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IOC Sub-Commission for the Western Pacific (WESTPAC)

Advancing knowledge and cooperation for a healthy ocean and prosperous society

Kickoff the UN Ocean Decade in the Western Pacific for transformative ocean science solutions

This decade is the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (UN Ocean Decade)! On November 25-26, 2021, nearly three thousand people coming from more than sixty countries gathered online to kick off the UN Ocean Decade in the Western Pacific region and its adjacent areas.

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, participants from various ocean communities – research, government, business and private sectors, international organizations, NGOs and civil society, youth, and foundations – came together to reflect on and honor the essential but usually unrecognized role of ocean, and more importantly, to put their heads together to co-design transformative ocean science solutions to ocean health and its sustainable development in the Western Pacific and its adjacent areas.

The two-day event featured the high level commitments from national governments and UN agencies in the region, an ocean stakeholder roundtable dialogue among various ocean communities, and seventeen UN Decade Action Incubators – a region specific enabling mechanism for fostering partnership and nurturing new ideas into concrete Decade Actions.

“Indeed, the ocean plays a crucial role in addressing global challenges. Our present and future depend on it,” noted UNESCO Deputy Director General H.E. Ambassador Xing Qu in his opening remarks to the conference. “Unfortunately, this global common is largely unknown to us, and consequently, we treat it badly.”

H.E. Varawut Silpa-archa, Thailand Minister of Natural Resources and Environment, spoke at the opening, “In our region, where many people are living in coastal communities, the ocean is not only a source of food and livelihoods, but it is an intrinsic part of culture and heritage.”

“We need a directed science, a science that can provide answers and solutions to ocean problems, which is exactly the ‘different’ science that we try to develop under the Decade.” UNESCO/IOC Executive Secretary Vladimir Ryabinin put a spotlight on the Ocean Decade in an interview during the conference’s opening,

High level governmental officials from China, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, and the Philippines, as well as Executive Directors from several UN agencies in the region delivered their strong support to the Decade, and put forward their perspectives for furthering ocean science development and cooperation to assist all in achieving the sustainable development of ocean in the region.

At the subsequent Ocean Stakeholder Roundtable Dialogue,  invited renowned panelists from academia/research, government, business/private sectors, foundation and early career ocean professionals, shared their lessons and good practices on interactions with other sectors, and expressed their perspectives for joint actions and collaborative partnerships for the UN Ocean Decade in the region.

The UN Ocean Decade aims to generate transformative ocean science solutions to ocean sustainability, through the engagement of a wide range of ocean stakeholders into the solution-oriented ocean research. The Conference culminated in the holding of 17 Decade Action Incubators, concurrent engagement workshops designed to gather multiple stakeholders to brainstorm, co-design and co-develop potential UN Decade Actions which address specific ocean challenges faced the region, and eventually the UN Decade Outcomes and Vision: Science We Need for the Ocean We Want.

“The Decade Action Incubator was initiated for the first time by the Sub-Commission as an innovative enabling mechanism, and will be continuously developed to gather research community and other ocean stakeholders into the development of solution-oriented UN Decade Actions,” Wenxi Zhu, Head of the IOC/WESTPAC Office stressed. “The 17 established incubators this time demonstrated a substantive step of ocean communities in the region in co-designing ocean science we need. Over the course of the Decade, we will keep developing the incubator mechanism until the existing and emerging brilliant ideas and meaning partnerships could be transformed into concrete Decade Actions.”

Over 1,500 participants joined the 17 Incubators and one launch event for the UN Decade endorsed project – COASTAL-SOS, which cover a variety of ocean priority issues in the region, including the most important marine biodiversity and ocean ecosystem health such as coral reefs and conservation of marine mammals and sea turtles;  multiple stressors such as climate change, marine heatwaves, ocean plastic pollution and harmful algal blooms; coastal inundation and erosion;  the most interactive areas between the ocean and human activities such as the Asian Marginal Seas and the largest ocean circulation system in the Pacific – Kuroshio; and the new development and application of tools and ocean technology such as remote sensing,  ocean forecasting and service system, and marine spatial planning.

For the full coverage of respective incubator, you can watch their video recordings here.

The UN 2021-2030 Decade Regional Kickoff Conference for Western Pacific and its Adjacent Areas was organized by the IOC Sub-Commission for Western Pacific (WESTPAC), in cooperation with various partner institutions. The event was hosted by the Government of Thailand, through its Ministry of Natural Resources and the Department of Marine and Coastal Resources.

Useful note!

If you would like to join any of the activities of the UN Ocean Decade in the Western Pacific, please get in touch with

You can watch the full Opening Ceremony on YouTube, and find the full programme of the Kickoff Conference here.

WESTPAC. Kickoff the UN Ocean Decade in the Western Pacific for transformative ocean science solutions. IOC Sub-Commission for the Western Pacific website,, 30/11/21.