Personal tools
You are here: Home eNewsletter Archives 2020 february2020 UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development: The science we need for the ocean we want
Research Infrastructures

EFTEON website

SAPRI Proposal

SMCRI website

Research Publications


OUTPUTS 2006-2017

Log in

Forgot your password?

NRF logo



UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development: The science we need for the ocean we want

By Prof Juliet Hermes, Manager, SAEON Egagasini Node
mail.jpg facebook.jpg

The United Nations (UN) Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development hosted the Africa and the Adjacent Island States Regional Planning Meeting in Nairobi, Kenya from 27 to 29 January.

This regional consultation workshop represented a unique opportunity to provide input on the preparation phase of the UN Decade of Ocean Science.

The workshop consisted of ocean leaders, ocean champions and key stakeholders from across Africa. Plenary and working groups facilitated regional, interdisciplinary discussions across sectors (such as ocean science and technology; ocean policy and sustainable development; business and industry; NGOs and civil society; donors and foundations) to identify concrete deliverables and partnerships to meet the Decade's six societal objectives.

0501.jpg 0502.jpg

Juliet about to give a report back on the session A transparent and accessible ocean with open access to data, information and technologies

The workshop held in January in Nairobi, Kenya, was attended by ocean leaders, ocean champions and key stakeholders from across Africa

Working groups

The six working groups that took place during the workshop were a key mechanism for discussing and collecting input. The working groups were organised around the six societal outcomes of the Decade, which are considered highly transformative.

The outcomes are as follows: 

  • Outcome 1:  A clean ocean where sources of pollution are identified and removed. 
  • Outcome 2:  A healthy and resilient ocean where marine ecosystems are mapped and protected. 
  • Outcome 3:  A predictable ocean where society has the capacity to understand current and future ocean conditions. 
  • Outcome 4:  A safe ocean where people are protected from ocean hazards. 
  • Outcome 5:  A sustainably harvested and productive ocean ensuring the provision of food supply and sustainable livelihoods. 
  • Outcome 6:  A transparent and accessible ocean with open access to data, information and technologies.

Each working group aimed to: 

  • Identify key issues that are relevant for the region for the outcome that is being discussed;  
  • Identify the key research priorities and specific capacity-building or training needs for the region relevant to the identified issues; 
  • Identify the partnerships to be developed to achieve the science and capacity-development needs; and 
  • Identify tangible actions to improve the development of solutions for the region and to contribute to the Decade.

Priority issues

I co-convened working group 6, A transparent and accessible ocean, alongside Sydney Thurston from NOAA, with Rian Ciedraas from the University of the Western Cape as the rapporteur. The outcomes from the working group are the focus of this article.

The working group was structured to identify three priority issues for the region. For each issue, we documented the following: 

  • Key science or knowledge needs that are currently lacking for this issue; 
  • Key capacity development or transfer of marine technology needs that are currently lacking in relation to this issue; 
  • Main partnerships that exist that could be created to support achievement of science and capacity development needs for this issue; and 
  • Other tangible actions for improving information and solutions in the region and to allow full participation in the preparation and implementation phase of the Decade.

The 15 people in the session I convened ranged from physical through to biological and social scientists, through to policymakers and industry representatives from different African countries, which meant very diverse thinking. For this article I will just touch on future initiatives in the region that could become early actions under the UN Decade of Ocean Science.


Example of brainstorming from session 6 (a skill Juliet learned during the National Research Foundation’s Strategic Management Development Programme)

Data and observations

The entire African shelf region is routinely monitored (Essential Ocean Variables and Essential Biodiversity Variables). The data is near real-time and accessible and the bathymetry is mapped at high resolution. This is complemented by autonomous monitoring (including pH through Biogeochemical-Argo) being enhanced around Africa. There is a consistent provision of ocean data products and services (including ocean apps) for the benefit of society (15-year dream!). The establishment of a regional calibration and instrument centre in which we could develop local instruments (enhancing local industry) could be a hub for access to ships as well.


Each state should have a high-resolution ocean model covering coast-to-shelf area for operational oceanography. Establishment of a network of African operational oceanographers and hydrographers (ocean scientists) and better networking between North and South Indian Ocean.


  • Establishment of a Pan African ocean sciences institute and an African marine science research programme (continue and expand on from the Second International Indian Ocean Expedition [IIOE2)], but also make it more African-owned). 
  • Ocean job creation (both technical and scientific) is significantly enhanced. 
  • Under each Ocean Decade theme there is a minimum of 10 African experts working in the field and that these people continue developing capacity over the next 15 years. 
  • A complete and accessible inventory of institutes, jobs, ships, models and capacity in the region. 
  • Strengthen existing regional programmes – Global Monitoring for Environment and Security (GMES), Global Ocean Observing System for Africa (GOOS-Africa) and Indian Ocean Commission (IOC) Africa.

The workshop offered a crucial opportunity to co-design mission-oriented research strategies in line with the 2030 Agenda and continental and regional initiatives such as Africa’s Integrated Maritime Strategy 2050. Discussions were centred around countries’ needs and priorities in terms of transforming knowledge systems, accelerating transfer of technology, enabling training and education, and fostering science-policy dialogues to ensure consideration of these needs in the overall Decade preparation process.

Document Actions