IISD/ENB Ocean Decade Conference Bulletin

Publication Date

April 15, 2024

Page Number


Link to Report



IISD/ENB Ocean Decade Conference Bulletin

The 2024 Ocean Decade Conference in Barcelona emphasized the role of the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development in supporting the achievement of SDG 14. The conference brought together 1,500 participants to reflect on progress and set future priorities. The Barcelona Statement identified key focus areas, including ocean knowledge and science generation, marine pollution monitoring, and co-designing initiatives. Thematic sessions addressed challenges in ocean conservation and sustainable development. The bulletin also highlighted upcoming meetings for further engagement on ocean-related issues.

Key takeaways

  1. Importance of Ocean Sustainability: Highlighted the critical role of the ocean as a vital resource for the planet, emphasizing its contribution to global climate cycles, oxygen production, biodiversity, and the blue economy that supports millions of people.
  2. UN Decade for Ocean Science: Focused on the UN Decade for Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021-2030), which aims to bring together stakeholders globally to ensure that ocean science supports countries in achieving Sustainable Development Goal 14 (life below water).
  3. Achievements and Progress: Provided a platform to celebrate achievements and reflect on progress made three years into the Ocean Decade, with around 1,500 participants from various sectors gathering to set collective visions and priorities for the remainder of the Decade.
  4. Barcelona Statement: Identified priorities such as ocean knowledge and science generation, improved infrastructure for monitoring marine pollution and ocean observations, and cross-cutting issues like co-designing initiatives and embracing all knowledge systems.
  5. White Papers and Future Priorities: Ten working groups created draft white papers addressing the Ocean Decade’s ten Challenges, outlining future priorities for knowledge generation on science-backed solutions for biodiversity conservation, climate change, food security, sustainable ocean economy, pollution, and natural hazards.
  6. Global Engagement: Brought together governments, universities, the private sector, NGOs, and other stakeholders to collaborate on ocean sustainability, indicating a global commitment to addressing the ocean’s challenges.
  7. Knowledge Sharing and Solutions: Conference speakers stressed the significance of knowledge sharing, implementing the Paris Agreement, enhancing science communication, and using research to control pollution and sustainability.


A Brief History of the UN Ocean Decade

Offers an overview of the background and context of the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021-2030), also known as the Ocean Decade. Below is a summary of the key points covered in this section:

  1. Adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development: In 2015, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development was adopted, featuring 17 SDGs and 169 targets. SDG 14 concentrates on marine conservation and sustainable use of ocean resources.
  2. SDG 14 target: SDG 14 includes ten targets addressing marine ecosystems, pollution, overfishing, conservation, economic benefits for SIDS and LDCs, improving scientific knowledge, and enforcing international law for sustainable ocean management.
  3. Purpose of the Ocean Decade: Declared by the UN General Assembly in 2017, the UN Ocean Decade seeks to drive ocean science and knowledge to counter ocean system decline and spur sustainable development opportunities. Its vision is to supply the science needed for the ocean’s ideal state.
  4. Role of the Ocean Decade: Fosters collaboration among scientists and stakeholders to boost ocean system understanding and deliver science-based solutions for the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
  5. Coordination by IOC/UNESCO: The UN General Assembly tasked the IOC/UNESCO with coordinating the Ocean Decade. This involves uniting stakeholders to promote ocean science, conservation, and sustainable development.

Conditions of Success for the Ocean Decade

The report on the Conditions of Success for the Ocean Decade outlined key factors necessary for the success of the UN Decade for Ocean Science for Sustainable Development. Here is a summary of the report:

  1. Advances in Ocean Knowledge: Vidar Helgesen, IOC/UNESCO Executive Secretary, highlighted the global prioritization of ocean knowledge over the past fifteen years. This included uniting science, governments, philanthropy, and industry to advance ocean science for sustainable development.
  2. Successes of the Ocean Decade: Highlighted successes like fostering a global ocean sustainability movement, advancing ocean science for sustainable development, tackling emerging policy issues, and integrating Indigenous and local knowledge in decision-making.
  3. Challenges and Gaps: Despite advancements, we still need more data on industrial fisheries, integration of land and ocean issues, and inclusive science that embraces diversity.
  4. Inclusive Science and Collaboration: Stressed the need for inclusive science and stakeholder collaboration to reach Ocean Decade goals. It advocated joint efforts leveraging science for a sustainable, equitable blue economy.
  5. Global Collaborations: Speakers at the conference highlighted the importance of global collaborations, sharing initiatives, and reinforcing ocean research and conservation efforts to support a sustainable blue economy, marine biomedicine, and marine cultural tourism.
  6. Call for Action: Participants called for transformative actions and partnerships for ocean sustainability, emphasizing adequate funding for ocean science to support its sustainable management.

