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UNESCO Platform Vlaanderen vzw International Oceanographic Data and Information Exchange United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization 10 YEARS UNESCO / IOC PROJECT OFFICE FOR IODE IN OSTEND TABLE OF CONTENTS INTRODUCTION 5 ABOUT THE IOC PROJECT OFFICE FOR IODE 7 IOC AND ITS IODE 8 - 9 COASTAL ATLASES10 - 11 THE IODE OCEAN DATA PORTAL12 - 13 MARINE INFORMATION MANAGEMENT14 - 15 OCEAN BIOGEOGRAPHIC INFORMATION SYSTEM16 - 17 UNESCO Platform Vlaanderen vzw HARMFUL ALGAL BLOOM INFORMATION SYSTEM18 - 19 United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization OCEAN TEACHER GLOBAL ACADEMY 20 - 21 - 22 This brochure was compiled at the initiative of UNESCO Platform Vlaanderen: a non-governmental organisation that offers news and background on UNESCO’s programmes and how Flanders contributes to them. UNESCO Platform Vlaanderen vzw Farasijnstraat 32, 8670 Koksijde T/F +32 (0)58 51 44 79 www.unesco-vlaanderen.be https://twitter.com/unescovl https://www.facebook.com/UnescoPlatformVlaanderen D/2015/9546/1 United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission International Oceanographic Data and Information Exchange This project was implemented with support from the Flemish Government. The Flemish Government cannot be held responsible for the content of this brochure. TSUNAMI SEA LEVEL SERVICE 23 THE CONTRIBUTION OF THE FLEMISH GOVERNMENT TO IOC 24 - 25 INTRODUCTION In 1999 the Flemish Government decided to engage in a formal partnership with UNESCO in the field of natural sciences by the creation of the Flanders-UNESCO Science Trust Fund (FUST). FUST was created to support UNESCO’s scientific programmes in a structured manner based on a number of commonly identified priorities. An important part of the fund is dedicated to the activities of the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) of UNESCO: the world’s premier body for ocean research, services and capacity development aiming to learn more about the nature and resources of the ocean and coastal areas and to apply that knowledge for the improvement of management, sustainable development, the protection of the marine environment, and the decisionmaking processes of its Member States. In 2005, the collaboration between Flanders and the IOC intensified with the opening of the UNESCO/IOC Project Office for IODE in Ostend, Belgium. This centre is primarily a training centre where data and information managers, mainly from developing countries, acquire the necessary knowledge and skills to function in the international context of oceanography data management and exchange, but the centre also organized courses for starting ocean researchers so they can familiarize themselves with the principles of data and information management. It is also a meeting place for experts to develop joint projects and discuss new technologies and applications. This publication marks the occasion of the tenth anniversary of the UNESCO/IOC Project Office for IODE in Ostend. The IODE programme was established by the IOC in 1961 to promote the international exchange of oceanographic data and information. It encourages researchers and institutions to make use of common standards that facilitate the exchange of data and ensures that Member States acquire the necessary capacities to function at the international level in the exchange of data and information and to conduct research. On the following pages you can read which services the IODE programme delivers to the international marine scientific community. Since 2012 the secretariat and data system of the Ocean Biogeographic Information System (OBIS) is also housed at the project office. Biodiversity data from over 500 institutes are combined into a central database. With more than 40 million distribution data of marine species OBIS contributes greatly to the marine scientific research and is the reference database for biodiversity evaluation and monitoring. The project office also focuses on the development and implementation of new technological applications in the field of oceanographic data and information management. This benefits different user communities worldwide. The immediate proximity of the Flanders Marine Institute (VLIZ) and related institutions and networks has been a key factor in the success of the project office because it allows to test new technologies in an operational environment. 5 INTRO (CONTINUATION) As a knowledge centre the project office is an important asset to the Flemish marine science community to develop and promote their knowledge and activities in an international context. Within the international community of ocean scientists nobody needs to be convinced of the importance of the project office. What has been achieved in Ostend over the past decade is so valuable that the centre will soon generate spin-offs. In the coming years training centres will be opened all over the world following the example of the project office. These centres will each focus on a specific region or language group. Consequently more students will be trained and the knowledge and training can be mutually shared. The project office will oversee the collaboration of these regional training centres. 