UNESCO is the specialized United Nations agency responsible for coordinating international cooperation in education, science, culture and communication. UNESCO has a unique and comprehensive mandate that covers key ocean elements:
Ocean science and sustainable management:
The Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) of UNESCO holds a universal mandate and global convening power for ocean science and capacity development in support of the 2030 Agenda and its sustainable goals. With a strong regional presence in Africa, the Caribbean, the Indian Ocean and the Western Pacific, the IOC provides field expertise in all ocean basins, and works in cooperation with UN and international partners to coordinate ocean-related activities in 148 Member States. Over its 55 years, UNESCO’s IOC has developed a strong outreach capacity to mobilize national policy makers, scientific institutions and civil society toward conserving ocean health; coordinating early warning systems for ocean hazards such as tsunami; ensuring ecosystem resilience to climate change; and constantly developing knowledge of emerging ocean issues. The Global Ocean Science Report, IOC-UNESCO's flagship publication, provides every five years a worldwide stocktaking of national ocean science capacities.
The UNESCO Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage was adopted in 2001 in order to combat the extensive pillage, commercial exploitation and illicit or unethical traffic of underwater cultural heritage. It is a comprehensive treaty, which fully addresses these issues regarding all waters. It increases the legal protection of sites in situ and prohibits the illicit and/or unethical recovery and traffic of artefacts. The Convention is thus very relevant at a time when the pillage and commercial exploitation of underwater cultural heritage as well as the industrialization of the seabed constitute major issues that have not yet found an appropriate solution in most regions of the world.
Marine World Heritage:
The 1972 UNESCO World Heritage Convention unites nations behind a shared commitment to preserve the world's outstanding heritage for the benefit of present and future generations. The UNESCO World Heritage List includes today 49 unique ocean places, including icons such as the Great Barrier Reef, the Galapagos Islands or the Wadden Sea. Together these sites cover about 10 percent by surface area of all existing marine protected areas. Their disappearance would be an irreversible loss to humanity.
Ocean-Fresh Water Nexus:
UNESCO works to build the scientific knowledge base to help countries manage their water resources in a sustainable way through the International Hydrological Programme (IHP), leading the UN-wide World Water Development Report and with the support of numerous research centers and UNESCO Chairs on water around the world.