Updated in September 2013
History of UN-Oceans
In 1992, the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development ("the Earth Summit") adopted Agenda 21 - an international programme of action for global sustainable development for the 21st century. Chapter 17 of Agenda 21 specifically deals with the protection of the oceans and the protection and rational use and development of their living resources. To present a coordinated and comprehensive view of UN agency activities in support of Chapter 17, the UN agencies dealing with oceans and coastal issues formed the Sub-committee on Oceans and Coastal Areas of the Administrative Committee on Coordination (ACC SOCA) in 1993.
Following a review of coordination mechanisms of the ACC in November 2001, the ACC concluded that all existing subsidiary bodies should cease to exist by the end of 2001 and that future inter-agency support requirements would best be handled through ad hoc, time-bound, task-oriented arrangements using a lead agency approach. Subsequent consultations between the UN Programs and Agencies participating in the coordination of oceans and coasts indicated strong interest in developing a new inter-agency coordinating mechanism consistent with the new arrangements being developed in the United Nations system.
In September 2003, the United Nations High-Level Committee on Programmes approved the creation of an Oceans and Coastal Areas Network (subsequently named "UN-Oceans") to build on SOCA, covering a wide range of issues and composed of the relevant programmes, entities and specialized agencies of the UN system and the secretariats of the relevant international conventions, including the International Seabed Authority and the Convention on Biological Diversity. Following recommendations from the Informal Consultative Process and taking into account the decisions of the World Summit on Sustainable Development in this regard, the 57th Session of the General Assembly invited the Secretary-General to establish an effective, transparent and regular inter-agency coordination mechanism on oceans and coastal issues within the United Nations system. UNESCO / IOC hosted the first meeting of UN-Oceans in January 2005.
The objective of UN-Oceans Network is to enhance cooperation and coordination among Secretariats of the International Organizations and Bodies concerned with ocean related activities. UN-Oceans noted the goals adopted by WSSD, namely:
It also recognized the requirement for effective coordination and cooperation at the origin of the establishment of the Network by the 57th session of the UN General Assembly (A/RES/57/141) and the strong connection with the Open-ended Informal Consultative Process on Oceans and Law of the Sea (UNICPOLOS, hereafter called ICP) and the functions the latter identified for the Network (from Terms of Reference for the Oceans and Coastal Areas Network (UN-Oceans) presented at ICP-4):
UN-Oceans noted that in order to cover political, legal, security, economic, social, and environmental aspects, it should include, in addition to the former SOCA members, international financial and other institutions such as the Convention on Biological Diversity.
UN-Oceans agreed that any secretariat in the UN system may become a member through a simple expression of will. In the list that follows, all the organizations that participated in the previous work of SOCA, or in the informal coordination for the ICP meetings have been included, as well as those organizations that have expressed their interest to participate. An explicit call has also been made to financial institutions. The list of potential members includes: UN-DESA, UN-DOALOS, UN-OHRLSS, FAO, IOC, UNESCO, UNEP, World Bank, IMO, WMO, UNDP, IAEA, CBD, ISA, ILO, UNIDO, WHO, UNHSP ("UN-HABITAT"), UNFCCC, Ramsar, UNCTAD, UNU, OECD, and IHO.
UN-Oceans agreed that the participation of relevant international NGOs and other international stakeholders in the work of the UN-Oceans Task Forces should be encouraged under the responsibility of the lead institutions coordinating the task forces. UN-Oceans also agreed that I-NGOs should be invited to contribute to the activities of the task forces and might be invited to attend selected items of the UN-Oceans agenda.
Links and Downloads for Agency Programmes
Who does what within the UN system for oceans and coastal area issues ?
for Ocean Affairs and Law of the Sea (UN-DOALOS) of the Office
of Legal Affairs has consistently been recognized for its role in contributing
to the wider acceptance and rational and consistent application of the
United Nations Convention on the Law of
the Sea. Its mandate, as spelled out by the General Assembly
of the United Nations and in the Secretary-General's Bulletin, is to carry
out the responsibilities entrusted to the Secretary-General upon the adoption
of the Convention and fulfill the functions associated with its entry
into force. More specifically, the Division monitors developments in all
relevant areas in order to report annually to the General Assembly on
matters relating to the law of the sea and ocean affairs. Further, it
formulates recommendations to the Assembly and other intergovernmental
forums aimed at promoting a better understanding of the Convention, and
ensures that the Organization has the capacity to respond to requests
for advice and assistance from States in the implementation of the Convention.
