The United Nations has proclaimed a Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021–2030) to support efforts to reverse the cycle of decline in ocean health and gather ocean stakeholders worldwide behind a common framework. Dr Anil Pratap Singh says that the importance, need and role of ocean science, data and information exchange for sustainable development, and affirmation that science can play an important role in helping the ocean to support the 2030 SDG agenda is being realized. The UN is optimistic that the Decade will turn the scientific knowledge and understanding into effective actions and support towards improved ocean management and sustainable development.
The United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in its 72nd session decided and proclaimed the United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development for the 10-year period beginning on January 1, 2021 and called upon the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to prepare an implementation plan for the Decade in consultation with Member States, specialized agencies, funds, programmes and bodies of the United Nations (UN), as well as other intergovernmental organizations, non-governmental organizations, and stakeholders. In its preparatory work, IOC is framing out the cross-cutting role of ocean science in Sustainable Development Goal 14 (SDG 14). Coinciding with World Ocean Day, the high-level ‘United Nations Conference to Support the Implementation of SDG 14’ was convened in New York during June 5–9, 2017, as was aimed to conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development. The event saw participation from a broad range of relevant stakeholders which rather gave birth to an ocean community. The Decade’s endorsement of the UNGA is being acknowledged by the global community. They realize its importance, need and role of ocean science, data and information exchange for sustainable development, and they are affirming that science can play an important role in helping the ocean to support the 2030 SDG agenda.
It is important to note that during September 10–11, 2018, another high-level scientific conference, ‘From COP 21 (Conference of the Parties-21) towards the United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021–2030)’ was organized at UNESCO headquarters wherein the way forward to overcome various challenges, viz., scientific, conceptual and organizational were thoroughly discussed in order to facilitate transformative action to accomplish healthy ocean.
According to the UN, 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 the ocean. This is to support efforts to reverse the cycle of decline in ocean health and create improved conditions for sustainable development of the ocean.
Nowadays, dependency on ocean has increased than ever before. Ocean is a vital source of nourishment and livelihood for about 500 million people in countries where poverty prevails. Due to the current COVID-19 pandemic, this dependency has become rather a compulsion. Ocean economies are of great value which, amongst many others, include fisheries, production of energy, seabed recreation and exploration, biotechnologies and tourism as well. Climate change, acidification, marine pollution, and so on, are causing degradation of ocean species and threatening food security and human welfare.
SDG 14 aims to eliminate overfishing practices and achieving SDG 14 for a healthy ocean would also help in meeting out other SDGs, for example, no poverty (SDG 1), zero hunger (SDG 2), good health and wellbeing (SDG 3), reduced inequalities (SDG 10), and so on. The determinant and alerting roles of oceans can’t be denied in the context of climate regulations (SDG 13). ‘Use of ocean’ for food and energy production, tourism and transportation, and through land-based activities such as atmospheric emissions and discharge of waste, are increasingly affecting ocean-ecosystems and resources, causing changes in the ocean’s properties, altering habitats, species distributions, food webs, and ocean circulation and biochemistry.
Decade’s Aspirations and Pathways of Ocean Sustainability
Realizing the magnitude of the problem and put into practice more effective solutions in order to address formidable predicaments of the ocean, the UN has avowed a Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021–2030), aspiring real changes wherein policymakers, science community, civil societies, actors in private sector, and so on, are expected to contribute with their transformative engagements, from local to global scales.
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