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Accueil > Uniting for the Oceans: Oceans, People and Stewardship - Mise à jour: 04-09-2002 12:12 pm

Pas disponible en Français.Disponible en Anglais.
Address by Mr Koïchiro Matsuura, Director-General of UNESCO, Johannesburg, Water Dome, 2 September 2002  

DG-ioc.jpg Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am pleased to have this opportunity to address you today. The notion of an ‘Ocean Agenda’ is one which UNESCO, through its Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC), has long been promoting, and we have actively sought to bring together a coalition of organizations in support of the ocean.

The importance of the ocean is paramount for all human beings and, indeed, all living things. The ocean has played an essential role in establishing the basis of the life-support system on Earth and it is responsible for maintaining its long-term stability. Without the ocean, in fact, there would no be life on the planet.

Through its ceaseless striving for development, humankind’s ever-increasing use of natural resources is having such an impact on the environment that it is affecting the very stability of the Earth’s life-support system. This situation is unprecedented in human history.

Climate change is perhaps the best known of these effects but it is not the only one. This year, the world is witnessing a series of climatic “extreme events”, including floods and droughts affecting Europe, Asia and North America. Extreme events are increasing in frequency, an effect clearly related to global warming. It has been forecast that an El Niño event, another type of extreme event, may develop and mature towards the end of the year. Summer floods in northern Europe and increased rainfall at mid-latitudes may also be precursor signals of the coming El Niño. The fact that we still are uncertain points toward the limitations of our current understanding of these complex phenomena, and to the insufficiency of our networks of instruments observing the ocean today. We and our partners have recognized that improved monitoring of the oceans is imperative if an effective and benevolent stewardship of the oceans is to be achieved.

Through the IOC, UNESCO has a mandate as the UN focal point for ocean science and ocean services. UNESCO, in close collaboration with WMO, UNEP, ICSU and many other partners, has been endeavouring to build the Global Ocean Observing System (GOOS). To illustrate the importance of strengthening this vital data-gathering system, let me refer again to the El Niño phenomenon. When an El Niño event starts, the first unequivocal signal is detected under the surface of the ocean, specifically in the western equatorial Pacific Ocean. This signal is picked up by a set of 70 buoys, anchored to the sea-bed, truly an archipelago of small artificial floating islands in the tropical Pacific. This array of buoys forms part of the Global Ocean Observing System coordinated by IOC.

Gathering crucial information is one thing, disseminating it is another. To bring the power of science and technology to bear on promoting the sustainable development of oceans, coasts and islands, it is essential that the results of science are made widely available to governments and to the different segments of society.

Recent scientific reports have been able to document that man-made disturbances of ocean ecosystems began in pre-historic times, when our ancestors started to hunt and fish for the first time. Agriculture, another key cultural achievement of humankind, is responsible for the extensive transformation of the Earth’s landscape that we see around us today. Ice ages and other climatic variations of the past subjected the human species to severe demographic stress that brought it to the brink of extinction. The ability of humankind to go through these adverse periods is imprinted in our genetic code and also contained in the traditional knowledge handed down and transmitted through the world’s diverse cultures.

In these difficult times, when peace and human security are menaced not only by climate change but also by poverty, other inequities and a new wave of intolerance, science stands as one of humanity’s richest cultural traditions. Through its ability to shed light upon our common concerns and our uncertain path to the future, science can help us to grapple with complex, long-term problems which defy easy or rapid solution.

As a knowledge system, modern science is a product of distinctive cultural processes. In this perspective, it is wrong to place culture on one side of UNESCO’s mission and to situate the promotion and development of scientific knowledge and capacity-building on the other. We believe that these are complementary approaches to sustainability and should not be considered as mutually exclusive.

To this end, and in the perspective of our long cultural evolution, we must draw upon traditional knowledge and diverse cultural understandings as well as scientific programmes. Consequently, UNESCO wishes to contribute to the sustainability of the oceans in the framework of all of its programmes, not only in terms of science. By addressing the sustainability of the oceans in this multi-faceted way, UNESCO will seek to show that the oceans are vitally implicated in many dimensions of our search for peace, security and development.

Thank you.


Date 01-09-2002 10:00 pm
Document JOHANNESBURG Oceans People and Stewarship.doc 27648 octets (Aide pour le téléchargement)


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