Ocean Decade Glossary

Ocean Decade


Proclaimed in 2017 by the United Nations General Assembly, the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021-2030) (‘the Ocean Decade’) seeks to stimulate ocean science and knowledge generation to reverse the decline of the state of the ocean system and catalyse new opportunities for sustainable development of this massive marine ecosystem.

The Ocean Decade provides a convening framework for scientists and stakeholders from diverse sectors to develop the scientific knowledge and partnerships needed to accelerate and harness advances in ocean science to achieve a better understanding of the ocean system, and deliver science-based solutions to achieve the 2030 Agenda.

Ocean Decade VisionThe science we need for the ocean we want
Ocean Decade MissionTransformative ocean science solutions for sustainable development, connecting people and our ocean
Decade Outcomes

Seven outcomes describe the ‘ocean we want’ at the end of the Ocean Decade:

  1. A clean ocean where sources of pollution are identified and reduced or removed.
  2. A healthy and resilient ocean where marine ecosystems are understood, protected, restored and managed.
  3. A productive ocean supporting sustainable food supply and a sustainable ocean economy.
  4. A predicted ocean where society understands and can respond to changing ocean conditions.
  5. A safe ocean where life and livelihoods are protected from ocean-related hazards.
  6. An accessible ocean with open and equitable access to data, information and technology and innovation.
  7. An inspiring and engaging ocean where society understands and values the ocean in relation to human wellbeing and sustainable development.

Decade Challenges


The most immediate and pressing needs of the Decade, each Challenge contributes to one or more Decade Outcomes, and may evolve throughout the Decade:

  • Understand and beat marine pollution
  • Protect and restore ocean ecosystems and biodiversity
  • Sustainably feed the population
  • Develop a sustainable and equitable ocean economy
  • Unlock ocean-based solutions to climate change
  • Increase community resilience to ocean hazards
  • Expand the Global Ocean Observing System
  • Create a digital representation of the Ocean
  • Capacity development, Knowledge and Technology for All
  • Change Humanity’s Relationship with the Ocean

Transformative Ocean Science


The notion of transformation is central to the Decade. The Decade, both in terms of action and outcomes, needs to move beyond business as usual to a true revolution in ocean science. In the context of the Decade, we need transformative ocean science that:

  • uses the 2030 Agenda as a central framework to identify and address the questions that are most important to society;
  • is co-designed and co-delivered in a multi-stakeholder environment and that involves the generators of knowledge and the users of knowledge;
  • is solutions-focused;
  • where needed, is big, audacious, forward-looking, and spans geographies;
  • reaches across disciplines and actively integrates natural and social science disciplines as well as the arts and humanities;
  • embraces local and indigenous knowledge holders;
  • is transformative because of who is doing it or where it is being done, including in both less developed and developed countries;
  • strives for generational, gender and geographic diversity in all its manifestations;
  • is communicated in forms that are widely understood across society and that trigger behavior change; and
  • is shared openly and available for re-use.

Decade Actions


Decade Actions are the tangible initiatives and endeavors implemented by a wide range of stakeholders to fulfill the Decade vision, and may include programmes, projects, activities, and/or contributions:

  • A Decade programme is typically global or regional in scale and will contribute to the achievement of one or more of the Ocean Decade Challenges. It is long-term, multi-year, interdisciplinary and multi-national. A programme will consist of component projects, and potentially enabling activities.
  • A Decade project is a discrete and focused undertaking. It may be regional, national or sub-national and it will typically contribute to an identified Decade programme.
  • A Decade activity is a one-off standalone initiative (such as an awareness-raising event, a scientific workshop, or a thematic training opportunity). It enables a programme or project or directly contributes to an Ocean Decade Challenge.
  • A Decade contribution supports the Decade through provision of a necessary resource (e.g. funding or an in-kind contribution). A contribution can support either the implementation of a Decade Action or the coordination functions of the Decade.

Proponents will request endorsement of programmes and projects in response to periodic Calls for Actions. These Calls may relate to specific themes or geographies and are expected to be launched twice per year. Proponents can submit activities or contributions for endorsement at any time via an online platform for endorsement.


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