The Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) of UNESCO has a recognized and unique role in the UN system in relation to ocean science and the science base for ocean and coastal management. It is recognized through the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) as the competent international organization in the fields of Marine Scientific Research (Part XIII) and Transfer of Marine Technology (Part XIV). Its status as a body with functional autonomy within UNESCO has been carefully designed to provide an efficient platform for coordination, information and sharing of knowledge to contribute to sustainable and peaceful development.

Enabling Member States to participate in and benefit from its programmes and actions has been a major goal of IOC’s activities since its beginning, which translated into a number of resolutions and documents. They included the development of a UNESCO/IOC Comprehensive Plan for a major assistance programme to enhance the marine science capabilities for developing countries (IOC/INF-612 , 1985), the development of an IOC Training, Education and Mutual Assistance Programme (TEMA) Strategy (TEMA-V/7, 1991) and Action Plan (TEMA V/9 , 1991-1995) as well as observations and experiences of TEMA implementation, 1984-1994 (IOC-XVIII/Inf.2 , 1995). IOC Criteria and Guidelines for the Transfer of Marine Technology (IOC/INF-1203 ) its implementation plan (IOC/INF-1212 ; 2005) and IOC Principles and Strategy for Capacity-building (IOC/INF-1211 , 2005), were adopted in 2003.

Since its establishment in 1960, IOC has built up a rich tradition of providing technical training, scholarships and fellowships, initially through the IOC’s TEMA (Training, Education and Mutual Assistance), and more recently through its Capacity Development section.



 IOC’s Capacity Development activities were reviewed by the Assembly at its 26th session (IOC-XXVI/3) in 2011. The review led to decisions calling for special attention on:

- sustaining existing capacity to develop management procedures and national policies in marine sciences as well as the establishment of regional training centres (IOC-XXVI/3, §61);
- developing capacity of the Member States to effectively participate in and benefit from all areas of IOC’s work for the maintenance of healthy ocean ecosystems (IOC-XXVI/3, §117);
- focusing on the growing needs of Africa and other regions including Small Island Developing States (SIDS) to foster public awareness and education (IOC-XXVI §147);
- responding to the growing Capacity Development needs of Member States (IOC-XXVI, §193) especially for the transfer of technology/cooperation for implementing Parts XIII and XIV of UNCLOS and the effective participation of Member States in regular assessment processes (e.g. World Ocean Assessment).

Further, the Rio+20 Outcome document The Future we Want recognizes, in its paragraphs 160 and 269-276, “the importance of building capacity of developing countries to benefit from the conservation and sustainable use of oceans and seas and their resources”. In addition this document emphasizes “the need for transfer of technology taking into account IOC’s Criteria and Guidelines on the transfer of marine technology”. IOC’s Criteria and Guidelines on the transfer of marine technology (CGTMT) are meant to contribute to Article 271 of UNCLOS. Marine technology according to these guidelines refers to “instruments, equipment, vessels, processes and methodologies required to produce and use knowledge to improve the study and understanding of the nature and resources of the ocean and coastal areas.”

The CGTMT further describes a list of marine technology types, and also identifies a set of criteria for Transfer of Marine Technology (TMT) as well as guidelines for implementation of TMT by IOC Furthermore, Capacity Development actions need to reinforce gender equality. Reference is also made to (i) the on-going negotiation related to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), in particular the proposed ocean SDG proposed by UN MS on Goal 14. Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development, and its target on CD: 14.a increase scientific knowledge, develop research capacities and transfer marine technology taking into account the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission Criteria and Guidelines on the Transfer of Marine Technology, in order to improve ocean health and to enhance the contribution of marine biodiversity to the development of developing countries, in particular SIDS and LDCs; (ii) Outcome document A/CONF.223/3* of the third International Conference on Small Island Developing States (Samoa 2014) and its paragraph 58 (f) To undertake marine scientific research and develop the associated technological capacity of small island developing States, including through the establishment of dedicated regional oceanographic centres (…)

The Regular Process through UNGA resolution 65/37 A §200 (December 2010 has expressed the need to start building capacity of Member States for the conduct of integrated marine assessments as a key priority. IOC has been requested to provide technical and scientific support to the World Ocean Assessment (WOA) including in Capacity Development areas. Marine assessments are an essential decision support mechanism for the ocean planning and policy framework.

It should be noted also that IOC has a long tradition of collaboration with other organizations within the United Nations (WMO, UNEP, UNDP, FAO, IMO, IHO) and outside (SCOR, ICES, PICES, POGO, IOI) as well as bilateral cooperation with specific Member States.



