The first regional consultation on the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development highlighted the Decade as a critical opportunity to raise awareness on the world’s oceans and reverse the ocean’s decline.
Participants stressed the urgency of climate action, and highlighted the importance of the ocean for the Pacific Islands’ peoples.
IOC-UNESCO and SPC signed a letter of intent to strengthen cooperation during the meeting.
30 July 2019: The UN held the first regional consultation on the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021-2030) in the South Pacific region. The consultation aimed to help prepare for the upcoming Decade and consult with and engage different stakeholders in the region.
Approximately 70 participants attended the first regional consultation, which convened at The Pacific Community (SPC) headquarters in Nouméa, New Caledonia, from 23-25 July 2019. The next regional workshop will convene in Tokyo, Japan, from 31 July to 2 August. A second Global Planning Meeting and a launch meeting are scheduled to take place in April 2021 in Germany.
The Pacific regional consultation discussed specific regional scientific goals, and highlighted the sustainable development requirements of the Pacific Ocean. According to the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the South Pacific region is the world’s largest ocean space, covering nearly one-third of the Earth, and is home to many varied ecosystems, atolls, coral reefs and mangroves. There are 22 island nations within the Pacific Islands, with a combined exclusive economic zone (EEZ) more than four times larger than the entire European continent. The region faces threats from biodiversity loss and climate change, which impact the livelihoods of many of the region’s people.
The Ocean Decade represents “SDG Zero” because it can help achieve all of the SDGs.
In his opening remarks, SPC Deputy Director-General Cameron Diver stressed the urgency of climate action, and highlighted the importance of the ocean for the Pacific Islands’ peoples. He said, “if we save our ocean, we save our people, traditions, cultures and future.” He emphasized that the Pacific Community and the Pacific people should determine the Decade’s regional component, explaining that the region is best positioned to understand its climate and to propose effective, resilient and robust solutions to overcome challenges facing the oceans.
SPC’s Director General Colin Tukuitonga said ocean science must be both “data driven and easily understandable,” and emphasized the importance of inter-disciplinary science. Participants also highlighted the importance of combining traditional and indigenous knowledge with “western science” to promote authentic management of the Pacific oceanscape.
UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC-UNESCO) Executive Secretary Vladimir Ryabinin presented the Decade’s science objectives, and explained that the Decade aims to enable “massive societal applications of ocean science.” He identified several needed breakthroughs, including disaster risk reduction (DRR), ocean mapping, modeling and prediction, ecosystem knowledge, and ocean literacy and education.
Participants highlighted the Decade as a critical opportunity to raise awareness on the world’s oceans and reverse the ocean’s decline, underscoring the role of the world’s oceans in achieving sustainable development. Ryabinin described the Ocean Decade as “SDG Zero” because it represents an opportunity to help achieve all of the SDGs. The consultation focused on the Decade’s six expected societal outcomes: “a clean ocean, a healthy and resilient ocean, a predicted ocean, a safe ocean, a sustainably harvested and productive ocean, and a transparent and accessible ocean.”
IOC-UNESCO and SPC signed a letter of intent to strengthen cooperation during the meeting. The letter of intent focuses on facilitating the engagement of Pacific Island countries in the development and implementation of joint initiatives and projects, strengthened collaboration on data and information exchange, early warning systems, marine spatial planning and ocean literacy. [UNESCO Press Release] [Decade Website] [SPC Press Release]