The Indian Ocean covers about 30 per cent of the total global ocean area and accounts for a significant part of tropical coastal biodiversity and deep-sea oceanic biodiversity in various marine ecosystems. Conservation in the Indian Ocean countries is a major concern and coordinated action to achieve the sustainable management of marine resources.
In fact, the Western, Northern and Central Indian Ocean Workshop of the United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021-2030) offered a unique opportunity to establish partnerships based on the need to develop an integrated management of the Indian Ocean to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 14 of the 2030 Agenda. To better understand and identify the challenges of the Ocean Decade, a Leadership workshop preceded the regional event with the aim of developing the regional framework for assessing coastal vulnerability to climate change and sea level rise (6-7 January 2020), led by the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission’s regional committee for the Central Indian Ocean (IOCINDIO).
Working on six societal outcomes set to implement the Ocean Decade
The agenda of this three-day workshop included an inaugural session, a panel discussion and thematic working groups. Vladimir Ryabinin - Executive Secretary of UNESCO’s IOC - and Ariel Troisi – IOC Chairperson - opened the event by shedding the light on the coastal communities’ rights to live in a healthy environment, while benefiting from its resources. About 100 delegated from IOCINDIO Member States (Australia, Bangladesh, France, India, Kuwait, Maldives, Saudi Arabia, UK and South Asia Co-operative Environment Programme countries) were present. Participants came from different sectors including government, academia and research institutes, with about 23% of women delegates.
A specific session was dedicated to Early Career Ocean Professionals (ECOPS): 80 students participated actively and interacted with scientists and mentors from various countries.Finally, the workshop emphasized the need to develop a clear understanding of the six societal outcomes of the Decade, and that there must be criteria for determining progress towards the achievement of the Decade’s objectives. To answer this matter, participants were divided into six working groups to answer the following question: How can Ocean Science be improved and the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 14 targets be achieved.
Building a South-South cooperation
In an effort to enhance South-South cooperation, IOCINDIO made a strategic commitment with the sub-commission for Africa and Adjacent Island States (IOC-AFRICA) to helping developing countries to expand engagement in the Ocean Decade.
As part of this collaborative initiative, a coastal vulnerability capacity-building program is being initiated by both entities through Kuwait, Bangladesh, Saudi Arabia and India. Dr. Rajeevan, Secretary to the Indian Ministry of Earth Sciences (MoES), also reiterated the commitment of India to support the Ocean Decade action plan and to collaborate with Indian Ocean Countries, from the Africa to Australia and Antarctica.
Some central themes emerge throughout the workshop, representing major needs for the Indian Ocean community, as well as the ROPME countries. Developing a “Regional Framework towards the Safety, Security and Sustainable Development of Member States in the Indian Ocean” can only possible through the implementation of the following actions:
-Monitoring and Management of Marine litter and research on micro plastics
-Developing Tsunami Early Warning in the Indian Ocean
-Building an inventory with knowledge gaps in existing programs, studies and researches maximizing their wide and equitable usage towards the UN Decade success
-Establishing the “Indian Ocean Youth Leadership Network of Ocean, Climate and Atmospheric Scientists and Professionals”
-Establishing the “Indian Ocean Leadership Mentoring Network”
-Elaborating a Progress Review and Follow up of the Recommendations at the IIOE-2-2020 Meeting in Goa, India, March 2020.
The Regional Planning Workshop for the Western/Northern/Central Indian Ocean countries as well as ROPME sea area provided an excellent platform for bringing together experts and stakeholders. The Ocean Decade must address new and emerging challenges in moving towards a Blue Economy and supporting the global ocean science needed to support the sustainable development of our shared ocean.
Dr. Atmanand MA National Institute of Ocean Technology, Chennai