There is a universal language where laws, rules and phenomenon are the same everywhere, irrespective of any region, country, culture or society. This is the language of science and it has the ability to bring together governments, academia, business and sport to achieve a common goal.
For the GEF LME :LEARN project, science was the bridge to bring together more than 150 participants representing UN agencies, a variety of international organizations, the private sector, NGOs, national ministries and academia from over 50 countries for a meeting to build international partnerships to enhance science based ecosystem approaches in support of regional ocean governance.
"There is still a significant gap between the cutting edge of science and the level of policy implications; and this gap needs to be closed. The use of advanced science is very important, existing system models can be very useful to the community in resolving complex processes: the Global Ocean observing system is one of them." - Vladimir Ryabinin, UNESCO-IOC Executive Secretary.
The meeting which was held in Cape Town, South Africa from 27-28 November 2017 ran in parallel to the 2nd leg of the Volvo Ocean Race. During the two-day event, participants discussed their roles and responsibilities in ocean governance. Presentations on the science to policy interface and how science can inform effective regional ecosystem-based ocean governance supported and provided some context for the discussions. The meeting was first time that key players in ocean management came together to build further regional collaboration for ocean governance.
“The essence of this partnership meeting is that it supports science through partnerships between governments, businesses and civil society; which is absolutely key in a world that is increasingly complex. And facing the complexity of the ocean space in particular, ensuring good management, is not something one country can do on its own or one region can do independently. ” – Ms. Judy Beaumont, Deputy Director General, Department of Environmental Affairs, South Africa.
The meeting offered a great opportunity to review numerous instruments and mechanisms for ocean governance implemented by various organisations. In doing so, it highlighted the role of science as “the best collaborative point” to establish connectivity for regional ocean governance.
As noted by Ms. Cecilia Julin, Swedish Ambassador, the bottom line may be summarized in four points: “Firstly, regional ocean governance is a key driver for SGD14 and related goals, secondly, the focus should be on integrated implementation through an enhanced cross-sectorial cooperation, thirdly, there is a need for better facilitation of exchanges and learning processes also between regions, and lastly an improved link between the regional and the global level is needed.”
Concrete examples of innovative initiatives emerged from the discussions. One of them was an information-sharing platform that would assist in engaging stakeholders to improve regional ocean governance. Such platform would help building up trust among regional ocean governance stakeholders, assist countries in strengthening their inter-ministerial cooperation in ocean matters, build up relevant awareness, stimulate inclusion of private sector in regional ocean governance, and assist in mobilizing financial resources.
At the official opening reception, Collaborating4Oceans, participants heard from Karin Bäcklund (Executive Director, Volvo Ocean Race) who spoke about the Race’s commitment to raise awareness on Ocean Health elaborating that : ‘the Race wants to change views on the use of the ocean and to utilise the Ocean Summit to bring together science, government, sport and business“. Meegan Jones (Sustainability Programme Manager, Volvo Ocean Race) shared insights on the Race’s sustainability strategy including “leaving behind a positive legacy wherever it goes, including through our science programme which uses the Volvo Ocean 65 racing yachts to capture oceanographic data that gets sent back to NOAA and contributes to our understanding of the oceans”.
Ultimately, strengthening partnerships for the ocean is not about reinventing the wheel; to the contrary, it calls for a clearer differentiation of existing mandates and roles, sharing and use of knowledge within an open and inclusive community of practice.