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GYBN at UNESCO Ocean Literacy Conference

UNESCO Ocean Literacy Conference in Venice, Dec 4-5, 2017

Yoko Lu, January 18, 2018 20:50 EET

Ocean Literacy (OL) Conference was one of the most inspiring conferences which I have attended. I am pleased to represent as GYBN member to attend the conference. The venue was at the headquarter of UNESCO in Venice, with a diverse range of unique buildings and narrow streets, crowded with housing units and shops. Getting to the venue was zigzagging through the maze of twisting alleys and I was lost in no time.

OL Conference lasted two days with the first day involving extra activities which were visiting the arsenal in the central location and enjoying cocktail getting to know each other. Cocktail, however, turned out to be proper dinner style, with small dishes of Italian style fried meat, seafood, and vegetables. At the arsenal, unique approaches such as using satellite imagery and remote sensing were introduced.

The conference started with the UNESCO representative and host of the conference, Francesca Santoro, followed up with OL experts from various ocean-related organizations of all levels, including NGOs, NPOs, government, and private sectors. Around 100 attendees from all over the world, both young and old, attended the conference with the majority from EU. Attendees and speakers included Mariasole Bianco from IUCN, Paula Keener from NOAA, and Peter Tuddenham, one of the original OL initiators.

Not only did the conference emphasize the importance for the marine education especially at the young age, but it has also placed key focus on cultural and social aspects in the field of oceans, as well as viewpoints from politic and scientific community. Many of the conference attendees and speakers were not from scientific background, whereas some of the attendees were researchers and professors. The key message was that it was essential for the non-scientists, scientists, and politicians to implement the systematic approach towards ocean literacy. Artists were present at the conference, with several speakers being creative innovators themselves, showcased their organization’s work for the oceans. It was important to spread out the word to the public about the oceans that it is not just the only ocean that matters, but also the rest of the waterbody.

At the end of the conference, attendees were grouped up and discussed about the next steps that should be implemented into the OL initiative of the UNESCO. Groups were first divided into different sections discussing what should be improved and incorporated into the OL. Second part of the group discussion was divided into five groups: formal education (schools), information education (non-school), private sector, government and politicians, and scientific community.

Francesca Santoro (Right) is the main representative of OL

Each attendee had the option to choose the group and contribute to the discussion. Results were then presented in front of everyone. Some key results were:

1. Policy & Government: -Encourage mandatory inclusion of OL in school curricula at global/commonwealth level

-Identify OL specific commitments to offer collaborative assistance

-Brief shortly on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for policy makers linking OL across all SDGs

-Share country index of OL strategies internationally

2. Formal education

-Set OL as top action priorities for schools

-Train teachers and hold teacher conference on OL

-Involve OL leaders in discussion and develop communication strategy

-Integrate OL into school curriculum (new and existing)

3. Informal education

-Implement capacity building and training for youth education

-Build toolkits to address gaps within reigons

-Develop adaptive management strategy for each region

-Create baseline surveys on gaps in OL by country and/or by region

4. Private sector & civil society

-Integrate groups and integrate OL

-Develop material and tool kits

-Design modules

-Implement capacity development in each sector

5. Scientific Communities

-Collaborate between scientific community and stakeholders

-Develop policy for scientific community (i.e. guidelines and regulations)

-Design evaluation model of OL

-Promote fundraising opportunities

These results will be in the process of the OL implementation, along with the initial information input by the attendees a few days prior to the conference, and these are currently in the update process.

Overall, it was an extremely positive experience and highly recommended opportunity for everyone to attend, especially the youth, as it was an excellent chance for networking with professionals. Such opportunity is the starting point for the youth to connect with professionals and the stepping point for the career. It is important to note that education at school is not the only life path that leads to career, but also professional opportunity with such major actor in the field, and of course, smaller and less known conferences are the key to success as well. It is crucial to experience beyond the basic step and extend beyond the niche and challenge yourself to the new world.

Group discussion stage

Useful links:

Online version of toolkit:

Link for SDG14:

United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021-2030)


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