United Nations
International Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development - The Ocean we want for the Future we need
by Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO (United Nations entity)
The Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO (IOC) and its partners are planning to launch for 2021-2030 an International Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development. Achieving the targets of the Sustainable Development Goal 14 requires novel science-based solutions and their systematic transformation into informed policies and decisions. Such initiative would provide Member States and all relevant stakeholders with a framework for coordinating and consolidating the observations and research needed to achieve SDG14. A Decade of Ocean Science will help increase public awareness about the urgent need for new science and use of existing science to increase our understanding of the cumulative impacts affecting our oceans. The First World Ocean Assessment found that much of the ocean is now seriously degraded and many fear there has been a global failure to integrate scientific evidence into the sustainable management of our oceans. The entire process of developing and implementing the Decade will also help to build stronger cooperation between the different bodies responsible for ocean science while facilitating a faster and more effective delivery of knowledge to policy and decision-makers.

The Key objectives of the Decade would be :
- Stimulate a global partnership on the marine science requirements needed to support implementation of Agenda 2030;
- Understand the impacts of cumulative stressors and seek sustainable solutions for sustaining benefits from the ocean;
- Share knowledge and enhance interdisciplinary marine research capacities through the transfer of marine technology, leading to economic benefits for all Member States, particularly for Small Island Developing States (SIDS) and Least Developed Countries;
- Gain a better quantitative knowledge of ocean ecosystems and their contribution to society, through the whole ocean column, from the surface to the bottom;
- Map the ocean floor and its resources to support their sustainable management.

The IOC of UNESCO is inviting interested parties to collaborate on the development of the International Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development to help turn these initial ideas into a broad plan of concerted actions with shared goals and responsibilities. The Ocean Decade will be offered for consideration at the United Nations Ocean Conference as sound science and knowledge generation are key prerequisites to all aspects of SDG 14 implementation. The UN General Assembly will consider establishing the Decade under the auspices of the UN during the fall of 2017.

Prior to the expected start of the Decade, a two year planning process will be established in order to engage all relevant partners (UN Agencies, Member States, Science organizations, Academic institutions, NGOs, Private Sector) at global and regional levels. During that time Member States consultations will be undertaken and feed into the design of the Decade activities, and amongst other things, to (i) the development of an international research framework programme under the decade with measurable targets, (ii) the identification of data-sharing and capacity building mechanisms to support the activities undertaken; and (iii) the establishment of coordinating mechanisms to implement and report on progress achieved under the Decade.
Progress reports
Minimize and address the impacts of ocean acidification, including through enhanced scientific cooperation at all levels
Type of commitment
  • Scientific research and cooperation to address ocean acidification knowledge gaps
Increase scientific knowledge, develop research capacity and transfer marine technology, taking into account the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission Criteria and Guidelines on the Transfer of Marine Technology, in order to improve ocean health and to enhance the contribution of marine biodiversity to the development of developing countries, in particular small island developing States and least developed countries
Type of commitment
  • Scientific, socioeconomic and interdisciplinary research
  • Research capacity development
  • Data access and sharing
  • Training and professional development
  • Scientific cooperation
  • Transfer marine technology
  • Actions that support SIDS and LDCs
January 2020
international research framework (incl. priority areas, activities) programme defined following planning phase
January 2021
Outreach and communication programme established
May 2019
Decade global and regional coordination mechanism established
May 2020
Data sharing and capacity development defined and operational in all ocean basins
Staff / Technical expertise
IOC Staff time and expertise in coordination of planning phase
In-kind contribution
Member States and Partners contribution to the development of Decade research programme through scientific infrastructure and staff time
Basic information
Time-frame: 06/2017 - 12/2030
International Hydrographic Organisation; ICSU, SCOR
Ocean Basins
  • Arctic Ocean
  • Global
  • Indian Ocean
  • North Atlantic
  • North Pacific
  • South Atlantic
  • South Pacific
  • Southern Ocean
Beneficiary countries
Other beneficaries
UN, UNESCO, and IOC Member States, Scientific community, Academic and educational centres, national ocean management organisations
Contact information
Julian Barbiere, Head, Marine Policy and Regional Coordination Section, IOC/UNESCO, j.barbiere@unesco.org,
Paris, France
Other SDGs
United Nations