The Division serves as the secretariat of the United Nations Convention
on the Law of the Sea and provides information, advice and assistance
to States with a view to promoting a better understanding of the Convention
and the related Agreements, their wider acceptance, uniform and consistent
application and effective implementation. Since 1999, the Division
has serviced the meetings of the United Nations
Open-ended informal consultative process on oceans and the law of the
sea established by the General Assembly in its resolution
54/33 in order to facilitate its annual review, in an effective and constructive
manner, of developments in ocean affairs by considering the Secretary-Generals
annual reports on oceans and the law of the sea and by suggesting particular
issues to be considered by the General Assembly. The Division also provides
secretariat services to the Meetings of States Parties to the Convention
and to the Commission on the Limits of the
Continental Shelf. The Division maintains and routinely
updates a comprehensive information system
and reference library on the law of the sea and ocean affairs,
including databases on ocean-related legislative materials, national profiles
and marine mineral resources. As part of its continuing effort to promote
understanding of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea,
its wider acceptance, uniform and consistent application, and effective
implementation, the Division for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea
has undertaken educational and training programmes aimed at capacity building
at the national level and the regional levels, for the purpose of achieving
these goals. The Division's educational activities are carried out primarily
under the Hamilton Shirley Memorial Fellowship Programme, and its training
activities under the TRAIN-SEA-COAST Programme, as well as the Technical
Cooperation Trust Fund Agreement Between the United Nations and the Nippon
Foundation of Japan.
of Economic and Social Affairs (UN-DESA) - The Division for Sustainable
Development of UN-DESA promotes sustainable
development as the substantive secretariat to the UN Commission
on Sustainable Development (CSD) and through technical cooperation and
capacity building at international, regional and national levels. (see
UN-OCEANS compilation for ocean and coastal area issues in WSSD).
UN Office of the High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States (UN-OHRLSS) - The United Nations Office of the High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and the Small Island Developing States (UN-OHRLLS) was established by the United Nations General Assembly in 2001 through its resolution 56/227 with functions recommended by the Secretary-General in paragraph 17 of his report A/56/645. In this same resolution the General Assembly requested Member States, all United Nations system organizations, and other relevant multilateral organizations to extend full support and cooperation to the Office of the High Representative.
The key functions of the Office of the High Representative in accordance with the Secretary-General’s report A/56/645 are as follows:
(a) To assist the Secretary-General in ensuring the full mobilization and coordination of all parts of the United Nations system, with a view to facilitating the coordinated implementation of and coherence in the follow-up and monitoring of the Programme of Action for the Least Developed Countries at the country, regional and global levels;
(b) To provide coordinated support to the Economic and Social Council as well as the General Assembly in assessing progress and in conducting the annual review of the implementation of the Programme of Action;
(c) To support, as appropriate, the coordinated follow-up of the implementation of the Global Framework This Global Framework has now been replaced by the Almaty Declaration and Programme of Action, 2003 for Transit Transport Cooperation between Landlocked and Transit Developing Countries and the Donor Community and the Programme of Action for the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States;
(d) To undertake appropriate advocacy work in favour of the least developed countries, landlocked developing countries and small island developing States in partnership with the relevant parts of the United Nations as well as with the civil society, media, academia and foundations;
(e) To assist in mobilizing international support and resources for the implementation of the Programme of Action for the Least Developed Countries and other programmes and initiatives for landlocked developing countries and small island developing States;
(f) To provide appropriate support to group consultations of Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States.
Nations Development Programme (UNDP) - UNDP is the UNs global
development network, an organization advocating for change
and connecting countries to knowledge, experience and resources to help
people build a better life. UNDP's focus is helping countries build and
share solutions to the challenges of Democratic Governance, Poverty Reduction,
Crisis Prevention and Recovery, Energy and Environment,
and HIV/AIDS. UNDP helps developing countries attract and use aid effectively.
Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) - UNEP's mission is to provide
leadership and encourage partnership in caring for the environment
by inspiring, informing, and enabling nations and peoples to improve their
quality of life without compromising that of future generations. Activities
in marine and coastal areas include the Global Programme of Action for
the Protection of the Marine Environment from
Land Based Activities, the Global International
Waters Assessment, the Small Island Developing States Network,
the International Coral Reef Action Network, the World Conservation Monitoring
Center, Earthwatch, and Regional Seas Conventions.
and Agriculture Organization (FAO)- The mission of the Fisheries and Aquaculture Department of FAO is to facilitate and secure the long-term sustainable
development and utilization of the worlds fisheries
and aquaculture. FAO is acutely aware of the fundamental
social and economic role played by the fisheries
sector in meeting global and national sustainable food
security, providing self and paid employment for fishing communities as
a means of alleviating poverty in fishing communities and stemming rural/urban
drift, contributing to national and international trade, and generating
national income. Underpinning these basic social and economic objectives
is the requirement for fisheries and aquaculture
to be responsibly managed. The Fisheries and Aquaculture Department therefore
provides, on the request of Members, technical
assistance in all aspects of fisheries and aquaculture
management and development.
Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (IOC-UNESCO) - The Intergovernmental
Oceanographic Commission of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (IOC-UNESCO) provides Member States of the United
Nations with an essential mechanism for global
cooperation in the study of the ocean, with programs that
focus on marine environmental protection,
ecosystem dynamics, climate change, global observing systems, data and
information management, coastal area management, and disaster management.
Through the Joint IOC/WMO Technical Commission for Oceanography
and Marine Meteorology (JCOMM) it coordinates and manages the implementation
of an operational ocean observing system in support of the Global
Ocean Observing system (GOOS) and the Global
Climate Observing system (GCOS) in
support of the United Nations Framework
Convention on Climate Change.
Bank (WB) - The World Bank Groups mission is to fight poverty
and improve the living standards of people in the developing world. It
is a development Bank which provides loans, policy advice, technical assistance
and knowledge sharing services to low and middle income countries to reduce
poverty. Reducing poverty through sustainable
development is a global strategic priority for the survival
of our planet. For the World Bank this means dealing with the comprehensive
nature of development. This approach is reflected in the implementation
of projects and programs in partnership with the public and private sectors,
and civil society. Participation, empowerment, strengthened institutions,
environmental protection and conservation,
and focus on the rural poor are all foundations for sustained and inclusive
Maritime Organization (IMO) - The IMO is the UN Specialized Agency
responsible for improving maritime safety
and preventing pollution from
most important convention regulating and preventing marine pollution by
ships is the IMO International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution
from Ships, which covers accidental and operational
oil pollution as well as pollution
by chemicals, goods in packaged form, sewage, garbage and air pollution.
The International Convention on Oil Pollution
Preparedness, Response and Co-operation (OPRC) provides
a global framework for international co-operation in combating major incidents
or threats of marine pollution. A protocol to this convention (HNS Protocol)
covers marine pollution by hazardous and noxious
substances. IMO also has Secretariat responsibilities for
the Convention on the Prevention of Marine
Pollution by Dumping of Wastes and Other Matter (LDC),
generally known as the London Convention.
Organization (WMO) -
WMO is the specialized agency of the United Nations for meteorology
(weather and climate), operational hydrology and related
geophysical sciences. The Joint
IOC/WMO Technical Commission for Oceanography and Marine Meteorology (JCOMM)
coordinates and manages the implementation of an operational ocean observing
system in support of the Global Ocean Observing system (GOOS) and the
Global Climate Observing system (GCOS) in
support of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.
The WMO - ICSU - UNESCO/IOC World
Climate Research Programme is directed to provide scientifically
founded quantitative answers to the questions being raised on climate
and the range of natural climate variability, as well as to establish
the basis for predictions of global and regional
climatic variations and of changes in the frequency and
severity of extreme events. WMO
also provides the global infrastructure that develops and delivers products
and services, which are critical for the development of international,
regional and national natural disaster risk management and response strategies.
