United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in its 72nd session affirmed the “United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development” for the 10-year period commencing on 01st January 2021 hoping that this would provide a common scaffold to warrant that ocean science shore up nations to achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and more particularly to achieve Sustainable Development Goal (SDG)-14 in order need to conserve and sustainably use oceans, seas as well as marine resources. The ocean is essential to survive and thrive which also produce more than 50 percent of the essential oxygen, we breathe and absorbs large amounts of anthropogenic carbon dioxide (CO2). More than 3/4th of the biodiversity exists in the ocean. Coastal regions are specifically important both because of livelihood and other economic activities including tourism and transportation. The global ocean economic activity, per annum, is estimated between US$ 3 trillion to US$ 6 trillion contributing to the world economy i.e. ‘blue economy’. On the other hand, pollution, ocean acidification, climate change, etc. are creating turmoil in marine biochemistry and losses in its biodiversity, apprehending food and human welfare on the whole.
Decade & the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC):
UNGA has given the task of preparation of an implementation plan to the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) by including all interested stakeholders and recently, the 75th session of the UNGA, as held, in September 2020, virtually for the first time due to COVID-19, received ‘Implementation Plan (Version 2.0) of the United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development’ for consideration and review, under the Resolution on Oceans and the Law of the Sea. Before its submission to UNGA, the Implementation Plan (in accordance with the UNGA Resolution 72/73) had undergone a review process by the IOC Member States and discussed resourcefully in the meetings of UN Ocean (-an interagency coordination mechanism on the ocean and coastal issues within the United Nations system).
The Member States were fully convinced with regard to the transmission of the Decade’s (Implementation) Plan to the UNGA. In this Plan, there formulated scientific priorities, capacity building needs, and given information on existing and emerging partnerships of relevance to the Ocean Decade. Moreover, the Decade Implementation Plan provides a non-prescriptive framework for transformational action that will build on existing achievements and deliver across geographies, sectors, disciplines, and generations.
In its preparatory plans, Global Stakeholder Forum (GSF) is being intended as an exchange mechanism for all stakeholder engagement networks. The Forum will include an online interactive platform for all Decade Implementing Partners, Stakeholder Platforms, National Decade Committees, Alliance members, and proponents of Decade Actions.
Ambitious Decade towards Creation of a New Foundation:
United Nations is determined that the Ocean Science Decade would be helpful in creating a new foundation and a common framework for countries’ action in order to sustainably manage the ocean which will lead towards transformative changes by augmented engagements of the science community, policymakers, civil societies, actors both in government and private sectors and more importantly from local to global levels. This will significantly promote understanding of the ocean because a vast majority of the ocean still unmapped, unobserved, and unexplored.
Moreover, the Ocean is gravely degraded as per the United Nations First World Ocean Assessment. Ocean not only required to be understood thoroughly for the ecosystem and economic resources but also to be contextualized and comprehend various socio-cultural dimensions as involved. The Decade is visualizing and harnessing towards the development of scientific knowledge, building infrastructure, and nurturing partnerships. According to the Global Ocean Science report, across the world, only 4% expense incurred on research and development of Ocean Science and the UN believes that during the Decade, investments would also be enhanced.
Understanding about the ocean system will be improved in the imminent decade and as of now; we have made considerable progress in predicting certain systems of the ocean. During the decade, a digital atlas of the ocean along with a pool of ocean data as well as an integrated multi-hazard system including tsunami warning system, etc. will be developed. “Digital Ocean” platform is also launched by India on 28th December 2020 as a one-stop-solution for data-related needs of a wide range of users. Joint capacity development initiatives are being undertaken by IOC, the Partnership for the Observation of the Global Ocean, and the Scientific Committee on Oceanic Research.
Moreover, a range of topics pertaining to IOC programs are the part of web-based training platform of the Ocean Teacher Global Academy (OTGA). OGTA also supports classroom training i.e. face-to-face, blended training i.e. combination of classroom and distance learning, and online/distance learning by enabling equitable participation of all IOC Member States and IOC programs. These courses are meant towards contributing to the IOC mandate under its capacity development strategy.
In its preparatory activities, the author of this article, drafted the world’s first pledge on ‘UN Ocean Science Decade’, as aired by IOC of UNESCO at its website dedicated for the decade and observed being widely used.
Significant Events as held in order to foster ocean:
In the year 2017, a high-level UN Ocean Conference on SDG-14 was participated by a range of stakeholders wherein over 1,500 ocean action commitments were made voluntarily which had given the birth of a ‘global ocean community’.
Furthermore, as a focal point of UN-Oceans, the Division for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea, Office of Legal Affairs (DOALOS/OLA) convened several meetings. The World Meteorological Organization (WMO), hosted its 19th face-to-face meeting in Geneva, Switzerland during 7 to 8 February 2019 wherein representatives of the organizations and entities like Department of Economic and Social Affairs, UN Secretariat (DESA), the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO (IOC of UNESCO), the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the International Labour Organization (ILO), the International Maritime Organization (IMO), the Secretariat of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), the Secretariat of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the United Nations Office of the High Representative for Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Countries and Small Island Developing States (UN-OHRLLS) provided with information on essential elements relating to the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development.
The theme of UN World Ocean Day (8th June) in 2020 was “Innovation for a Sustainable Ocean” and observed as a virtual event in partnership with Oceanic Global. The theme is especially pertinent because leading-up to the Ocean Science Decade (2021-2030) which trustworthily will strengthen international cooperation to develop the scientific research and innovative technologies that can connect ocean science with the needs of society.
Since human health and well-being are closely connected to the ocean, several virtual sessions on themes like, ‘The Ocean and the Human Health” etc. being regularly convened in the context of the Decade by engaged and pioneering agencies including IOC of UNESCO. Thus, such transformative actions are harnessing and stimulating innovative ocean research and strengthening required multi-stakeholder cooperation with long-lasting benefits for the ocean and society.
Moreover, in September 2018, 14 serving world leaders took an initiative to establish the High-Level Panel for Sustainable Ocean Economy which also providing impetus towards a sustainable ocean economy.
Such engagements are enhancing day by day which is a good gesture towards the success of the decade.
However, it is required to reverse the cycle of decline in ocean health and, with collective and collaborative efforts, to create conditions for sustainable development of the ocean, seas, and coasts, as proclaimed for achieving during the decade. To conclude, the perpetual quote of Oceanographer Jacques-Yves Cousteau enough to remind our legitimate actions, “We must plant the sea and herd its animal, using Sea as farmers instead of hunters. That is what civilization all about- farming replacing hunting”.
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