February 4, 2021 – January marked the beginning of what many within the UN and beyond view as “the most critical decade of our lives”, the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) said on Wednesday, launching a major initiative to protect the world’s oceans through the next ten years.
UNESCO marked the start of the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development, with a global online event headlined: ‘A Brave New Ocean’. It aims to raise awareness of the immense challenges and opportunities the world seas provide to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
“At the beginning of the third millennium, oceanography has the capacity to identify problems and offer solutions, provided we stop neglecting its contribution”, UNESCO chief Audrey Azoulay said, ahead of the event.
While 2021 has already been dubbed a “super year” for the ocean, UNESCO maintained that it signaled the launch of the UN’s own “massive commitment to our Blue Planet”.
The Ocean Decade will provide a ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ opportunity for nations to work together to generate the global ocean science needed to support the sustainable development of our shared ocean, according to UNESCO.
UN Secretary-General António Guterres said that “protecting and sustainably managing the ocean is essential – for food, livelihoods and mitigating climate disruption and related disasters”.
“Restoring the ocean’s ability to nurture humanity and regulate the climate is a defining challenge”, he added, urging everyone to “make peace with nature to deliver a prosperous and equitable world for all, leaving no one behind”.
Norway’s Prime Minister and Ocean Panel co-chair, Erna Solberg, told the virtual gathering: “The ocean is an exciting place and we should have more research, more knowledge, but also understand that more livelihoods could come out of the ocean if we manage it better”.
The COVID-19 pandemic has triggered economic and social crises across the planet, which according to UNESCO, have forced many into reliance on a growing Green Economy to “drive us back” to recovery.
Wednesday’s event brought together global leaders, scientists, UN agency heads and sports personalities engaged in ocean action – all of whom emphasized its potential as a wellspring of solutions to build back better in a post-COVID-19 world.
“As the world adapts to a new normalcy with the emergence of the coronavirus, ocean sciences will play an important role in post-pandemic recovery efforts”, Ms. Azoulay upheld.
The event, which was organized by UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission, also considered how to bring together activists of all ages and continents to achieve the ocean we want.
It was the first of the Ocean Decade events dedicated to deepening scientific knowledge of the sea and protect the health of the Ocean, while also supporting the ocean’s central role in transitioning to the sustainable and fair use of its resources as climate change challenges mount.
“The time to act for a Brave New Ocean is now”, underscored UNESCO’s chief.
UN-endorsed outcomes for the Ocean Decade
- A clean ocean where sources of pollution are identified and reduced or removed.
- A healthy and resilient ocean, where marine ecosystems are protected, restored and managed.
- A productive ocean supporting sustainable food supply and ocean economy.
- A safe ocean where life and livelihoods are protected from ocean-related hazards.
- An accessible ocean with open, equitable access to data, technology and innovation.
- An ocean which is valuable on a social level, and where societies are committed to sustainable development of the seas.