More than 20 Heads of State and Government joined thousands of experts, business leaders, scientists and civil society representatives from 27 June to 1 July in Lisbon, Portugal, for the 2022 United Nations Ocean Conference. Leading the implementation of the United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development 2021-2030 (the ‘Ocean Decade’), UNESCO used the opportunity to rally a diverse ocean community bent on unlocking the knowledge needed to deliver the vision of the Ocean We Want.
Bringing together some 6,500 participants, the 2022 UN Ocean Conference gave fresh impetus for advancing Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 14 – at the heart of global action to conserve and sustainably manage marine ecosystems. Concrete measures were adopted to improve ocean resilience and more sustainable communities, underpinned by a new wave of commitments – building on the 1,300+ commitments made at the 2017 Ocean Conference – to restore the ocean’s health.
It concluded with the adoption of the Lisbon Declaration, titled “Our Ocean, Our Future, Our Responsibility”. World leaders committed to act “decisively and urgently to improve the health, productivity, sustainable use and resilience of the ocean and its ecosystems” and “improving [our] understanding of the impact of cumulative human activities on the ocean” through enhanced cooperation at all levels.
The Declaration recognizes the importance of the Ocean Decade, including the role of the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO, and the goal of the Decade to generate and use knowledge for the transformational action needed to achieve a healthy, safe and resilient ocean for sustainable development by 2030 and beyond.
Promoting knowledge-based solutions for sustainability through the Ocean Decade
On 27 June, Patrons and members of the Ocean Decade Alliance took part in their first in-person meeting, convened by Audrey Azoulay, UNESCO Director-General, H.E. Uhuru Kenyatta, President of Kenya, and H.E. Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, President of Portugal – both Presidents being founding Patrons of the Alliance. The event provided a platform for commitments and announcements by Alliance members, who also launched a joint Call to Action for investment in ocean science.
The President of Palau, H.E. Surangel Whipps Jr., as well as high-level representatives from governmental members of the Alliance, UN agencies, philanthropic institutions and the private sector took the stage to announce new commitments to the Ocean Decade, with UN Special Envoy for the Ocean Peter Thomson closing the meeting.
Watch the High-Level Meeting of the Ocean Decade Alliance here
The Ocean Decade Forum, held on 30 June, showcased and celebrated the achievements of the Decade’s first 18 months on themes of science, innovation and technology as well as behavior change and discussed the legacy of the Decade towards, and beyond, 2030. The Forum also featured several endorsed Decade Actions while providing a space for announcements from partners, including the launch of three new Decade Collaborative Centres (DCCs): DCC for Ocean-Climate Solutions (Ocean Visions in partnership with Georgia Tech and Georgia Aquarium); DCC for Ocean Prediction (Mercator Ocean International); DCC for Coastal Resilience (University of Bologna). It also saw the unveiling of the Bouknadel Statement by 18 philanthropic foundations calling for more investment in transformative ocean science and the announcement of a new pooled funding mechanism from philanthropy to support co-design, communication and capacity development for ocean science.
Watch the Ocean Decade Forum here // Watch Ocean Decade events highlights here
Building on examples of ambitious science-based initiatives that are accessible, reliable, scalable and sustainable, the UNESCO-DOALOS side event “Ocean Science and Its Policy Interface: from Knowledge to Sustainable Ocean Solutions” provided the opportunity to discuss how to improve the ocean science-policy interface and ensure that the knowledge discovered by the scientific community can support policymakers.
In line with the Ocean Decade Outcome “A safe ocean where life and livelihoods are protected from ocean-related hazards”, UNESCO and UNDRR co-organized a side event to promote leading efforts on reducing tsunami risk as a key contribution to the Decade and scaling up action on ocean science and innovation. Perspectives and announcements by cities and Member States on their progress to being Tsunami Ready by 2030 were made.
Recognizing individual engagement in the Decade
UNESCO started the 2022 UN Conference with a big splash event in the SDG Media Zone to officially designate Brazilian big wave surfer Maya Gabeira as UNESCO Champion for the Ocean and Youth, in recognition of her achievements and longstanding commitment for ocean conservation, including in the context of the Ocean Decade and its GenOcean campaign.
The designation was officially proclaimed by UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay in the presence of Oskar Metsavaht, UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador and fashion entrepreneur from Brazil, renowned for a rich history of environmental engagement.
Norwegian industrial leader Kjell Inge Røkke was also officially welcomed as Patron of the Ocean Decade Alliance and as the UN Ocean Decade Special Emissary for Industrial Ocean Data on 27 June.
Among other announcements related to the Ocean Decade, UNESCO and the Prada Group revealed the winners of the second edition of the SEA BEYOND project. Ten secondary schools from around the world took part in a series of webinars led by UNESCO experts to explore the ten Decade Challenges and established a network of collaborative relationships on a global scale.
Seabed 2030 – an endorsed Decade Programme – announced that it had mapped 23.4% of the seafloor in high resolution since its launch in 2017. Seabed 2030 is a collaborative project between The Nippon Foundation and the General Bathymetric Chart of the Oceans (GEBCO) to inspire the complete mapping of the world’s ocean by 2030. GEBCO is a joint programme of the International Hydrographic Organization and the IOC-UNESCO.
On the last day of the Conference, in recognition of its innovative work in leveraging a science-based approach to accelerate reef-positive investment through public-private financing, the Global Fund for Coral Reefs was endorsed as a formal Contribution to the Decade. The event benefited from the presence of H.R.H. Princess Eugenie of the United Kingdom.
A new agreement between the IOC-UNESCO and the Pacific Community (SPC) was signed to boost ocean science collaboration for the world’s largest ocean. Covering areas including early warning systems and risk reduction, ocean literacy and capacity development, the agreement will spur action on Pacific ocean science and increase collaboration on the implementation of the Ocean Decade in the region.
Through the Ocean Art Gallery, the Schmidt Ocean Institute (SOI) in collaboration with Nautilus showcased artworks from SOI’s prolific Artist-at-Sea Program, which uses art to inspire action and advance ocean science understanding. The exhibition was accessible during all of the Conference at the Ciência Viva Museum.
Finally, nearly forty artworks composing the Ocean Decade Exhibition were inaugurated on 25 June in Rossio Square, Lisbon, to inspire greater ocean awareness and action. The Exhibition will run until 9 July; all artworks are freely available online.
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About the 2022 UN Ocean Conference:
Co-hosted by the Governments of Kenya and Portugal, the 2022 UN Ocean Conference took place on 27 June – 1 July 2022 in Lisbon, Portugal, under the overall theme: “Scaling up ocean action based on science and innovation for the implementation of Goal 14: stocktaking, partnerships and solutions”.
In addition to the plenary sessions, the Conference consisted of eight Interactive Dialogues. Collaborative and multi-stakeholder in nature, they focused on recommendations to support the implementation of SDG 14, including through strengthened cooperation, building on existing successful partnerships and stimulating innovative and concrete new ones, taking into account the theme of the Conference. Topics included minimizing and addressing marine pollution, acidification, deoxygenation and warming, and promoting and strengthening sustainable ocean-based economies, in particular for Small Island Developing States and Least Developed Countries.
Over 200 side events took place during the Conference, both inside and outside the main venue, Lisbon’s Altice Arena, as well as virtually.
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.
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.