6 ABOUT THE IOC PROJECT OFFICE FOR IODE The IOC Project Office for IODE was inaugurated on 25 April 2005. This was made possibly through substantial financial and in-kind support by the Government of Flanders and the Flanders Marine Institute (VLIZ) respectively. With the opening of the IOC Project Office for IODE the IODE programme entered a new era of capacity building and ocean data/information services. The main objectives of the Project Office are: to establish a creative environment facilitating the further development and maintenance of IODE and partner data and information management projects, services and products with emphasis on improving the efficiency and effectiveness of the data and product/service stream between the stage of sampling and the user; and to assist in strengthening the capacity of Member States to manage oceanographic data and information and to provide ocean data and information products and services required by users. TO ACHIEVE THESE OBJECTIVES THE IOC PROJECT OFFICE CARRIES OUT THE FOLLOWING ACTIVITIES: develop, strengthen and maintain IOC/IODE ocean data and information management training programmes and training tools; provide an environment (‘think tank’) where ocean data and information experts and students can work, meet and discuss; develop, host and maintain IOC/IODE’s ocean information systems and related public awareness tools; promote collaboration between all expert levels active in ocean data (and data product) and information management, including scientists, data managers, other IOC (and JCOMM or WMO) programmes and projects and other users; provide a laboratory environment for the development and beta testing of ocean data and information management technology. While the Office was initially just a “satellite” office of the IOC Secretariat based at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris, France, all IODE Secretariat functions were transferred to Ostend in August 2007. Staffing started with just one in 2005 which grew to 4 by 2008 and by the end of 2015 staff numbers will have increased to 10. Since 2005 nearly 1 500 students from 120 countries attended courses in Ostend. 7 IOC AND ITS IODE The IODE community can be considered as a family of communities of practice that share expertise and experience. Due to the highly technical nature of oceanographic data and information management IODE includes quite a variety of small communities that each deal with specific technical aspects. Initially the IODE community was a fairly closed community that did not have many interactions with end users. This has changed around the year 2000 at a time when data centres started providing online services through the World Wide Web. Data centres and libraries could now provide data and information directly to end-users. This led to the development of a wide variety of online services provided by the IODE community but also by the IODE Secretariat. The IODE (International Oceanographic Data and Information Exchange) programme was established in 1961 and is the oldest programme of the IOC. It was established, as was IOC, as a follow-up to the International Geophysical year (July 1, 1957, to December 31, 1958). 8 WWW.IODE.ORG During the Intergovernmental Conference on Oceanographic Research in 1960 at which the setting up of an Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission was recommended, certain initial tasks for the new Commission were outlined and amongst these was included the requirement for a structure to co-ordinate international oceanographic data exchange. This structure was initially a Working Group, which in 1987, became the “Committee on Oceanographic Data and Information Exchange” (IODE). The Committee members are officially designated officials of the participating member states. In practice these are mostly the Directors of the National Oceanographic Data Centres: since its establishment in 1961 the IODE programme has developed a global network of 80 National Oceanographic Data Centres (NODCs). These are officially designated centres that take responsibility for the national and international tasks of the IODE Programme. In addition, since 2013, national projects, programmes, institutions or organizations (other than NODCs), or regional or international projects, programmes, institutions or organizations that carry out data management functions can also join IODE as IODE Associate Data Units (ADUs). By October 2015, 20 such Units have been added to the network with many more expected to join in the near future. International Oceanographic Data and Information Exchange Within IOC the role of IODE has evolved as well: from a technical and closed community programme, IODE has evolved into a programme that provides services to other IOC programmes. In the next chapters we will illustrate a number of IODE projects that provide such services. 