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 » Delivering the science we need for the ocean we want at top of IOC Executive Council agenda
09.07.2018 - Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission

Delivering the science we need for the ocean we want at top of IOC Executive Council agenda

© UNESCO/IOC - 51st Session of the IOC Executive Council (3-6 July 2018).

From 3 to 6 July 2018, the Executive Council of UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) met for its 51st session at UNESCO Headquarters (Paris, France). The Member States of the Council reviewed issues and items from on-going work plans and made preparations for the next session of the IOC Assembly in 2019.

The Executive Council, which meets every year, was opened on the morning of 3 July by UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay. She highlighted the “great opportunity” offered by the United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development, noting that “it is for the Commission the recognition of its outstanding work, carried out for many years, and its efforts to bring together ocean science and the political sphere – from science to action.”

“One of the priorities of this Decade should be to encourage Member States to provide more sustainable funding for ocean science research, and to strengthen international solidarity by reinforcing the capacities of the Small Island Developing States, which are often on the front line of ocean changes,” she added.

UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021-2030)

The IOC Governing Bodies – the Assembly and the Executive Council - have a critical role to play in the coming years by guiding the development of the Decade and creating the conditions for the engagement of all relevant stakeholders. On 6 July, the Council adopted a resolution setting up the process for the preparatory phase (2018-2020) as outlined in the revised Decade Roadmap, which will focus on the preparation of the Implementation Plan for the Decade, encompassing both a Science Plan as well as an Engagement Plan. On this occasion, an Executive Planning Group consisting of high level experts, in charge of preparing the Implementation Plan was formally established, as well as a Stakeholder Forum, open to a broad range of communities (science, technology, ocean management, private sector, civil society) that are interested in contributing to the Decade. The IOC Chair Peter Haugan invited all nations to contribute to the planning process and to establish national committees to coordinate activities. Several Member States offered to host regional and global planning meetings in the coming months which is very encouraging.

Echoing Audrey Azoulay’s words the day before about the importance of bringing together “a large range of partners working on the ocean, including within the UN family and the research community, to contribute to the debate on the UN Decade,” over a dozen invited UN agencies and key partners took the floor to express their support and commitment*. The official logo of the Decade as well as a new brochure presenting the high-level objectives of the Decade and the structure for the planning phase were presented to the Executive Council.

On 5 July, the Chairs of the four IOC Regional Subsidiary Bodies – IOCAFRICA, IOCARIBE, IOCINDIO and WESTPAC – gave a brief overview of the work undertaken in each region since the last year’s Assembly, emphasizing emerging issues, challenges and also linking their work programme to the development of the UN Decade of Ocean Science in terms of regional priorities and contributions.

Building Resilience to Tsunami Risks

The Executive Council acknowledged the successes of the symposium on ‘Advances in Tsunami Warning to Enhance Community Responses’ (12-14 February 2018), which brought together over 100 participants from 25 countries and six international organizations, and of the NEAMWave 17 (31 October-3 November 2017) and CARIBEWave 2018 (15 March 2018) tsunami exercises, with over 640,000 people taking part in both drills.

IOC Member States were encouraged to increase and sustain technical and financial support of the tsunami and other coastal hazards warning systems in their respective regions, considering the significant impacts of these hazards on lives and livelihoods in coastal communities, as well as densify sea level networks and seismic network, particularly nearby tsunamigenic sources. They were also invited to further promote tsunami awareness in communities and among authorities through communication and tsunami wave exercises, training, information, and community preparedness and recognition programmes, as well as the celebration of World Tsunami Awareness Day (5 November 2018).

Ocean Science in Action

One year after the publication of the Global Ocean Science Report (GOSR), experts have kicked off the production of its second edition, to be launched at the second UN Ocean Conference in 2020. The methodology developed for the Report was largely recognized by the Inter-Agency and Expert Group on SDG Indicators (IAEG-SDGs) in November 2017, when it decided to reclassify SDG indicator 14.a.1 on the “proportion of total research budget allocated to research in the field of marine technology” from Tier 3 to Tier 2 (established methodology but data not regularly collected by countries). As the custodian agency for this indicator, the IOC Secretariat called on its Member States to contribute to the GOSR-II questionnaire and provide relevant data and information through the GOSR Data Portal supported by the Republic of Korea, currently under construction.