International Labour Organization (ILO) - The International Labour Organization (ILO) is devoted to advancing opportunities for women and men to obtain decent and productive work in conditions of freedom, equity, security and human dignity. Its main ims are to promote rights at work, encourage decent employment opportunities, enhance social protection and strengthen dialogue in handling work-related issues.
United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) - UNIDO mobilizes knowledge, skills, information and technology to promote productive employment, a competitive economy and a sound environment. It enhances cooperation at global, regional, national and sectoral levels focusing on three inter-related thematic priorities: Poverty Reduction through Productive Activities, Trade Capacity-Building, Energy and Environment.
Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) - The IAEA Marine Environment Laboratory
(IAEA-MEL) in Monaco was established in 1961 as part of the IAEA's Department
of Research and Isotopes and is the only marine
laboratory within the UN system. The promotion of nuclear
and isotopic techniques and the improved understanding
of marine radioactivity are central to the Laboratory's work carried out
in the framework of the IAEA's Programme H - Marine Environment, Water
Resources and Industry. Marine environmental
protection is the fundamental objective of IAEA-MELs
modus operandi and its international function results in its involvement
at the forefront of major world issues across a broad environmental spectrum.
Seabed Authority (ISBA) - The International Seabed Authority is
an autonomous international organization established under the 1982 United
Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and the 1994 Agreement relating
to the Implementation of Part XI of the United Nations Convention on the
Law of the Sea. The Authority is the organization through which States
Parties to the Convention shall, in accordance with the regime for the
seabed and ocean floor and subsoil thereof
beyond the limits of national jurisdiction> (the Area) established
in Part XI and the Agreement, organize and
control activities in the Area, particularly with a view
to administering the resources of the Area.
on Biological Diversity (CBD) - Conceived as a practical tool
for translating the principles of UNCED Agenda 21 into reality, the Convention
recognizes that biological diversity
is about more than plants, animals and micro organisms and their ecosystems
it is about people and our need for food security, medicines, fresh
air and water, shelter, and a clean and healthy environment in which to
live. In view of their common concern for the conservation and sustainable
use of marine and coastal biodiversity,
the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity agreed on a program
of action for implementing the Convention. The programme, called "Jakarta
Mandate on Marine and Coastal Biological Diversity" was adopted in
1995. Through its programme of work the Convention focuses on integrated
marine and coastal area management, the sustainable use of living resources,
marine and coastal protected areas, mariculture and alien species.
UN-Oceans agreed to operate as a flexible mechanism to review joint and overlapping ongoing activities and to support related deliberations of the ICP, coordinating as far as possible its meetings with ICP sessions.
UN-Oceans agreed to pursue time-bound initiatives, with well-defined terms of reference, through ad hoc Task Forces open to the participation of NGOs and other international stakeholders as required. These task forces, coordinated by a lead institution (with mandate and major activities in the specific issues being considered) will foster collaboration around existing joint activities (see inter-agency activities), already developing efforts (e.g. the Global Marine Assessment, GMA), as well as new emerging activities UN-Oceans will identify. The task forces will also collaborate as required with other existing and relevant mechanisms such as the Global International Water Assessment (GIWA), the Joint Group of Experts on the Scientific Aspects of Marine Environmental Protection (GESAMP) and the Global Oceans Observing System (GOOS).
that, in preparing its programme of work, it will take into account:
UN-Oceans decided that the Coordinator of UN-Oceans and a Deputy Coordinator shall normally be elected for a term of 2 years. In order to ensure consistency, UN-Oceans will aim at avoiding that both the Coordinator and the Deputy Coordinator end their term at the same time. At its May, 2010 meeting, UN-Oceans determined that the agency serving as Coordinator will also serve as the Secretariat for UN-Oceans for the period of the Coordinator's term.
Andrew Hudson United Nations Development Programme
Jacqueline Alder United Nations Environment Programme
United Nations Development Programme