#02 2024

Navigating the waves of progress: Insights from the Ocean Decade Meeting

By Prof Juliet Hermes, Manager, Egagasini Node, NRF-SAEON

Passionate individuals from diverse backgrounds converged on Casablanca and Rabat in Morocco for the 2024 Ocean Decade meeting to discuss and advance the ambitious goals set for sustainable ocean management. Organised and co-hosted by the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO (IOC/UNESCO) and the National Institute of Fisheries Research, Morocco (Institut National de Recherche Halieutique, INRH), the meeting was chaired by Dr Jacqueline Uku from the Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute (KMFRI) and attended by a cadre of experts. The gathering highlighted key achievements and shed light on the roadmap ahead.

This regular annual in-person taskforce meeting was hosted at the INRH in Casablanca for days 1 and 3. Day 2 was hosted at the Mohammed VI Foundation for Environmental Protection, International Hassan II Center for Environmental Training in Rabat. The meeting brought together members of the Ocean Decade Africa Taskforce, the Decade Coordination Unit and the secretariat of the UNESCO/IOC’s Sub Commission for Africa and the Adjacent Island States (IOCAFRICA) to finalise the development of the Ocean Decade umbrella programme for Africa and structure the proposal for the Africa Satellite Event at the 2024 Ocean Decade Conference that took place in Barcelona, Spain in April (access the list of satellite events here).

Members of the Ocean Decade Africa Taskforce at the meeting in Morocco.

Ocean Decade Africa Taskforce 

The Ocean Decade Africa Taskforce was established in October 2022 with a primary objective of convening regional stakeholders to coordinate and advance the implementation of the Ocean Decade Africa Roadmap, while ensuring the ownership of the Africa Roadmap is systematically reconfirmed and strengthened among African nations, regional organisations, indigenous organisations and fora.

The mandate of the African Ocean Decade Taskforce is to oversee and promote the implementation of the Africa Roadmap and the enabling environment necessary for its success. The Taskforce plays a critical role in supporting and contributing to the coordination of stakeholders as they come together to implement the Africa Roadmap, as well as co-design and co-deliver Decade actions.

Since its establishment, the Taskforce has held regular monthly meetings to discuss communications, partnerships, resource mobilisation and capacity development for the successful implementation of the Africa Roadmap. Despite facing many challenges in realising its mandate, the Africa Taskforce has succeeded in committing to several Ocean Decade Actions, led by Africa, for Africa. These actions include Plastic Mop Up, Nigeria; the Sustainable Ocean Management Education Programme, Cabo Verde; Strengthening the Blue Economy Project, Seychelles; the West Africa Marine Science Symposium in Accra, Ghana; and the WASCAL Cabo Verde School.

African researchers and organisations are also involved in numerous other projects (including early warning implementation, regional MSc programmes, Essential Ocean Variables (EOV) measurements and regional modelling not necessarily endorsed by the Ocean Decade Advisory Board due to a lack of information. This is something the Taskforce is addressing.

Additionally, Africa has seven operational National Decade Committees (NDCs). The Taskforce has played a major role in enhancing the visibility of the Ocean Decade within Africa and the Adjacent Island States. The Taskforce is also in the final stages of developing an umbrella African programme for the Ocean Decade titled “Science and Knowledge for a Resilient and Sustainable Ocean Economy in Africa”, while its proposal for an African Satellite Event at the 2024 Ocean Decade Conference in Barcelona was approved by the organising committee.

The Taskforce is chaired by Dr Jacqueline Uku and two vice-chairs, Prof. Amel Hamza-Chaffai of Tunisia and Dr Hassan Moustahfid of Morocco. More information about the Taskforce can be found by joining the Ocean Decade Network.

The meeting was chaired by Dr Jacqueline Uku (left), a senior research scientist and research coordinator at the Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute.

Prof Juliet Hermes (left), manager of NRF-SAEON’s Egagasini Node and a member of the Africa Taskforce, at the Ocean Decade meeting.

Achievements and milestones

The meeting commenced with a warm welcome from Jacqueline, who underscored the monumental strides made so far. Notably, the finalisation of the draft Ocean Decade umbrella programme document stands out as a testament to the collective dedication to leave a lasting legacy. The concept note for the Africa Satellite Event at the 2024 Ocean Decade Conference, enriched by new partnerships including ECOPS, demonstrated a growing network’s commitment to a thoughtful and blended programme.

Focus areas and challenges

The need for a comprehensive communication strategy emerged as a major focus. Despite a year of significant efforts, the group acknowledged the need to enhance visibility, suggesting that each member delivers a monthly talk to bridge the awareness gap.

The Taskforce workplan, encompassing resource mobilisation, National Decade committees and monitoring and evaluation of the Roadmap, also took centre stage. The imperative to establish these structures was emphasised, especially in the context of African aspirations for the Decade.

Proposals for the future

A proposal to develop a policy-oriented brief on the “future of ocean science in Africa” and a call to establish an African framework for long-term ocean science, mirroring Horizon Europe, reflected the group’s commitment to transformative visions. These bold proposals seek to catalyse change by offering honest assessments and sustainable funding mechanisms.

Tackling challenges: Coordinating and communicating

Discussion around the proposed Africa Ocean Decade programme and taskforce strengths revealed concerns about duplication and the necessity for prioritisation. Governance issues emerged as a common thread, prompting reflections on the outcomes the group aims to achieve in the first phase.

Opportunities and collaborations

The group pondered the surprising lack of submissions on sustainable ocean economy in Africa and proposed a coordinated effort to address this gap. Suggestions to create a competence network or centre of excellence gained traction, emphasising the need to pool resources and knowledge.

A call to action

As the meeting concluded, the sense of purpose and urgency lingered. The group pledged to address communication gaps, enhance collaboration and explore funding opportunities collectively. The journey towards sustainable ocean management is ongoing, and each participant left with a renewed commitment to navigate the waves of progress.

Stay tuned for more updates as we embark on this exciting Ocean Decade journey.