The Southern Ocean contribution to the UN Ocean Decade

In progress

01.01.21 → 31.12.30

In 2017, the United Nations proclaimed a Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (hereafter referred to as the UN Ocean Decade) from 2021 until 2030 to support efforts to reverse the cycle of decline in ocean health. To achieve this ambitious goal, this initiative aims to gather ocean stakeholders worldwide behind a common framework that will ensure ocean science can fully support countries in creating improved conditions for sustainable development of the world’s oceans.


The initiative strives to strengthen the international cooperation needed to develop the scientific research and innovative technologies that can connect ocean science with the needs of society at the global scale.

Based on the recommendations in the Implementation Plan of the United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (Version 2.0, July 2021), the Southern Ocean community engaged in a stakeholder- oriented process to develop the Southern Ocean Action Plan. The Southern Ocean process engaged a broad community, which includes the scientific research community, the business and industry sector, and governance and management bodies.

As part of this global effort, the Southern Ocean Task Force identified the needs of the Southern Ocean community to address the challenges related to the unique environmental characteristics and governance structure of the Southern Ocean. Through this community-driven process, we identified synergies within the Southern Ocean community and beyond in order to elaborate an Action Plan that provides a framework for Southern Ocean stakeholders to formulate and develop tangible actions and deliverables that support the UN Ocean Decade vision.

With funding obtained via the Belgian Science Policy Office (BELSPO), the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences (RBINS) took on a leading role in:

  1. coordinating the Southern Ocean Task Force,
  2. guiding the Southern Ocean process,
  3. writing and developing the Southern Ocean Action Plan, and
  4. organizing a series of meetings and workshops to identify key research priorities for the Southern Ocean.

The Southern Ocean Decade and Polar Data Forum Week 2021 was co-organised in September 2021 by RBINS and the European Polar Board (EPB). This event was dedicated to the 2nd Southern Ocean Regional Workshop and 4th edition of the Polar Data Forum. This week-long event gathered 400+ participants with diverse backgrounds, which allowed for cross-fertilisation of ideas between researchers, data managers, policymakers, business, and industry representatives, etc.

The Southern Ocean contribution to the UN Ocean Decade culminated in the publication of the Southern Ocean Action Plan in April 2022. Through the publication of the Southern Ocean Action Plan, the Southern Ocean Task Force aims to mobilise the Southern Ocean community and inspire all stakeholders to seek engagement and leverage opportunities to deliver innovative solutions that maintain and foster the unique conditions of the Southern Ocean. This framework provides an initial roadmap to strengthen links between science, industry and policy, as well as to encourage internationally collaborative activities in order to address existing gaps in our knowledge and data coverage.

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Belspo is funding the 2nd Southern Ocean Regional Workshop and Polar Data Forum IV, two events co-hosted by RBINS and EPB in September 2021.

Internal members

  • Annemie Janssen
  • Anton Van de Putte

Other members

  • Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR)
  • SCAR Antarctic Biodiversity Portal (, Regional node for OBIS)
  • Southern Ocean Observing System (SOOS)
  • European Polar Board (EPB)
  • Polar Data Discovery Enhancement Research (POLDER)
  • International Oceanographic Data and Information Exchange (IODE) of IOC/UNESCO
  • Integrated Climate and Ecosystem Dynamics of the Southern Ocean (ICED)
  • Scientific Committee for Oceanic Research (SCOR)
  • The WMO/IOC-UNESCO/ISC World Climate Research Programme (WCRP)
  • Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research (NIOZ)
  • CLIVAR/CliC/SCAR Southern Ocean Region Panel
  • International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators (IAATO)
  • Pew Charitable Trusts
  • World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF)

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