Ten years to get to know the Ocean better


Earlier this month, the “Brave New Ocean” virtual event officially launched the United Nations’ Decade of Ocean Sciences for Sustainable Development. Coordinated by the UNESCO Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission, this program seeks to breathe new life into the ocean by placing science at the center of international political decisions for the coming decade (2021-2030), considered by several members of the UN as “the most critical in our lifetime”. 

"Brave New Ocean", the first United Nations event of the Decade

The “Brave New Ocean” discussions, which brought together various political actors, scientists, experts, sports personalities and leagues such as the World Surf League, set the tone for the United Nations Decade. By focusing on plastic pollution, the protection of marine life and the regenerative economy of the ocean, this initial event was a reminder that the sustainable development objectives set out in a multitude of international agreements will not and cannot be reached without taking the marine ecosystem into account. 

The degradation of this system, as a result of climate change, drastically reduces its benefits which are vital for humanity. All the participants in the program agree that the ocean covers important issues concerning the ways our societies function and must be managed in a sustainable manner.  

10 years to place scientific knowledge at the center of political decisions

However, it is impossible to manage what has not yet been measured. And, with only 5% of ocean floors mapped, millions of square kilometers of abyss sheltering nearly a million so far unknown species within their inky depths, and a cruel lack of knowledge of the biodiversity present in 99% of inhabitable marine areas, the ocean is still unknown territory. 

Managing these resources in the best way possible therefore requires us to extend our knowledge on the subject. By encouraging the development of a strong scientific network in order to better identify sources of pollution, map ecosystems, understand future oceanic conditions and use new data collection technologies, the UNESCO program truly seeks to place science at the center of political decisions. The program will make it easier for scientists the predict different possible scenarios, and this should provide guarantees for decision-makers on the best measures to choose by correctly assessing their potential consequences on the ocean and our societies. 

Will the ocean eventually be recognized as a common heritage of humanity? 

If really and truly implemented, this program could be a big step forward. In addition to focusing exclusively on the ocean and its interactions with our societies, the way it functions is also interesting: science and expertise seem, for once, to be taking precedence over political decisions that are often disconnected from environmental realities. 

Besides, far from simply developing complex scientific expertise, it encourages multidisciplinary, inclusive and cooperative knowledge: whether they exploit the marine system, depend on it for their livelihood or suffer from its climatic disruptions, all actors have been brought together and are involved in this program to regenerate the ocean we would like to have. By seeking to increase our understanding of it and place it at the center of everyone's concerns, the United Nations Decade appears to be a good way to spark awareness of our common responsibility towards the ocean and perhaps, in the long term, allow it to be recognised as a common good of humanity.  

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