On 21 June 2017, the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) of UNESCO opened the 29th Session of its Assembly at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris. The 148 Member States are convening until 29 June to review the work of the Commission, including the work of the Secretariat and the regional Sub-Commissions, and formulate a common work plan for the coming two years.
Since the 28th Session in June 2015, IOC’s efforts have been unrelenting in terms of making the ocean visible at the United Nations level and in the process of developing international agreements and frameworks. Vladimir Ryabinin, IOC Executive Secretary, reported on the work accomplished during the opening.
The formulation of Sustainable Development Goal 14 dedicated to the ocean; the mention of the ocean in the Paris Agreement for the first time in climate COP history; the Joint Roadmap to Accelerate Maritime/Marine Spatial Planning Processes Worldwide with the Directorate-General for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries (DG-MARE) of the European Commission; the launch of the first Global Ocean Science Report; and the active contribution to the UN Ocean Conference and its “Call to Action”, are some of the Commission’s numerous achievements.
Vladimir Ryabinin also announced the speakers of this year’s Anton Bruun and N.K. Panikkar Memorial Lectures: Dr Véronique Garçon (France) and Dr Suchana ‘Apple’ Chavanich (Thailand), respectively.
Attending the IOC Assembly for the last time, UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova took this opportunity to highlight these accomplishments and more generally IOC’s unique role as the UN’s ocean science body. In particular, she reaffirmed that “IOC is clearly one of UNESCO’s crown jewels. It is a pillar of international climate action, and embodies UNESCO’s mandate for international scientific cooperation, for knowledge sharing for peace. This is why its ability to mobilize all concerned stakeholders must be strengthened.”
In parallel to the Assembly, side events are regularly organized throughout the seven days of the Assembly to provide a forum on current ocean-related issues as well as national developments. On this first day, two side events took place; the first presented an update on the Second International Indian Ocean Expedition (IIOE-2), in which IOC is heavily involved through its regional bodies, as well as future plans and opportunities for Member States on this matter.
Since the launch of this initiative in 2015, research and observations supported through IIOE-2 have resulted in greater short- and long-term understanding of the ocean’s physical and biological oceanography and related air-ocean climate interactions. The program complements and harmonizes with other regional initiatives underway, and collectively the outcomes of IIOE-2 are of huge benefit to individual and regional sustainable development. The information collected is critical for improved decision-making in areas such as maritime services and safety, environmental management, climate monitoring and prediction, food and energy security.
The second side event focused on the G7 Future of the Seas and Oceans Working Group, in preparation for the G7 Science Ministerial meeting in September. This G7 initiative was established to support the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals 13 and 14 by developing the stronger scientific knowledge necessary to assess ongoing ocean changes, and their impact on economies.
A Q&A session after the short summary talk provided IOC members the opportunity to share their vision for this work as we enter an important period for the initiative.
The 29th Session of the Assembly was preceded by the 50th session of the IOC Executive Council on 20 June, where 40 members acted as a steering group for the Assembly, reviewing issues and items in the proposed agenda.
For more information about the IOC Assembly, please visit: http://en.unesco.org/IOC-29