligns and connects EU and Ocean Decade programmes and mobilises partners within and outside the EU.

Today (12 April), at the UN Ocean Decade conference held in Barcelona, DG Research and Innovation (DG RTD) and the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO (IOC-UNESCO) adopted a joint roadmap to strengthen cooperation on the UN Decade of Ocean Sciences for Sustainable Development 2021-2030 (so-called ‘Ocean Decade’). The roadmap aligns and connects EU and Ocean Decade programmes and mobilises partners within and outside the EU.

By further structuring and reinforcing the cooperation between the European Commission and IOC/UNESCO, the roadmap will help to reach the UN Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development and the 2030 objectives of the European Green Deal, which include protecting 30% of the sea area, reducing 50% of the litter at sea, lowering microplastics leakage into the environment by 30%, and reducing nutrients and chemical pesticides by 50%.

The Roadmap’s adoption formally acknowledges the systemic contributions made by the Commission, represented by DG Research and Innovation, to the preparation and implementation of the Ocean Decade in recent years:

  1. Horizon Europe supports research and innovation for a healthy ocean and seas. In the period 2021-24, EU funding of EUR 447 million went to projects on these topics, many of which are already contributing to Ocean Decade programmes, actions and collaborative centres.
  2. The EU Mission Restore our Ocean and Waters constitutes a major EU contribution to the Ocean Decade. The three Mission objectives and its two enablers are closely aligned with numerous Ocean Decade Challenges and the Sustainable Development Goal 14 (SDG14), “Life below water”. The Mission’s lighthouses are supporting the regional implementation of the Ocean Decade while the European Digital Twin of the Ocean is already contributing directly to global ocean observation efforts.
  3. Through the Sustainable Blue Economy Partnership, the Commission, EU Member States and Horizon Europe Associated Countries –60 partners from 25 countries – are making a concerted European contribution to the Decade. In January 2024, the Partnership and the Ocean Decade launched a co-branded call for projects.
  4. The All-Atlantic Ocean Research and Innovation Alliance (AAORIA) is the established multilateral science-diplomacy initiative for cooperation in ocean research and innovation in the entire Atlantic. The Alliance is ideally positioned to coordinate and support the regional implementation of the Decade in the Atlantic, from Pole to Pole.

During the conference, two satellite events co-organised by the European Commission also provided the opportunity to set out how the EU Mission Ocean and Waters and the AAORIA will contribute to a common strategic ambition for each Ocean Decade challenge, particularly in the Atlantic and the Mediterranean.

The EU is implementing an ambitious policy programme to deliver on the sustainability of the Ocean in the EU and beyond through its European Green Deal. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) lie at the heart of EU policymaking on internal and external action across all sectors, with SDG 14 acting as the compass of the EU’s Ocean policy.

The Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO (IOC) promotes international cooperation and coordinates programmes in research, services and capacity-building. This is aimed at enhancing understanding of the nature and resources of the ocean and coastal areas and applying this knowledge to improve management, sustainable development, marine environment protection, and decision-making processes among IOC Member States. As mandated by the UN General Assembly, the IOC coordinates the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development 2021-30 (‘Ocean Decade’).

More information


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