Thematic Session: Science and Solutions for a Clean, Healthy and Resilient Ocean

It addressed ocean health and sustainability challenges and underscored the significance of science, collaboration, innovation, and community engagement in preserving the ocean’s health and sustainability for present and future generations.

  1. Importance of Ocean Health: Stressed the ocean’s vital role in supporting biodiversity, ecosystem functions, and human well-being. It highlighted the need to tackle marine pollution, overharvesting, warming temperatures, and acidification for the ocean’s long-term health.
  2. Science-Based Solutions: Emphasized the significance of scientific solutions for reducing pollution, safeguarding marine ecosystems, and fostering sustainability. They emphasized the crucial role of research and innovation in tackling ocean health issues.
  3. Role of Stakeholders: Underlined collaboration between governments, academia, industry, NGOs, and local communities to create a sustainable ocean. Diverse stakeholder engagement and incorporation of local knowledge were vital for positive results.
  4. Practical Solutions: Presenters discussed how research and technology could improve pollution control, sustainable resource handling, and preserve ecosystems. Benefits like sustainable tourism, better public health, and poverty reduction were highlighted as possible outcomes of tackling ocean health issues.
  5. Communication and Engagement: Underscored the importance of clear science communication to policymakers for practical solutions. Community engagement and promoting ocean literacy are vital for successful ocean health initiatives.
  6. Innovative Approaches: Participants explored innovative solutions for ocean health, including climate strategies for MPAs, quantifying the ocean’s carbon pump, and legal strategies for decarbonizing shipping.

Thematic Session: Science and Solutions for a Sustainable and Resilient Ocean Economy

Exploring environmentally sustainable economic activities. It accentuated the need for sustainable practices, equitable access, stakeholder involvement, and the creation of an ocean economy that is environmentally responsible, socially inclusive, and economically viable.

  1. Sustainable Practices: Stressed the need for a sustainable ocean economy that balances economic growth and environmental protection. It highlighted the role of strategic partnerships, sustainable practices, and green technologies in promoting eco-friendly economic activities.
  2. Equitable Access: Speakers highlighted the importance of equitable access and benefits for all, especially marginalized communities and Indigenous Peoples. Policies promoting fairness, inclusivity, and social equity in the ocean economy were deemed critical for sustainability.
  3. Success Stories: Participants shared success stories and best practices in oceanic governance, blue economy frameworks, and community-led initiatives, demonstrating how collaboration and innovation can sustain resilient ocean economies.
  4. Innovative Approaches: The session discussed novel methods for boosting ocean economy sustainability, such as natural capital and ecosystem service indicators, full lifecycle assessments for offshore farms, and alternative economic metrics like Gross Ecosystem Product.
  5. Stakeholder Engagement: Presenters emphasized stakeholder engagement, public-private partnerships, community involvement, and diverse actor participation as key strategies for advancing a sustainable ocean economy.
  6. Policy Recommendations: Concluded with recommendations for policymakers, industry leaders, and researchers to collaborate on developing and implementing policies that support a sustainable and resilient ocean economy. Emphasis was placed on the role of science, innovation, and inclusive governance in shaping the future of ocean-based industries.

Thematic Session: Science and Solutions for a Safe and Predicted Ocean

Highlighted the need to address challenges related to ocean safety, resilience, and predictive capabilities. It emphasized the importance of proactive planning, community engagement, data-driven decision-making, and collaboration to ensure ocean safety and resilience amidst evolving environmental challenges.

  1. Importance of Ocean Safety: Underscored the importance of ocean safety amid escalating environmental hazards. Building resilience in coastal communities, improving observation systems, and boosting predictive abilities were identified as key to risk mitigation and livelihood protection.
  2. Predictive Capabilities: Speakers highlighted the significance of predictive modeling, data collection, and early warning systems for ocean hazards like tsunamis, extreme weather, and sea-level rise. They stressed the necessity of improved prediction for disaster risk reduction and climate adaptation.
  3. Community Resilience: Stressed the importance of coastal communities in building resilience to ocean-related hazards. It emphasized community engagement, capacity-building, and knowledge-sharing, which can empower locals to respond to emergencies and adapt to changing ocean conditions.
  4. Observation Systems: Underlined the need for strong ocean monitoring systems to collect data and guide decisions. Enhancing observation infrastructure, data quality, and information sharing were priorities for improving ocean safety and forecasting.
  5. Collaborative Efforts: Emphasized the importance of collaboration among various stakeholders for developing scientific solutions for a predictable, safe ocean. Partnerships and knowledge sharing are key to building resilience and tackling ocean-related challenges.
  6. Policy Recommendations: Participants suggested improving ocean safety and prediction by investing in technology, enhancing early alerts, and incorporating science into decisions. They stressed proactive action to tackle new ocean threats and vulnerabilities.

