UN Decade of Sciencie for Sustainable Development


Creating the Ocean We Want



The very first World Ocean Assessment released by the United Nations in 2016 noted a cycle of decline in ocean health. Urgent action on a global scale is needed to protect the ocean’s multiple ecosystems and support the ocean’s essential roles of climate stabiliser, carbon sink and provider of sustenance to 3.2 billion people. Acidification, pollution, overfishing: the Assessment concluded that the oceans’ carrying capacity is near or at its limit.


On 5 December 2017, the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed 2021 to 2030 the “Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development”, thus creating historic momentum for change. Ocean science has evolved along with society’s needs and supported new partnerships: it is an expert troubleshooter. Now society requires ocean science’s contribution to solutions for the developing blue economy and equitable access.


All parts of the ocean are connected, and all nations large and small need the knowledge and capacity to understand, observe and manage the ocean. The “Ocean Decade” is a framework for creating and strengthening connections among communities working to study, conserve and sustainably use the ocean and its resources. The Ocean Decade focuses on developing the global scientific capacity to generate and share knowledge that directly contributes to meeting the goals of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and other relevant global legal and policy frameworks.

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Co-designing the science for the Ocean Decade



The Challenges concisely state the most urgent priorities for the Ocean Decade. They inform the framework for the design and implementation of the initiatives carried out during the Ocean Decade. They unite Decade partners in collective action at the global, regional, national and local levels, and may evolve throughout the Decade. Each Challenge will contribute to the achievement of one or more of the Ocean Decade Outcomes.

Challenge 1: Understand and beat marine pollution

Understand and map land and sea-based sources of pollutants and contaminants and their potential impacts on human health and ocean ecosystems and develop solutions to remove or mitigate them.

Challenge 2: Protect and restore ecosystems and biodiversity

Understand the effects of multiple stressors on ocean ecosystems, and develop solutions to monitor, protect, manage and restore ecosystems and their biodiversity under changing environmental, social and climate conditions.

Challenge 3: Sustainably feed the global population

Generate knowledge, support innovation, and develop solutions to optimise the role of the ocean in sustainably feeding the world’s population under changing environmental, social and climate conditions.

Challenge 4: Develop a sustainable and equitable ocean economy

Generate knowledge, support innovation, and develop solutions for equitable and sustainable development of the ocean economy under changing environmental, social and climate conditions.

Challenge 5: Unlock ocean-based solutions to climate change

Enhance understanding of the ocean-climate nexus and generate knowledge and solutions to mitigate, adapt and build resilience to the effects of climate change across all geographies and at all scales, and to improve services including predictions for the ocean, climate and weather.

Challenge 6: Increase community resilience to ocean hazards

Enhance multi-hazard early warning services for all geophysical, ecological, biological, weather, climate and anthropogenic related ocean and coastal hazards, and mainstream community preparedness and resilience.

Challenge 7: Expand the Global Ocean Observing System

Ensure a sustainable ocean observing system across all ocean basins that delivers accessible, timely, and actionable data and information to all users.

Challenge 8: Create a digital representation of the Ocean

Through multi-stakeholder collaboration, develop a comprehensive digital representation of the ocean, including a dynamic ocean map, which provides free and open access for exploring, discovering, and visualizing past, current, and future ocean conditions in a manner relevant to diverse stakeholders.

Challenge 9: Skills, knowledge and technology for all

Ensure comprehensive capacity development and equitable access to data, information, knowledge and technology across all aspects of ocean science and for all stakeholders.

Challenge 10: Change humanity’s relationship with the ocean

Ensure that the multiple values and services of the ocean for human wellbeing, culture, and sustainable development are widely understood, and identify and overcome barriers to behaviour change required for a step change in humanity’s relationship with the ocean.



The Ocean Decade defines the ocean as a part of the larger Earth system stretching from the coast to the open sea, and from the ocean surface to the deep ocean seabed. Transformation is central to the Ocean Decade: we need to move beyond “business as usual” to a true revolution in ocean science. The Decade is driving the generation of data, information and knowledge: the transformative science we need to move from the ocean we have to the “Ocean We Want”. These seven Outcomes describe the ocean we want at the end of 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 understood, protected, restored and managed.

A productive ocean supporting sustainable food supply and a sustainable ocean economy.

A predicted ocean where society understands and can respond to changing ocean conditions.

A safe ocean where life and livelihoods are protected from ocean-related hazards.

An accessible ocean with open and equitable access to data, information and technology and innovation.

An inspiring and engaging ocean where society understands and values the ocean in relation to human wellbeing and sustainable development.




The United Nations has proclaimed a Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021-2030) to support efforts to reverse the cycle of decline in ocean health and gather ocean stakeholders worldwide behind a common framework that will ensure ocean science can fully support countries in creating improved conditions for sustainable development of the Ocean.