Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission




The Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) of UNESCO is the United Nations responsible for supporting the world's ocean sciences and services. This organization enables its 149 Member States to work together to protect the health of our common ocean by coordinating programmes in ocean observation, hazard mitigation, tsunami warning and marine spatial planning. The IOC also provides guidance to other UN organizations and agencies on marine science, observations and data exchange. One of IOC's main objectives is to enable Member States to build the scientific and institutional capacity needed to achieve UN Sustainable Development Goal 14, which aims to conserve and sustainably manage ocean and marine resources by 2030.


On January 31, 2020, the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) of UNESCO and the International Monohull Open Class Association (IMOCA) signed a new partnership. For two years, the entities will carry out several joint projects to support marine scientific research and raise awareness of the importance of ocean science in protecting the ocean and the sustainable use of marine resources.

All the activities to be carried out are coordinated by the "Joint Technical Commission for Oceanography and Marine Meteorology in situ Observations Programme Support Centre" (OCEANOPS: a collaboration between the IOC and the World Meteorological Organization), which is managing nearly 10,000 ocean observing instruments, thus ensuring the continuous monitoring of the ocean and the atmosphere.

More agile than traditional scientific vessels, IMOCA monohulls reach areas of the ocean poorly served by regular maritime traffic. Data collection on the ocean and the atmosphere is carried out throughout their navigation: several instruments are embarked, allowing the deployment of Argo profilers and surface drifters.




"Everyone has a role to play in promoting a sustainable ocean, even more so when it comes to remote and less accessible areas of the ocean. The IMOCA Class boats are making a special contribution to ocean observations and the collection of vital ocean data," Vladimir Ryabinin said, Executive Secretary of the IOC of UNESCO, welcoming the partnership between sailing and Science.


UNESCO marked the start of the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development, with a global online event headlined: ‘A Brave New Ocean’. It aims to raise awareness of the immense challenges and opportunities the world seas provide to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). 

“At the beginning of the third millennium, oceanography has the capacity to identify problems and offer solutions, provided we stop neglecting its contribution”, UNESCO chief Audrey Azoulay said, ahead of the event. 

‘Once-in-a-lifetime’ opportunity 

While 2021 has already been dubbed a “super year” for the ocean, UNESCO maintained that it signaled the launch of the UN’s own “massive commitment to our Blue Planet”. 

The Ocean Decade will provide a ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ opportunity for nations to work together to generate the global ocean science needed to support the sustainable development of our shared ocean, according to UNESCO.  

UN Secretary-General António Guterres said that “protecting and sustainably managing the ocean is essential – for food, livelihoods and mitigating climate disruption and related disasters”. 

“Restoring the ocean’s ability to nurture humanity and regulate the climate is a defining challenge”, he added, urging everyone to“make peace with nature to deliver a prosperous and equitable world for all, leaving no one behind”. 

UN-endorsed outcomes for the Ocean Decade 

  • A clean ocean where sources of pollution are identified and reduced or removed.
  • A healthy and resilient ocean, where marine ecosystems are protected, restored and managed.
  • A productive ocean supporting sustainable food supply and ocean economy.
  • A safe ocean where life and livelihoods are protected from ocean-related hazards.
  • An accessible ocean with open, equitable access to data, technology and innovation.
  • An ocean which is valuable on a social level, and where societies are committed to   sustainable development of the seas.

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