The methodology for indicator SDG 14.3.1, “average marine acidity measured at an agreed suite of representative sampling stations” – of which IOC is also the custodian agency – was presented to the IOC Executive Council. The methodology was developed in collaboration with IOC’s International Oceanographic Data and Information Exchange Programme (IODE), international ocean acidification experts (including data managers) and the Global Ocean Acidification Observing Network (GOA-ON). It provides guidance to scientists and countries in terms of what, where and how to conduct ocean acidification measurements and related parameters, as well as guidance on how to report the collected information in a transparent and traceable manner, including new opportunities.

The Executive Council also approved the establishment of two new IOC Working Groups: the first one on ocean carbon research in partnership with IOCCP, SOLAS, IMBeR and the Global Carbon Project; the other on multiple ocean stressors.

Expanding Global Ocean Observations

The draft GOOS 2030 Strategy, presented during the Executive Council, identifies an ambitious vision of a truly global ocean observing system (GOOS) that delivers the essential information needed for our sustainable development, safety, wellbeing and prosperity. The mission of GOOS is to lead the ocean observing community in growing an integrated, responsive and sustained global observing system. By 2030, an ocean observing system is envisioned with greatly extended coverage, delivering a wider variety of essential information to a broader range of end users.

The draft strategy provides GOOS – and IOC as its leading sponsor organization – with clear objectives and identifies a strong need to build engagement and partnerships to ensure a global system that responds to new contexts and needs, including the Sustainable Development Goals, the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction and the Paris Agreement.

In full support of the expansion of our capabilities to observe the global ocean to meet evolving needs, the Member States approved the extension of the global implementation of the Argo Program to include the measurement of six new biogeochemical parameters on Argo floats—oxygen, pH, nitrate, chlorophyll, backscatter and irradiance. These new variables will play a vital role increasing our knowledge of the large-scale evolution of the ocean’s biogeochemistry and associated impacts on marine ecosystems. The Argo system will still continue to provide notification to coastal Member States of all Argo profiling floats likely to enter their Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), including those measuring these new variables.

Roger Revelle Memorial Lecture and Closing Session

On 5 July, 100-year-old oceanographer Walter Munk delivered the Roger Revelle Memorial Lecture – that he dedicated to none other than Roger Revelle himself, his mentor and friend – before being awarded the IOC Roger Revelle Medal to honor his lifetime achievements in the ocean science.

In light of these various announcements, the IOC Executive Secretary highlighted the major challenge in the coming months and years due to current incompatibility of the IOC Secretariat’s size and the scope of its work. He reminded Member States of the importance to maintain – even increase – their contributions, be they financial or in-kind, to ensure the successful implementation of the Commission’s activities.

In the course of the Executive Council’s closing session, discussions focused on the proposal to organize an Ocean Science Day in support of the Decade during the 30th Session of the IOC Assembly (26 June-4 July 2019). This would allow the IOC Secretariat, Member States and partners to consider inputs of other sectors than oceanography (e.g. social sciences) and identify potential solutions that should emerge through the Decade, for example in terms of developments related to marine policy.


* WMO President, Mr. David Grimes; UN Environment, Director for Ocean, Ms. Lisa Svensson; IMO, Head of Office for the London Convention/Protocol & Ocean Affairs, Marine Environment Division, Mr. Fredrik Haag; DOALOS, Principal Legal Officer, Mr. Dmitry Gonchar; GEF, Senior Environmental Specialist, Christian Holde Severin; UNFCCC Secretariat, Principal Legal Officer, Ms. Joanna Post; ISA, Secretary General, Mr. Michael W. Lodge; CIESM (The Mediterranean Science Commission), Director General, Mr. Frederic Briand; IHO (International Hydrographic Organization), Director, Mr. Mustafa Iptes; JPI Oceans (Joint Programming Initiative Healthy and Productive Seas and Oceans), Acting Executive Director, Ms. Jacqueline Wood; Ocean Frontier Institute, Chief Executive Officer, Ms. Wendy Watson-Wright; SPC (The Pacific Community), Deputy Director-General, Mr. Cameron Diver; PERSGA (the Regional Organization for the Conservation of the Environment of the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden), Secretary General, Mr. Ziad Abu-Ghararah; SCOR (Scientific Committee on Oceanic Research), President, Ms. Marie-Alexandrine Sicre; PICES (North Pacific Marine Science Organization), Executive Secretary, Mr. Robin Brown; and CPPS (Permanent Commission of the South Pacific), Secretary-General, Ambassador Mr. Mentor Villagómez Merino.

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