Supporting the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development


Our livelihoods are directly tied to the health of the ocean. As the largest ecosystem on Earth, the ocean supports human health, wealth, and well being of coastal and inland communities around the world. Environmental stressors, population growth, and a changing climate will continue to negatively impact the ocean unless there are coordinated global actions to increase the resiliency of our marine ecosystems.


The United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development 2021-2030 calls for “the science we need for the ocean we want”, listing seven societal outcomes for an ocean that is clean, healthy and resilient, predicted, safe, sustainably harvested and productive, engaging and inspiring, with transparent and accessible data and technology.  To meet these outcomes, Earth observations can be harnessed to provide local and global ocean data for policy recommendations and implementation.




The Group on Earth Observations (GEO) is an intergovernmental partnership working to improve the availability, access and use of Earth observations for the benefit of society. GEO’s 109 Member Countries and 132 Participating Organizations work to actively improve and coordinate global EO systems and promote broad, open data sharing. GEO is supporting governments, UN agencies and individual scientists with Earth observations data on our world’s oceans and is committed to supporting this decade of action.


Through the GEO Blue Planet Initiative, GEO’s convening power and interdisciplinary work programme will be leveraged to organize and advance changes in Earth Observation data access, integration and utilization in support of the Decade on Ocean Science for Sustainable Development. Focusing on the knowledge gaps, scientific questions and priority areas that should be addressed, the following four cross-cutting themes align GEO’s work. Proposed contributions to these themes from GEO include:


Capacity building and technology transfer

  • Build upon existing networks within and outside of GEO by supporting linkages to stakeholders and other disciplines to address limitations and information gaps
  • Work to form new global networks for the sharing of Earth observation information and development of decision support tools related to fisheries, marine pollution, coastal zone management and socio-economic analysis of ocean observing benefits
  • Provide guidance to data providers and the research community about how they can be more responsive to those in charge of sustainable development planning related to the ocean
  • Support development of a comprehensive platform for integration across networks to support an improved and integrated system of system for obtaining ocean and coastal information
  • Partner with the IOC Ocean Best Practices System (OBPS) to develop, review, disseminate and implement best practices
  • Collaborate with the IOC and other groups to advance capacity building and technology transfer

Partnerships and financing

  • Work across the GEO work programme to increase awareness of the importance of ocean and coastal observations and solicit collaborations and contributions to support the Decade
  • Expand linkages with the seabed mapping community and GEO, especially through the GEBCO Seabed 2030, to promote and contribute to the global effort to map the ocean floor by 2030
  • Expand partnerships and linkages with the private sector


Access to information, data and knowledge

  • Work with the GEO community to develop projects that integrate data and information across the land-sea interface
  • Organize a series of workshops aimed at revolutionizing how biological coastal and marine data are shared and integrated with environmental and socio-economic data
  • Develop Earth observation applications and information related to thematic areas including fisheries, marine pollution and coastal hazard management for contribution to the GEO Knowledge Hub
  • Identify mechanisms for sustaining ocean and coastal data and apply novel approaches for extracting actionable information


Communication and awareness raising

  • Support communications for the Decade through GEO Blue Planet’s Ocean Communicators United group.
  • Organize a series of outreach events aimed at engaging civil society, particularly youth-led and youth-focused organizations, in ocean science
  • Promote citizen science within GEO to engage citizens on the importance of the ocean and data collection
  • Generate and disseminate information and strategies to address biodiversity conservation and use in the context of sustainable development and scientific research


These proposed contributions were gathered by GEO Blue Planet from various GEO groups at the 2019 GEO Week side event. Read more below:




The GEO Blue Planet Initiative commits to working with the GEO community to increase awareness of the importance of ocean and coastal observations at the ministerial level and working with the various GEO Work Programme activities to identify collaborations and contributions to support the Decade. GEO Blue Planet also commits to supporting communications for the Decade and leveraging Secretariat resources to support engagement workshops. The Marine Biodiversity Observation Network (MBON) of the GEO BON is committed to working with GEO Blue Planet and with other GEO efforts, and to continue to work directly with the IOC and the Executive Planning Group, to advance the objectives of the Decade for Ocean Science for Sustainable Development.

With these actions, GEO can leverage its partnerships and resources to connect stakeholders with EO for the sustainable future of our ocean.