9 THE MAIN OBJECTIVES OF THE IODE PROGRAMME (revision IODE-XXII, March 2013) To facilitate and promote the discovery, exchange of, and access to, marine data and information including metadata, products and information in real-time, near real time and delayed mode, through the use of international standards, and in compliance with the IOC Oceanographic Data Exchange Policy for the ocean research and observation community and other stakeholders; To encourage the long term archival, preservation, documentation, management and services of all marine data, data products, and information; To develop or use existing best practices for the discovery, management, exchange of, and access to marine data and information, including international standards, quality control and appropriate information technology; To assist Member States to acquire the necessary capacity to manage marine research and observation data and information and become partners in the IODE network; The IODE programme To support international scientific and operational marine programmes, has developed a global including the Framework for Ocean Observing for the benefit of a wide network of more than range of users. 100 Oceanographic Data Centres. COASTAL ATLASES The International Coastal Atlas Network (ICAN) is a community of practice of organizations that have been meeting since 2006 to scope and implement data interoperability approaches to coastal web atlases (CWAs). ICAN is the global reference for the development of CWAs and defines these as “collections of digital maps and datasets with supplementary tables, illustrations and information that systematically illustrate the coast for the purposes of coastal management and planning, oftentimes with cartographic and decision support tools, all of which are accessible via the Internet.”. In 2013, ICAN became an IODE project. The strategic goal of the IODE ICAN project is to encourage and help facilitate the development of digital atlases of the global coast, based on the principle of distributed, high-quality data and information, at local, regional, national or international scale. The project aims to achieve this: Through organizing a cooperative interoperability network for the integration of locally-maintained CWAs as the premier source of spatial information about coastal zones throughout the world, By supporting the ICAN community of practise to share experiences and to find common solutions to CWA development through developing user and developer guides, handbooks and articles on best practices, information on standards and web services, expertise and technical support directories, education, outreach, and funding opportunities and By intending maximum relevance and added value for the end users of CWAs. ICAN’s more than 70 members represent governmental, academic, NGO and private organizations from around the world and ICAN CWAs raise awareness about coastal and marine topics and provide relevant information to shape national and regional decision and policy making across several themes, such as: Marine spatial planning Climate change impacts, coastal vulnerability Coastal governance (boundaries, protected areas, etc.) Coastal conservation and protected areas management Coastal hazards monitoring and planning Coastal disaster management and mitigation Population pressures Resource availability and extraction 10 11 HTTP://ICAN.IODE.ORG ICAN develops community-held constraints on mapping and data distribution conventions to maximize the comparability and reliability of information about our coasts. This is done to provide a basis for rationally informed discussion, debate and negotiation of sustainable management policies for our societies, nations and people throughout the world, which has tremendous potential to be relevant for coastal management, global spatial data infrastructures, marine spatial planning and related projects around the world. THE IODE OCEAN DATA PORTAL THE MANDATE OF THE OCEAN DATA PORTAL IS FOUR-FOLD: Provide a technical environment enabling seamless access to marine data and information products Support providers of marine data and information products Support users of the ODP technical environment Support and foster capacity building within the global marine community Web-based technology and services are evolving rapidly and the IODE ODP is not the only oceanographic data portal. Today there are hundreds of portals; some very small, others very large. Therefore one of the main objectives of the IODE ODP is to provide interoperability between portals including: World Meteorological Organization Information System (WMO/WIS), SeaDataNet, World Data System (WDS), GEOSS/EuroGOOS, Ocean Data Interoperability Platform (ODIP), EMODNET, Research Data Alliance (RDA), etc. 12 The IODE Ocean Data Portal seeks to provide seamless access to inventories of marine data and information products hosted by National Oceanographic Data Centres (NODCs), regional and national institutes, and collaborating organizations and systems. WWW.OCEANDATAPORTAL.NET In order to assist with the development of the IODE Ocean Data Portal the Russian Federation established the “Ocean Data Portal Partnership Centre” in September 2013 in Obninsk, Russian Federation. It provides dedicated software development support for ODP software components, implementation support to ODP data providers, and e-mail support to ODP users. The partnership centre also supports data providers by assisting them with preparing data and metadata for ingestion/access via specialized or global ODP nodes. It also supports education and capacity building through the delivery of on-site training courses and on-line modules through the OceanTeacher Academy. 