Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission

The Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO (IOC), established in 1960, is one of the principal international organisations concerned with marine scientific research and the only United Nations body specializing in ocean science.

The IOC is a community of 150 Member States that work together to share in the common and critical goal to observe, understand and manage the shared marine environment that unites us all. 

The IOC coordinates activities on behalf of (and funded by) its Member States and works with intergovernmental organisations and international partners. Activities are summarised in Biennial Reports; the most recent was published in 2017, reflecting the activities over the 2014–2015 period

The IOC Medium-Term Strategy 2014 - 2021

The IOC's vision for 2014 – 2021 was based on perceived societal needs, emerging issues and requirements for intergovernmental coordination. In working towards the vision, each of the IOC's programmes must address at least one of four high level objectives where focal points are: 

  1. Strengthening scientific knowledge of the ocean and human impact on it
  2. Applying that knowledge for societal benefit
  3. Building institutional capacities for sound manage and governance

High Level Objectives

Ecosystem Health

The IOC has developed indicators to check ocean health and determine how well marine and coastal ecosystem services are functioning. Indicators can predict or detect, at an early stage, major changes – for example, acidification, loss of oxygen, loss of biodiversity, plastic pollution, etc.

Information about UK involvement in managing Ecosystem Health may be found on the Activities tab.

Marine Hazards

The IOC raises awareness for coastal populations, of the risk from tsunamis, coastal flooding and storm surges and provides advice about mitigation options.

Information about UK involvement in mitigating Marine Hazards may be found on the Activities tab.

Climate Change

As a natural regulator of Earth’s climate and cornerstone of the global climate system, the importance of the Ocean can no longer be underestimated. From greater risk to coastal areas due to rising sea levels, strong winds, storms and cyclones, to food insecurity among island populations linked to declining marine resources, an unhealthy ocean in a changing climate can yield great environmental, economic and social imbalances.

Information about UK involvement in mitigating the impacts of Climate Change may be found on the Activities tab.

Enhanced scientific knowledge

The IOC works with scientists to advance understanding of changes in the Ocean. Knowledge can be used to develop marine policy that may help address these changes, for example, ocean acidification.

Information about how the UK has enhanced scientific knowledge may be found on the Activities tab.

How the Strategy is organized

The Strategy is organized on a framework of six functions and all of these functions contribute in varying measures to the high-level objectives of the IOC Vision:

Ocean researchFoster ocean research to strengthen knowledge of ocean and coastal processes and human impacts upon them.

Observing system/data managementMaintain, strengthen and integrate global ocean observing, data and information  systems.

Early warning and servicesDevelop early warning systems and preparedness to mitigate the risks of tsunamis and ocean-related hazards.

Assessment and Information for policy - Support assessment and information to improve the science-policy interface.

Sustainable management and governance - Enhance ocean governance through a shared knowledge base and improved  regional cooperation.

Capacity Development Develop the institutional capacity in all of the functions above, as a cross-cutting function.

These functions correspond broadly to existing and on-going IOC programmes, components of programmes and mechanisms of cooperation. Find out more on the Activities page.

How the IOC is Governed

IOC Assembly

The IOC Assembly comprises 150 Member States and establishes IOC-UNESCO's general policy and main lines of work. The Assembly meets every two years and its remit is to review the work of the Commission, the work of the member states and the secretariat, and formulate a common work plan for the coming two years.

IOC Executive Council

The Executive Council consists of up to 40 Member States and meets annually to review issues from on-going work to making plans for the IOC Assembly. 

The Member States of the IOC elect the new Officers (the Chairperson and five Vice-Chairpersons) and the Members of the Executive Council.

Members of Executive Council (2019)

Group I: Canada, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Turkey, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland

Group II: Bulgaria, Russian Federation

Group III: Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Grenada, Mexico, Peru, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Uruguay

Group IV: Australia, China, India, Iran (Islamic Republic of), Japan, Pakistan, Philippines, Republic of Korea, Thailand

Group V: Côte d’Ivoire, Egypt, Kenya, Kuwait, Madagascar, Morocco, Oman, Senegal, South Africa


The IOC is the only organization with the ability to ensure that developing countries have the scientific capacity needed to achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 14 to conserve and sustainably use their ocean and marine resources.

Peter M. Haugan, Former Chair


Officers of the Commission (2019):


Mr Ariel Hernán Troisi (Argentina)


Ms Monika Breuch-Moritz (Germany), Group I

Mr Alexander Frolov (Russian Federation), Group II

Mr Frederico Antonio Saraiva Nogueira (Brazil), Group III

Mr Satheesh Chandra Shenoi (India), Group IV

Mr Karim Hilmi (Morocco), Group V

The above are supported by the Secretariat, based at the IOC Head Office in Paris, led by Dr Vladimir Ryabinin, Executive Secretary of the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission and Assistant Director General of UNESCO.

IOC Sub-Commissions, Committees, Programme and Project Offices

1. France (Paris HQ, Brest)
2. Belgium (Ostend)
3. Italy (Venice)
4. Denmark (Copenhagen)
5. Australia (Perth)
6. Colombia (Cartagena de Indias)
7. Thailand (Bangkok)
8. Kenya (Nairobi)
9. Samoa (Apia)
10. Indonesia (Jakarta)

Regional Sub-Commissions

IOC Sub-Commission for Africa and the Adjacent Island States (IOCAFRICA)

IOC Sub-Commission for the Caribbean and Adjacent Regions (IOCARIBE)

IOC Sub-Commission for the Western Pacific (WESTPAC)

Regional Committees

IOC Regional Committee for the Central Indian Ocean (IOCINDIO)

Regional Programme Offices

Perth Regional Programme Office

Project Offices

Caribbean Tsunami Information Center CTIC

Data Buoy Cooperation Panel (DBCP) Argo Project Office (JCOMMOPS)

IOC Science and Communication Centre on Harmful Algae / Harmful Algal Bloom (HAB) Project Office

International Oceanographic Data and Information Exchange (IODE) Project Office

Indian Ocean Tsunami Information Centre (IOTIC)

Ocean Data and Information Network for Africa (ODINAfrica)

Omani National Multi-Hazard Early Warning System (NMHEWS)

Strengthening Haitian Early Warning Services for Coastal Hazards