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4. How Does the EU Practice Science Diplomacy?
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6. What Set of Skills Do I Need to Be a Good Science Diplomat?
7. Hands On! Case Studies
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5.3.3 Oceans

At the latest since the middle of the 20th century the oceans have been a tangible subject of international diplomacy and scientific endeavour. Even before, they were the scene of a multitude of disputes between the seafaring and trading powers. However, it was only after the foundation of the United Nations and the concomitant beginning of seabed policy, that very specific fields of action become interesting. Since then the oceans are touched by a diverse range of interests: “the ocean as military space (to stage weapons), as science (to expand knowledge), as resource (to be procured), and as environment (needing protection)” (Robinson, 2020, p. 151). This development led to promising scientific perspectives on the one hand and to potential conflict on the other, allowing – and urgently demanding in some case – the development of interfaces between science and diplomacy. Over time, it became clear that an international legal framework and agreement was required. After a series of different treaties, the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) came into force, being “one of the most important pieces of international law drafted in the 20th century” (Robinson, 2018, p. 1; UN, 1982/1994). Since the oceans are a crucial factor for some of the most urging global challenges, e.g. climate change, migration, and secure nutrition, the negotiation still has to go on: “By now ocean governance in the face of ocean change requires urgent actions which should not be weak political statements of goodwill but legally binding norms within the hard law mechanisms and rightfully enforceable acts on international entities” (Sikiera, 2021, p. 8).

Multilateral science diplomacy is driving research cooperation on oceans and polar areas, and opens up ways to combat the threats posed by pollution, micro-plastics, overfishing and rising sea levels (Cf. Hatje et al., 2021; Su and Mayer, 2018). The United Nations presented an ambitious research agenda with the UN Decade of Ocean Research for Sustainable Development (2021-2030). Under the slogan “The Science We Need for The Ocean We Want” (UN 2019), the goal is to make oceans and seas clean, healthy, productive, predictable, safe, accessible and inspiring by 2030. “Ocean science diplomacy” (Polejack, 2021) is the most important pillar for this endeavour and for many intergovernmental organizations such as the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC), the International Seabed Authority (ISA) and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The IPCC (created in 1988) is an excellent example for well-established science diplomacy mechanisms. Many scientists contribute to its periodic assessments and provide the necessary data and knowledge for the public, political and scientific arenas and discourses that are related to climate and ocean change. But there is still a lot to do, as Sikiera (2021) points out: “There is an undeniably increased need for transboundary ocean cooperation at the institutional and governance level” (Sikiera, 2021, p. 9).

Read more about the development of Ocean Science Diplomacy in the reference below:>

– Hatje, Vanessa et al. (2021), Pollutants in the South Atlantic Ocean: Sources, Knowledge Gaps and Perspectives for the Decade of Ocean Science, in: Frontiers in Marine Science, 8 (Link) (accessed 3 February 2022)
Polejack, Andrei (2021), The Importance of Ocean Science Diplomacy for Ocean Affairs Global Sustainability and the UN Decade of Ocean Science, in: Frontiers in Marine Science, 8 (Link) (accessed 3 February 2022)
Robinson, Sam (2018), Co-production of science and diplomacy in environmental monitoring: the case of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, Case Study n°7.2 of InsSciDE (EU Horizon 2020 Project) (Link) (accessed 3 February 2022)
Robinson, Sam (2020), Scientific imaginaries and science diplomacy: The case of ocean exploitation, in: Centaurus, 63(1): 150–170 (Link) (accessed 3 February 2022)
Sikiera, Joanna (2021), Ocean Diplomacy as a Promising Solution to Climate Change, in: Science Diplomacy, 4(4), 8-10 (Link) (accessed 3 February 2022)
Su, Ping and Maximilian Mayer (2018), Science Diplomacy and Trust Building: ‘Science China’ in the Arctic, in: Global Policy, 9(3) (Link) (accessed 3 February 2022)
UN (1982/1994), United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), signed on 10 December 1982, in force since 1994 (Link) (accessed 3 February 2022)
UN (2019), United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development: “The Science We Need for the Ocean We Want” (Link) (accessed 3 February 2022)