Fostering Innovative Ocean Science Partnerships for Small Island Developing States in the Ocean Decade

NEW YORK/PARIS- 07 December 2020 - A virtual dialogue on fostering innovative ocean science partnerships for Small Island Developing States (SIDS) was jointly organised by the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC), UNESCO's Natural Sciences Department and the Office of the High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States (UN-OHRLLS).  

The dialogue focused on innovative partnerships on ocean science for SIDS at the regional and global level. Discussants explored opportunities to accelerate ocean science including the mapping of continental shelves and coastlines, predicting sea-level rise and surveying coral reefs among which are essential to secure Loss and Damage compensation through the Paris Climate Framework.

In her opening remarks, the High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States, Ms. Fekitamoeloa Katoa ‘Utoikamanu, stressed that ocean science and SIDS’ sustainable development are inseparable and that ocean science provides the bedrock for SIDS to demonstrate their need for climate and development funding particularly in international negotiations.

A panel discussion during the dialogue discussed a number of existing partnerships that could be leveraged and built upon including the SIDS Partnership Framework and the SIDS Global Business Network. Other notable examples include the Micronesia Challenge, the Caribbean Challenge Initiative and the Local2030 Islands Network launched by the Global Islands Partnerships.

There was a common agreement that SIDS need to be active participants and solution providers in the Ocean Decade and that formation of triangular partnerships for data and knowledge generation and sharing, among themselves and beyond should be encouraged. In addition, participants stressed how crucial the involvement of indigenous people and local communities is for the success of partnerships in the Ocean Decade.

For SIDS to achieve the Ocean Decade, multiple challenges will need to be addressed. In particular, SIDS consistently lack essential ocean data and research capabilities as they are often constrained by funding, the lack of technical capacity, inability to retain trained individuals as well as the high costs of research equipment and infrastructure.

The strategic role of UNESCO in coordinating and promoting the Ocean Decade, as well as other related SIDS issues in the field of science, was also emphasized, including IOC's coordination role for the Ocean Decade as presented by Dr. Vladimir Ryabinin, UNESCO Assistant Director-General and Executive Secretary of IOC.

In addition, Ms. Shamila Nair-Bedouelle, UNESCO Assistant Director-General for Natural Sciences, elaborated on the launch of a new initiative called freshwater Island Resilience, put in place by the intergovernmental hydrological program, to tackle water shortages on islands. The possibility of the extension of the Man and the Biosphere Programme across all island states was also announced. It was stressed that necessary support should be provided in the areas of science, technology and innovation (STI) and Ocean literacy for the understanding of the livelihoods that oceans provide, thematic areas that are of importance to SIDS and to be considered in the Decade’s framework.

In his closing remarks, the Permanent Representative of Fiji to the United Nations, Dr Satyendra Prasad encouraged the inclusion of ocean science in the reporting of the Sustainable Development Goals through the Voluntary National Review Reports (VNRs) of SIDS and also during the review of the SAMOA Pathway. He also highlighted the importance of forming transformative partnerships to promote ocean science.
SIDS unique dependence on the ocean cuts across the three pillars of sustainable development, namely economy, society and environment. The combined surface area of SIDS amounts to 140 million square kilometres which represents around one quarter of the world’s economic exclusive zone thus, making them important stakeholders in ocean management. Furthermore, they are also more prone to natural hazards like hurricanes which result in heavy human casualty and economic losses.

The Ocean Decade will harness and stimulate innovative ocean research and strengthen the multi-stakeholder cooperation needed to develop the science we need for the ocean we want. Recognizing how central SIDS’ relationship with the ocean is at all levels and being custodians of large marine spaces, it gives them an important role both as active contributors and beneficiaries in the Ocean Decade.
SIDS are priority areas in the context of the Ocean Decade officially starting in January 2021. This was a first of many dialogues for the SIDS to foster active engagement in the Ocean Decade, both contributors and beneficiaries, and they are empowered in their role as custodians of large marine spaces.

The programme, the presentation and recording can be accessed through the Ocean Decade website.