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OCEAN CITIZEN at the Ocean Decade Conference in Barcelona: Promoting Collaboration and Engagement

OCEAN CITIZEN at the Ocean Decade Conference in Barcelona: Promoting Collaboration and Engagement

During this Decade, it is our duty and opportunity to identify, prioritise, and implement solutions for the conservation and restoration of the ocean. To ensure success, effective measurement, management, and implementation of evidence-based decisions are essential to advance ocean protection. We have the data and know enough to act, but we still need to know more to act effectively.

From April 10th to 12th, the city of Barcelona hosted the 2024 United Nations Ocean Decade Conference, an event of utmost importance that brought together over 1,500 in-person participants and thousands more virtually. This conference, co-organized with UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC/UNESCO), was the highlight of a week entirely dedicated to the ocean, spanning from April 8th to 12th. Throughout this eventful week, participants had the opportunity to reflect on the accomplishments of the Ocean Decade’s first three years and collectively shape a shared vision for the years ahead.

During the conference, OCEAN CITIZEN was highly visible due to its commitment to the UN Ocean Decade challenges  and its status as a Lighthouse project of EU Mission Ocean. Prior to the official start of the conference, we had the opportunity to take part in the “Life on Shore” satellite event within the framework of the UN Ocean Week, where UGI, one of the project’s partners, was able to present the project.

Some of the project’s partners also attended the official conference sessions, contributing to discussions on the future of the oceans, marine conservation, among other issues. Besides, we also had the opportunity to showcase an OCEAN CITIZEN poster that highlights the importance of communication and storytelling in connecting with the public.

Discovering other restoration projects

During the initial days of the Ocean Decade Week, OCEAN CITIZEN participated in the satellite event “Life on Shore: Effective Marine and Coastal Restoration for Nature and People,” coordinated by DTU Aqua. Held at the new facilities of Port Olimpic in Barcelona, this event showcased international initiatives and projects focused on science-based efforts to restore and protect oceans. We had the opportunity to share insights on social and economic integration in restoration efforts, emphasising the importance of inclusive policy-making processes.

The event brought together four large scale Atlantic research projects (Mission Atlantic, FutureMares, OCEAN CITIZEN, and Marco-Bolo) and three groundbreaking initiatives – the Kelp Forest Challenge for global kelp forest restoration, the Africa-led Great Blue Wall initiative to restore mangroves in the Western Indian Ocean, and the grassroot NGO Hahatay addressing local impacts on Senegal’s marine ecosystems, who were unfortunately unable to present their project due to visa issues. Together, we discussed ongoing restoration efforts and key policy challenges, aiming to raise awareness among the public and policymakers about effective restoration solutions for nature and people.

“Life on Shore” satellite event

The conference begins: sharing progress and building synergies

Besides taking part in the official sessions, we also got to display a poster on OCEAN CITIZEN, addressing one of the key themes prevalent throughout the conference: the significance of ocean literacy and communication in advancing the Ocean Decade Challenge 10: reshaping humanity’s relationship with the ocean. At OCEAN CITIZEN, we share a commitment to this perspective, and our efforts are focused on implementing innovative and pragmatic communication strategies within our project framework.

For this reason, a Communication and Dissemination Plan was developed by Submon at the very early stages of the project. We firmly believe that storytelling, as well as art, are important to connect and engage with our public, as a form of communication to promote participation and ocean literacy knowledge. In this sense we showcased OCEAN CITIZEN’s approach to communication, highlighting the great value that the project places on the implementation of effective communication strategies and on the co-creation and development of a creative narrative to explain complex scientific concepts.

Key takeaways from the conference

One of the main takeaways from the conference was the pivotal role of science as a unifying and mediating tool for knowledge in times of uncertainty. However, it was also stressed that science should not be the only voice or the only tool available. For example, it was also highlighted the importance of merging science, art and creativity to promote ocean literacy and to awaken curiosity about one of the most unfamiliar environments for many people. By integrating these perspectives, we can build bridges between scientific knowledge and the general public, enabling a deeper understanding and more meaningful connection to the ocean and its ecosystems, leaving no one behind.

Intervention of Pascal Lamy - during the Session Turn ideas into action. The Mediterranean Lighthouse as a pilot to upscale the challenges of the Decade from local to global

Participating in this significant event has been both enriching and inspiring. It has reinforced the importance of collaboration and engagement in driving action for positive change. As reiterated during the panel discussions, hope and collaboration are essential for driving meaningful progress, especially in restoration processes. OCEAN CITIZEN remains committed to this vision, working towards involving everyone in shaping a sustainable future for our ocean.

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