First Global Virtual Summit celebrates World Oceans Day and upcoming UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development

On the occasion of World Oceans Day (June 8th), UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) organized the first Virtual Ocean Literacy Summit, with the support of the European Global Ocean Observing System (EuroGOOS), Ocean Wise and Experiential Atelier*. During a four-hour session, ocean experts, sports and business people, high-level government representatives, and artists from across the globe exchanged ideas, experiences and insights on the future of Ocean Literacy in the context of the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021-2030).

Defined as the understanding of the ocean’s influence on us, and of our influence on the ocean, Ocean Literacy is a key framework to create a society able to make informed and responsible decisions. As a global leader in Ocean Literacy, UNESCO’s IOC celebrated the 2020 World Oceans Day with a deep dive into this increasingly influential field that combines ocean research and management with education and learning.

Under the theme ‘’Ocean Literacy in the context of UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development 2021 – 2030”, the summit focused on answering questions such as how Ocean Literacy can help transform ocean knowledge into action; which Ocean Literacy strategies are needed to contribute to the achievement of Sustainable Development Goal 14; how to bring together different backgrounds, actors and perspectives to use Ocean Literacy as a vehicle to inspire action; and how to create learning opportunities through worldwide collaboration and partnerships.

“In the face of COVID-19, World Oceans Day is a key to bring together the global ocean community, strengthening international collaboration and maintaining momentum for decisive and innovative actions. This is particularly important as we move towards the launch of the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development. (…) However, innovation and action can only happen when knowledge is available to everyone.” said Audrey Azoulay, General Director of UNESCO.

The new European Ocean Coalition (EU4Ocean) initiative on Ocean Literacy was officially launched during the event through a video of the Commissioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries, Virginijus Sinkevičius. Aligned with the theme of the year’s (“Innovation for a Sustainable Ocean”), an Ocean Literacy video was produced by “The Experiential Atelier” with an artist collective featuring Altın Gün’s new music “Kesik Çayır” with an immersive computer-generated animation by Mixed Reality Specialist Can Büyükberber.

“Everyone is a stakeholder in education for sustainable development and every country should benefit from the conservation and sustainable use of the ocean and seas. UNESCO’s Ocean Literacy framework and approach are encouraging capacity building programs, supporting communities of practice and promoting continuous professional development in the field of marine science and climate change”, explained Vladimir Ryabinin, Executive Secretary of UNESCO’s IOC.

The summit consisted of three panels that investigated the role of the ocean in connecting, inspiring and engaging people from across the globe. It featured 19 speakers** from a vast diversity of sectors including the media, private sector, governments, civil society, arts, NGOs and the scientific sector.

Interactive discussions, with the more than 1600 participants, centered on how ocean literacy can catalyze advocacy for sound marine policy and public action, mainstream ocean topics into educational systems, foster more responsible citizenry and behavioral changes, encourage ocean aware corporate practices, and stimulate young people to start a career in the ocean affairs. Participants highlighted the potential that the UN Decade of Ocean Science offers in term of developing innovative and transformative actions across different groups of stakeholders

“While the ocean is suffering from climate change – including ocean acidification, sea rise level, and deoxygenation – the Decade will provide a common framework to ensure that science can fully support countries’ actions to sustainably manage marine ecosystems. Ocean science should remain at the heart of the education system while our ocean is being jeopardized.” stated Peter Thomson, UN Special Envoy for the ocean.

UNESCO’s IOC will continue to work in close collaboration with all the players involved in environmental and scientific education to develop tools that will improve the dissemination and mainstreaming of Ocean Literacy methodologies. An “Ocean Literacy Strategic Plan to support the UN Decade of Ocean Science (2021-2030)” will be released by UNESCO’s IOC on January 2021.

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