On February 3-4, Peace Boat actively participated in the launch of the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development in a series of events, which mobilized a broad spectrum of organizations and individuals for actions to save our oceans from pollution and devastation. The UN Ocean Decade is a major global initiative to deepen our scientific knowledge of the sea and revitalize our oceans. Its ambition is to generate the knowledge we need to achieve a world where biodiversity flourishes, and the ocean plays a central role in the drive for sustainable, fair development of our planet as we tackle the realities of climate change.

UN Secretary-General
Antonio Guterres

To celebrate the launch, a High-level virtual conference entitled “A Brave New Ocean” was organized by the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO, in which global leaders, scientists, philanthropists, leaders of United Nations agencies and sport personalities shared their experiences and ideas on how to meet the current challenges of climate change and oceans. In opening remarks, Antonio Guterres, Secretary-General of the UN, pointed out that “oceans face unprecedented threats due to human activity”, while Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of UNESCO called such activities that cause harm to our oceans “predatory actions,” and said that “the next ten years will be crucial for the planet as we know it”.  

Participating government officials also expressed their deep concerns about current problems faced in coastal areas and small island states, promising full support for the UN Ocean Decade. Many people place high hopes for the COP26 in Glasgow at the end of this year to be a breakthrough event to deal with the problems of climate change and ocean degradation. The role of science and international cooperation was marked as a crucial condition in mobilization for new urgent solutions. “Science is a vital force for humanity,” said Vladimir Ryabinin, Executive Secretary of the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO.

Following the High-level forum, Peace Boat US hosted an exhibit at the launch of the Ocean Decade U.S. Nexus conference. An interesting aspect of this virtual event was its interactive features where speakers and attendees could network amongst themselves and virtually travel between tables, exhibit booths, rooms, and various floors to mimic the reality of an in-person conference. Peace Boat’s exhibition featured the Ocean and Climate Youth Ambassadors program, an introduction to Peace Boat’s Global Voyages, “Youth for the SDGs” scholarship  opportunities and Ecoship, a low-carbon cruising model and flagship for climate action and healthy oceans around the world. The ship will also create awareness and encourage active engagement with the challenges embodied in the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), while addressing climate action via the responsibilities of maritime transport in carbon reduction and in preventing ocean and coastal area degradation.

The Ocean Decade U.S. launch event also included a series of presentations about the Decade’s challenges, goals, and programs. The US member organizations established the importance of the next ten years of ocean science for sustainable development, and explained how the goals are influenced by the UN Ocean Decade plan. Speakers included Marcia McNutt, the President of the National Academy of Sciences, Peter Thomson, the UN Secretary General’s Special Envoy for the Ocean, William E. Easterling, Assistant Director of the National Science Foundation and many others.

On Wednesday February 3, the organizing committee of the Ocean Decade U.S. presented a selection of their “Ocean-Shot” programs that are being developed or implemented to help achieve goals related to ocean science and sustainability. These innovative programs are defined as ambitious, transformational research concepts that draw inspiration and expertise from multiple disciplines and fundamentally advance ocean science for sustainable development. The goal is to spark transformative research for potentially “disruptive” advances that will open avenues for progress toward Decade goals. There will be a second call for submissions of the Ocean Shots open to the public until April 1, 2021.  As an example of one of the Ocean Shot programs, Bruce Howe from the SMART Cable initiative (Science Monitoring And Reliable Telecommunications) introduced their solutions to incorporate sensors into commercial trans-ocean submarine telecommunication cable systems (enabling Internet as we know it) for climate, ocean circulation and sea level monitoring and tsunami and earthquake warning.

The recurring theme of the decade is “The Science We Need For The Ocean We Want”, highlighting the importance of the engagement of many different stakeholders to create new ideas, solutions, partnerships and applications, including scientists, governments, academics, policy makers, business, industry and civil society. The Decade promotes knowledge and information that is more equitably shared around the world by closing the knowledge gaps amongst countries, balancing knowledge systems and taking into consideration the needs of coastal communities and particularly the most vulnerable such as Small Island Developing States and Least Developed Countries. As a final call to action, the U.S. Youth Advisory Council for the UN Ocean Decade was introduced to the public, and youth ages 14 – 25 years old are welcome to join. Participating youth will be involved in meetings and discussions of the US National Committee and play a meaningful role in planning and strategy, document review and be involved in communications related to US ocean community programs. 

Peace Boat will continue to play an active role in supporting these educational initiatives through our global partnerships and new programmes which will take place both virtually and onboard the ship. 
To learn more about how you can participate in the Ocean Decade, visit the website here: www.oceandecade.org