13 MARINE INFORMATION MANAGEMENT In addition to oceanographic data management and exchange, IODE also deals with marine information management and its related work of marine librarians. As scientific publications are a core output of scientific research the management of this output is of crucial importance to the evolution of science. The ability to discover and access scientific publications is essential for all researchers. 14 Unfortunately their cost is often a considerable hurdle, especially to researchers in developing countries. Mechanisms that allow the sharing of marine information are therefore as important as those for sharing data. IODE has been active in developing such mechanisms. Since 1984 the IODE Group of Experts on Marine Information Management has advised the IODE Committee on marine information systems. This includes bibliographic databases (focusing on grey literature: academic literature that is not formally published) such as OceanDocs, participation in the Aquatic Sciences and Fisheries Abstracts (ASFA), a clearing house for reference documents (OceanDataPractices), the development of a global directory of marine and freshwater professionals (OceanExpert), promoting the availability of research publications to developing countries (OpenScienceDirectory). Other activities include providing services that bring data and information together such as data citation and the new project OceanKnowledge, and including literature links in coastal atlases. Capacity development related to the management and sharing of marine information has been an important an ongoing activity of IODE. WWW.OCEANDOCS.NET WWW.OCEANDATAPRACTICES.NET WWW.OCEANEXPERT.NET WWW.OPENSCIENCEDIRECTORY.NET 15 OCEAN BIOGEOGRAPHIC INFORMATION SYSTEM The importance of species diversity for marine ecosystem functioning is well known. It is therefore important to know which species live where, why, in what abundance, and how these factors are changing through time. The Ocean Biogeographic Information System (OBIS), the world’s largest open access, online data system holds over 40 million distribution records of nearly 120000 marine species (with over 1 million records added per year since 1990) and provides an important baseline for marine biodiversity monitoring and assessment. 16 WHERE ARE THE MOST THREATENED SPECIES? WWW.IOBIS.ORG According to the Red List of threatened species of the International Union for Conservation of Nature, 17% of marine species assessed are considered to be threatened with extinction and 20 marine species are extinct. Plotting the numbers in OBIS shows the areas of greatest importance to threatened species. These include the Caribbean and Atlantic Coast of the USA, waters between Eastern Africa and Madagascar, and the Indo-Pacific. However, considering how little we know of rare species, true rates of threat in marine species may be substantially higher, and spatially more distributed, than current estimates suggest. In addition, OBIS lists almost 500 species that have more than 10 observations but have not been recorded at all in the last 50 years. CLIMATE CHANGE IMPACTS ON SPECIES DISTRIBUTIONS? The quantification of the effect of climate change on the spatial distribution of species is important within the scope of biodiversity conservation and to understand and predict ecological and economic impacts. The response of species to the changing environment depends on their ability to adapt. Species will move (range shifts), acclimatise (phenology), adapt (evolution), or get extinct. A recent study published in Nature Climate change, used data from OBIS, and predicted that by 2100, 44 North Pacific fish species may enter the North Atlantic, and 41 species the other way round, via the future Arctic passages. This exchange of species between the two ocean basins has not happened since the Quaternary (2.5 million years ago), and can have major ecologic and economic consequences. Indeed, several papers have provided convincing evidence that climate change has already impacted natural systems today, with major poleward shifts of species, often greater than those for terrestrial systems. NUMBER OF SPECIES OBSERVATIONS IN OBIS © Marine Geospatial Ecology Lab, Duke University OBIS is built and maintained by a global alliance of 20 OBIS nodes around the world that connect 500 institutions from 56 countries. Collectively they have provided over 1800 databases, which are all integrated in a single central OBIS database, so users can search and map all the data seamlessly by species name, higher taxonomic level, geographic area, depth, time and environmental parameters. OBIS contributes to ocean science. So far 1000 scientific publications have cited OBIS and/or used data from OBIS, and this list is increasing by some 100 papers per year. In terms of capacity development, OBIS provides training and technical assistance, guides new standards and technical developments and encourages international collaboration to foster the group benefits of its global network of partners. Training courses on biodiversity data management are held every year, through the OceanTeacher platform. OBIS is an important knowledge provider for international processes, such as the identification of ecologically or biologically significant areas of the Convention on Biological Diversity, and is a key source of information for several global assessments, such as the UN World Ocean 17 1-5 <10 100 500 1000 5000 10000 50000 100000+ Assessment. OBIS collaborates with the new Biodiversity and