Thematic Session – An Inspiring and Engaging Ocean for All

It highlighted inclusivity, ocean literacy, community engagement, youth involvement, cultural perspectives, and partnerships in ocean initiatives, aiming to foster a stronger ocean-human relationship and sustainable practices for future generations.

  1. Inclusivity and Diversity: The session emphasized the importance of an inclusive ocean community with diverse backgrounds and the role of varied perspectives in shaping ocean policies.
  2. Ocean Literacy: Speakers highlighted the need for ocean literacy and public awareness of its significance, challenges, and opportunities. They deemed education, outreach, and communication vital in strengthening people’s connection with the ocean.
  3. Community Engagement: The session underscored the importance of community engagement for sustainable ocean conservation. It emphasized empowering locals, involving stakeholders in decision-making, and using participatory approaches.
  4. Youth Involvement: Presenters stressed the need to involve youth in ocean activities to nurture future leaders. They highlighted youth empowerment, education, and mentorship as effective methods to instill ocean stewardship and responsibility.
  5. Cultural Perspectives: The session highlighted the ocean’s cultural significance, the role of traditional knowledge in its sustainable management, and the need to respect Indigenous knowledge and cultural heritage for inclusive ocean governance.
  6. Collaborative Partnerships: The discussion highlighted the importance of partnerships across governments, civil society, academia, and the private sector in promoting a beneficial ocean for all. Key to this are alliances, shared best practices, and cross-sector cooperation for positive change and innovation in ocean initiatives.

Resources and Partnerships for the Ocean Decade

Focused on the importance of partnerships, investment, and collaboration for ocean conservation and sustainable development. It stressed the role of science diplomacy, interdisciplinary work, and capacity building. Strategic alliances and efficient resource use can help address ocean challenges and foster a resilient ocean ecosystem for the future.

  1. Multi-Scale Partnerships: Underscored the need for partnerships across scales, linking science, society, and decision-making to tackle ocean challenges. Participants highlighted local and global collaborations’ necessity to utilize expertise, resources, and innovation for ocean sustainability.
  2. Science Diplomacy: Highlighted science diplomacy’s influence on policymaking, fostering international cooperation, and promoting peace. It was recognized as a tool to bridge political divides, build trust, and advocate for ocean conservation and governance.
  3. Interdisciplinary Work: Underlined the importance of interdisciplinary work for complex ocean issues. Cross-sector collaborations are crucial for holistic ocean management and sustainable practices.
  4. Value of Collaboration: Highlighted the importance of collaboration in tackling marine issues like pollution, climate change, and biodiversity loss, citing successful partnerships like the Regional Seas and GEMS Ocean Programmes as effective models.
  5. Investment and Financing: Stressed the significance of investment and financing for ocean initiatives, the role of entities like the World Bank in supporting blue economy projects, and the importance of sustainable financing for ocean conservation and development.
  6. Capacity Building: Emphasized capacity building, including initiatives, mentorships, and education for ocean stakeholders like researchers, policymakers, and communities, to achieve the Ocean Decade goals and aim for a competent ocean workforce.

Announcements and Conference Closing

Showcased key commitments, initiatives, and partnerships from the closing plenary session. These aimed to promote ocean science, conservation, and sustainable development, emphasizing the need for collaboration, innovation, and collective action to address ocean challenges and achieve the Ocean Decade for Sustainable Development goals.

  1. New Commitments and Initiatives: The concluding session announced several Ocean Decade commitments: HUB Ocean’s philanthropic funding project, Belmont Forum’s forthcoming Africa funding call, and the Irish Government’s partnership to bolster ocean science in SIDS.
  2. High-Level Events: The Costa Rican government invited participants to key events like the “Immersed in Change” Ocean Action in June 2024, fostering collaboration and action toward ocean conservation and sustainability.
  3. IOC/UNESCO-led Initiatives: The IOC/UNESCO introduced three initiatives: a program for Decade Action in Africa, Sustainable Ocean Planning with the High-Level Panel, and an initiative to boost coastal cities’ resilience by linking ocean scientists with city representatives.
  4. Barcelona Statement: Vidar Helgesen announced a successful conference with 4,500 participants from 124 countries, which resulted in the Barcelona Statement. It emphasizes ocean knowledge, pollution monitoring, policy action, and inclusion of all knowledge systems.
  5. Collaborative Roadmap: Elisabetta Balzi (European Commission) and Julian Barbière (IOC/UNESCO) revealed a joint roadmap for enhanced coordination in promoting ocean science, conservation, and sustainable development goals.

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