The United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021 – 2030)

What is the Decade?

On 5 December 2017, the United Nations declared that a Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development would be held from 2021 to 2030.

The Decade will provide a common framework to ensure that ocean science can fully support countries to achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The Decade will provide a ‘once in a lifetime’ opportunity to create a new foundation, across the science-policy interface, to strengthen the management of our oceans and coasts for the benefit of humanity.

The Decade will strengthen the international cooperation needed to develop the scientific research and innovative technologies that can connect ocean science with the needs of society. It will also contribute to the UN processes protecting the ocean and its resources, such as the Aichi Biodiversity targets, the SAMOA Pathway, the United Nations Convention for the Law of the Sea and the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction.

The Decade will require the engagement of many different stakeholders to create new ideas, solutions, partnerships and applications, these include: scientists, governments, academics, policy makers, business, industry and civil society. The Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) of UNESCO has now been tasked by the UN General Assembly to work with all interested stakeholders to design a Decade of ocean science that will help us to deliver the ocean we need for the future we want.

The Decade has a transformative vision to deliver the ‘science needed for the future we want’ where that future is painted by the following outcomes:

  • Clean ocean – pollution identified, quantified, reduced, removed,
  • Healthy and resilient ocean – ecosystems mapped, protected, multiple impacts measured reduced ecosystem services maintained,
  • Predicted ocean – society has capacity to understand current and future ocean conditions, forecast their change and impact on human wellbeing and livelihoods,
  • Safe ocean – human communities protected from ocean hazards and safety of operations at sea and on the coast is ensured,
  • Sustainably harvested and productive ocean – ensuring the provision of food supply and alternative livelihoods,
  • and Data transparent and accessible ocean – all nations, stakeholders citizens have access to ocean data/information, technologies have capacities to inform their decisions.

The Decade challenges us to work globally, think big and think solutions. The identified priorities are to:

  • Generate knowledge of the ocean system, biodiversity, seabed and their role in the earth/climate system, including the human component to support sustainable management,
  • Develop and provide access to a comprehensive evidence base and capacities for ecosystem-based management to improve ocean health and support a blue economy,
  • An accelerated programme of research and development supporting integrated multi-hazard early warning systems with improved community preparedness and awareness,
  • Enhance ocean observing networks, seafloor maps, data systems and other infrastructure,
  • Transform the scientific and technical capacity of Small Island Developing States and Least Developed Countries,
  • and Enhance cooperation, coordination, and communication between stakeholders.

UK Involvement

The IOC Assembly enables the UK marine community to steer and contribute to the direction of the goals of the 'Decade'. To this end, at the 2019 IOC Assembly, the UK made a number of interventions, including on the Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development, the UK's efforts via the Commonwealth Marine Economies Programme that can support the IOC’s regional office in the Caribbean, UKs support to re-invigorate the regional committee for the Indian Ocean, UKs contributions to Harmful Algal Bloom initiatives, our role as the Global Data Centre for the Nippon Foundation-GEBCO Seabed 2030 Project and promoting the UKs contributions to capacity development via Official Development Assistance funding, such as those provided via the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF). All intervention text can be found on the IOC-UNESCO web pages.