April 24th, 2024

2024 Ocean Decade Conference: Reflections and Key Takeaways

This month the 2024 Ocean Decade Conference was held in Barcelona, Spain. Over 1,500 in-person and thousands of virtual participants attended the 3-day conference and its side events over the course of the Ocean Decade Week. The main outcome of the event was to identify priority areas for action for the Ocean Decade, as outlined in the Barcelona Statement, a crucial roadmap for the coming years highlighting the areas where accelerated ocean solutions are needed. The conference was structured around the Ocean Decade Vision 2030 process, a collaborative strategic ambition setting  process launched by IOC-Unesco and the Ocean Decade, to showcase innovative knowledge for solutions initiatives and to develop the final common strategic ambition for each of the 10 Ocean Decade Challenges

Executive Director Dr. Rebecca Martone and Project Coordinator Kathryn Sheps from the Ocean Decade Collaborative Center for the Northeast Pacific attended the conference in person, participating as expert members of Working Group 2 and Working Group 1 of the Ocean Decade Vision 2030 process, co-hosting two side-events and attending a number of sessions and side events as participants and panelists.

2024 Ocean Decade Conference: Reflections and Key Takeaways
Kathryn Sheps and Dr. Rebecca Martone at the UN Ocean Decade Conference!

The major goal of the Vision 2030 process is to identify measures of success for each of the 10 Ocean Decade Challenges creating a roadmap of sorts, for the remaining years of the Decade. The process aims to determine user needs, priority datasets, and residual gaps in knowledge as well as identify resources, infrastructure, partnerships, capacity development, technology solutions and infrastructure required for each Challenge. For each Challenge, a multi stakeholder working group, including representatives from Decade Actions, government, intergovernmental organizations, private sector, Indigenous and local communities, early career ocean professionals, non-governmental organizations, academia, and philanthropic foundations, and representing diverse demographics, genders, and age groups, is led by two expert Co-Chairs who have facilitated the development of the white papers. Each working group presented their white papers at the Ocean Decade Conference, followed by  an engagement session with conference participants to improve and refine their white paper drafts.  These papers will be updated by the groups informed by the conversations and feedback that took place at the Ocean Decade Conference and will be published in May 2024.

2024 Ocean Decade Conference: Reflections and Key Takeaways

In Barcelona, the Decade Collaborative Center co-hosted a side event on effective and equitable co-design with partners from organizations across the Ocean Decade that highlighted diverse experiences with co-design.  Dr Martone participated as a panelist in this side event, alongside Ken Paul of Advancing Indigenous Partnerships in Ocean Science for Sustainability Decade Action,  Jana Bumbeer of Grupo Fundacao Botticario, Merete Tanstead of FAO and Ali Hochberg, an ECOP involved in marine spatial planning in Bermuda. Discussion in this session focused on the importance of codesign in and across different aspects of the Ocean Decade as well  sharing experiences of participating in, designing, and funding co-designed projects. 

Another key focus of the Ocean Decade conference was enabling collaboration by the various ocean knowledge holders and ocean knowledge users - a set of terms intending to expand collaborations for ocean sustainability.  The Decade Collaborative Center for the NE Pacific  participated in a panel discussion with all of the other DCCs, both regional and thematic,  and Decade Coordination Offices.  With co-design at the heart of the Ocean Decade, these structures aim to support the Ocean Decade by supporting stakeholder and rightsholder engagement, mobilizing resources to support Ocean Decade actions, and catalyzing new collaborations to tackle the challenges facing the ocean. The panel identified successes and barriers and discussed ways to improve coordination among our groups. 

2024 Ocean Decade Conference: Reflections and Key Takeaways
Panel on Effective Co-Design; from left to right: Kathryn Sheps, Charlotte Hudson (Pew Charitable Trusts), David O'Sullivan (Our Shared Oceans), Dr. Rebecca Martone, Ken Paul (AIPOSS), Janina Bumbeer (Fundação Grupo Boticário), Merete Tanstead, FAO, Alix Hochberg (Bermuda Ocean Prosperity Programme), Heather Koldewey (Berterelli Foundation), Jason Landrum (Lenfest Ocean Program)

A 3rd focus of the Ocean Decade is improving ocean science infrastructure and the accessibility and interoperability of critical ocean data. Several side events, in Barcelona, as well as several of the Vision 2030 sessions, included a focus on creating a robust, inclusive digital ecosystem for ocean data through the Decade and ensure that these data are trusted and accessible by all. One key step towards this is the creation of an Ocean Decade Data and Information Strategy and a recently drafted Implementation Plan. At a side event hosted by the IOC of UNESCO and the Ocean Decade Data Coordination Group, Dr. Martone participated in the discussion as a panelist, describing the role of regional collaborative centers in helping to support implementation of the Data and Information Strategy. The group discussed perspectives from the NE Pacific and elsewhere on data management and sharing challenges and obstacles to address, as well as opportunities on how to engage ocean data users, producers, and custodians, and what the broader community can do to help implement the strategy and improve data management, sharing, and uptake. 

A key takeaway from the Conference and a focus of the Ocean Decade Collaborative Center for the Northeast Pacific Region, is that co-design, co-production, and co-delivery with Indigenous and coastal communities, and all other sectors of society including policy makers, resource managers, and industry is needed to develop lasting solutions to the challenges facing the oceans and people.The idea of co-design isn’t new but sharing experiences and skills that help to make co-designed projects work well helps improve understanding of the opportunities, challenges and and capacities  needed to make understanding and caring for our shared oceans more equitable and inclusive.

2024 Ocean Decade Conference: Reflections and Key Takeaways
The Ocean Decade Collaborative Center for the Northeast Pacific Poster for the Ocean Decade Conference.

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