Message from Ms Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of UNESCO, on the occasion of World Oceans Day 8 June 2023
Each year, between mid-May and early June, UNESCO celebrates three international days focused on subjects that are as vital as they are complementary. This is an opportunity to jointly consider the three systemic pillars of our planet: biodiversity, the environment and the ocean – the latter being the theme of this world day.
The ocean connects, sustains and supports us all. However, its health is at a tipping point. We need to take urgent and collective action to better understand, preserve and revitalize this global common good, as well as to use ocean knowledge to address our planet’s most pressing challenges.
This is the aim of the United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development, launched in 2021 and coordinated by the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO. What we achieve during this Decade will have far-reaching consequences for our planet’s ‘blue lung’.
The United Nations Ocean Decade is now underway and has given rise to over 300 innovative Ocean Decade Actions, which seek to bring about a veritable knowledge revolution while revitalizing the ocean through collective science-based actions. UNESCO recently endorsed a wave of new actions, including a transformative international programme to further our understanding of the deep sea, a coordination structure for ocean science in the Southern Ocean, as well as projects and contributions of in-kind and financial support bringing us closer to creating the ocean we want.
In particular, UNESCO is mobilizing to advance sustainable ocean planning and management, through collective efforts to bolster our knowledge of all parts of the ocean, from the surface to the deep. Within the framework of the General Bathymetric Chart of the Ocean, a project launched 120 years ago, we are working with the International Hydrographic Organization and the Nippon Foundation-GEBCO Seabed 2030 Project to lead international efforts to map 100% of the ocean floor by 2030.
World Oceans Day is an opportunity to celebrate collective actions like these. On this day, we call on individuals, governments, scientists, private companies, civil society and local communities to join this global effort to manage the ocean for our common safety, well-being and prosperity.
UNESCO will maintain its commitment to achieving this shared goal, with heightened mobilization over the next two years. In 2024, we will co-host the Ocean Decade Conference with the Government of Spain, bringing together a diverse community of partners to celebrate achievements and set joint priorities. In 2025, we will continue to bring science to the fore of international ocean debates at the United Nations Ocean Conference, which the Governments of Costa Rica and France will co-host in Nice in June.
On World Oceans Day, let us remember that we depend on the ocean, the blue lung of the planet, as much as it depends on us. The ocean was the source of life on Earth more than four billion years ago; today, it is our present as well as our future. It is up to us to protect this common good.
Learn about the 50 UNESCO Marine World Heritage sites across 37 countries here: