Workshop on the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development

 “The Science We Need for the Ocean We Want”; is the theme of the United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development.

The UN has proclaimed the decade (2021-2030) to reverse the decline in ocean health and gather ocean stakeholders worldwide behind a common framework, ensuring ocean science can fully support countries in creating improved conditions for sustainable development of and around the ocean. “The Decade” presents a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to deliver scientific knowledge, foster technological innovation, and build capacity to achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Following the First Global Planning Meeting for the Decade held May 2019 in Denmark, the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) as coordinating body for the Decade recently co-convened the first of 9 Regional Preparatory Workshops.

The workshop was hosted by the Pacific Community (SPC) in Noumea and provided a platform to determine the key priorities for the Decade in the Pacific region. Representing UNSW's Global Water Institute, Principal Coastal Engineer Matt Blacka was invited to attend the 3-day meeting along with more than 70 “ocean experts” gathered from across the Pacific region comprising scientists, social scientists, academia, policy makers, civil society organisations, foundations and ocean businesses.  

Over 70 “ocean experts” from across the Pacific region attended the 3-day meeting. SPC Headquarters, Noumea, New Caledonia

The meeting was quickly bought to focus by the opening remarks from Cameron Diver, Deputy Director-General of the Pacific Community, when he highlighted the urgency of the situation and cited climate change as one of the biggest threats to the Pacific Islands’ Peoples.

The science we need now, for the ocean we both want and need, is critical. It is urgent. If we save our ocean, we save our people, traditions, cultures and futureWith that said, this workshop is not an ordinary workshop. It is one where we get to determine the critical ocean science we need to address the scale of the challenge we face. This opportunity is yours to determine and driveMany of the people that will lead us towards an effective implementation of the Agenda 2030 and SDG14 sit here today in this room. You are the experts, practitioners, specialists and agencies that understand both the imminent threat and the opportunity we have to overcome it’.

Mr Diver told delegates of the forum. The plenary session of the meeting also provided the opportunity for participants to hear video messages collected from people around the Pacific, highlighting the on-ground challenges that communities face across the region which is at the front line of climate change.

Delegates spent the majority of the meeting in working groups on each of the 6 societal outcomes of the Decade; A clean oceanA healthy and resilient oceanA predicted oceanA safe oceanA sustainably harvested and productive ocean; and A transparent and accessible ocean. During the working groups participants focused on outlining the priority research areas and identifying the key actions for each of the 6 outcomes – aspects such as the need for hazard mapping at scales suitable to properly understand the risks to Pacific communities and the collection of baseline geospatial data to accompany it; Innovation to drive improved oceanographic data collection; Advances in forecasting and warning systems for ocean hazards; Sustainable and environmentally responsible management of natural resources such as fisheries and deep sea minerals; and improved understanding of the sources of ocean pollutants and their environmental impacts. 

Opening plenary session of the meeting, Jacques Iékawé Conference Hall

At the conclusion of the workshop a number of aspects emerged as being important to achieving all outcomes of the Decade; in particular the importance of strengthened partnerships within the region and the investment in Pacific-led research and solutions, as well as the need for both traditional and scientific knowledge to underpin the actions of the Decade.   

More information about the meeting and the Decade of Ocean Science can be found here.

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