The IOC made a voluntary Commitment at the Rio+20 Conference (Brazil, 20–22 June 2012) on ‘Building Global Capacity for Marine Sciences, Observation and Transfer of Marine Technology’. This commitment was aimed at conducting a global and regional assessment of capacity development needs in the fields of marine scientific research, observation and data management within IOC Member States with focus on Developing States and Small Island Developing States (SIDS). The survey was conducted via national coordinating bodies for liaison with IOC in cooperation with the IOC Secretariat, its programmes and actions, the IOC regional Sub-Commissions and decentralized offices as well as the UNESCO National Commissions. Other qualified national and international experts as well as networks of other intergovernmental organizations also contributed to the survey.

Detailed results are given in IOC document IOC/INF-1313 , Baseline Study for an Assessment of National Capacities and Needs in Marine Research, Observation and Data/Information Management).

The assessment and the results of interviews on regional priorities as identified through the different IOC Sub-Commissions and relevant bodies show that requirements and priorities for capacity development varies from region to region, and that Capacity Development (CD) interventions need to adapt to regional priorities.

In many Member States, especially of Africa and SIDS, the affairs of the oceans and seas are still an emerging concept. Their capability to conduct ocean sciences is still limited. The scientific and technical capability to make the best use of transfer of marine technology is still lacking due to the low level of resources and priority given to ocean research. Accordingly, their awareness and their capability to effectively participate in and benefit from IOC programmes and actions as well as the global regular processes are low.

Many Member States have initiated actions to strengthen national capacities in the field. These actions go hand in hand with the efforts towards developing national strategies for oceans and coasts and seeking a more active role in international efforts for promoting knowledge about the oceans and their sustainable use. The emergence of the concept of blue economy (or ocean based economies) has also created in many developing nations incentives for focusing economic development plans on the exploitation and management of marine resources (for e.g. African Union strategy for oceans and seas-Horizon 2050) and to develop human institutional capacities needed to underpin these plans.

The forty-seventh Session of the IOC Executive Council approved the establishment of the Global Ocean Science Report (GOSR). The Global Ocean Science Report (GOSR) is envisaged to provide an overview on nations’ (i) investments, (ii) resources, and (iii) scientific productivity in ocean science. It would provide a tool for mapping and evaluating the human and institutional capacity of Member States in terms of marine research, observations and data/information management, as well as a global overview of the main fields of research interest, technological developments, capacity building needs and overall trends.

Because of its unique position within the UN system, the IOC is well placed to play a significant role in supporting its Member States in this special phase of their national development as it relates to the oceans. While continuing to make available the most effective of its current programmes and actions in CD to Member States, the IOC should explore new actions that better align CD interventions and Transfer Marine Technology (TMT) with national priorities. Furthermore, this provides an opportunity to promote “partnerships” rather than “simple assistance” in CD interventions and north-south and south-south cooperation. Accordingly within this goal, IOC could take a lead in integrating existing CD programs from UN or NGO organisations to optimize CD on a global scale.

In addition this strategy proposes reinforcement of gender equality and promotion of the role of women in IOC activities.

Through Decision IOC-XXVII/Dec.5.5.1 (Development of a New Capacity Development Strategy) the IOC Assembly (2013) established the Intersessional Working Group for the Development of IOC Capacity Development Strategic Plan (The full text of the Decision is available in Annex II).

The Forty-seventh Session of the Executive Council (2014) took note of the “Draft Capacity Development Strategy”, reconstituted the Intersessional Working Group for the IOC Capacity Development Strategy, with the Vice-Chairperson Prof Adoté Blim Blivi responsible for capacity development as Chairperson, and revised the Terms of Reference (see Annex III). The Council requested the Executive Secretary to include the Draft Strategic Plan for Capacity Development on the agenda of the IOC Assembly at its 28th session in 2015, and Member States to consider funding (as necessary) and supporting the activities leading to the formulation and adoption of the final version of the Capacity Development Strategy.

IOC Circular Letter 2531 (21 August 2014) invited Member States to designate members to the intersessional working group by 15 September 2014. This deadline was later extended to 15 October 2014. Member States who designated members of the working group are Angola, Argentina, Aruba, Australia, Belgium, Benin, Brazil, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cote d’Ivoire, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Egypt, France, Gambia, Germany, Ghana, India, Islamic Republic of Iran, Japan, Republic of Korea, Mauritius, Mozambique, Panama, Peru, Portugal, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Suriname, United Republic of Tanzania, Thailand, Togo, Trinidad and Tobago, Turkey, United States, Venezuela.



Subscribe to our Mailing List


Go to top