Ecosystems Panel of the Global Ocean Observing System (GOOS) and the Biodiversity Observation Network of the Group on Earth Observations to establish a coordinated framework for sustained global biodiversity monitoring. OBIS emanates from the Census of Marine Life (2000-2010) and was adopted by IOC at its 25th session in 2009 and accepted as a project of IODE in 2011. HARMFUL ALGAL BLOOM INFORMATION SYSTEM The IOC-ICES-PICES Harmful Algal event (HAEDAT) is a meta-database developed jointly between IODE and the IOC HAB Programme, containing records of harmful algal events. HAEDAT contains records from the ICES area (North Atlantic) since 1985, from the PICES area (North Pacific) since 2000, and from a number of individual countries. IOC regional networks in South America, the Caribbean, South Pacific and North Africa are preparing to contribute. 18 Occurrences of the phenomena referred to as harmful algal blooms (HABs), represent a significant and seemingly expanding threat to human health, fishery resources, aquaculture, tourism and marine ecosystems throughout the world. WWW.IODE.ORG/HAEDAT HAEDAT has a comprehensive data field design. It does not contain complete datasets, time series or primary data, but summarized data that describes what in a given national monitoring system was registered as a harmful algal related event or impact. A HARMFUL ALGAL EVENT IS DEFINED AS: biotoxin accumulation in seafood above levels considered safe for human consumption a water discoloration, scum or foam causing a socioeconomic impact due to the presence of toxic or harmful microalgae any event where humans, animals or other organisms are negatively affected by algae Metadata includes information on methods used to collect data, and information on which institution holds input data and full data sets. HAEDAT allows users to browse on-line in all events by country, syndrome, affected resource etc. In many cases HAEDAT is the only publically accessible source of information on HAB events. HAEDAT will, together with HAB data in OBIS, IOC’s Taxonomic Reference List of Harmful Micro Algae (WoRMS/HAB), and other data sources, provide the basis for an IOC UNESCO ‘Global Harmful Algal Bloom Status Report’ (GHSR), as decided by the IOC Assembly. The GHSR will provide an overview of the distribution of toxic algae and their impact on society and the marine environment. 19 OCEAN TEACHER GLOBAL ACADEMY One of the major objectives of the IODE Programme is to assist Member States to acquire the necessary skills to manage marine data and information and become full and equitable partners in the IODE network. It is only when IOC Member States have acquired this expertise at the national level that they can become active partners in IODE and thus share their data and information with the other members of the IODE network. 20 WWW.OCEANTEACHER.ORG The IOC of UNESCO, in partnership with the Global Ocean Forum, made a voluntary Commitment at the Rio+20 (2012) conference on ‘Building Global Capacity for Marine Sciences, Observation and Transfer of Marine Technology’. This commitment targeted the field of marine scientific research and ocean observation especially in developing nations and Small Island Developing States (SIDS), leading to the formulation and implementation of a global strategy to implement solutions for their needs, through partnership with countries, donors, UN Agencies, global financial institutions and the private sector. Furthermore, in the document ”The future we want: Outcome of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development Rio+20’ the [UN] Members States “[...] recognize the importance of building the capacity of developing countries to be able to benefit from the conservation and sustainable use of the oceans and seas and their resources and, in this regard, we emphasize the need for cooperation in marine scientific research to implement the provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and the outcomes of the major summits on sustainable development, as well as for the transfer of technology, taking into account the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission Criteria and Guidelines on the Transfer of Marine Technology. (2012)”. The training does not only teach the principles of data and information management but also promotes the use of international standards amongst all IODE centres and thus achieving interoperability and data exchange. The OTGA is now establishing a global network of Regional Training Centres (RTCs) and will use this network to increase national capacity in coastal and marine knowledge and management. With the establishment of the IOC Project Office for IODE in Oostende (Belgium) in 2005, a new era in IODE’s capacity development unfolded. Since then, IODE developed a consistent range of capacity development activities, which benefited thousands of participants from over 120 countries around the world. This culminated in the establishment of the OceanTeacher project, which developed an online-based Learning Platform, and serves all classroom training activities of IODE as well as a growing number of training activities of other IOC Programmes. This was achieved mostly with the support of the Government of Flanders. Promote the establishment, and assist with the start-up, of (RTCs) that will plan, organize and implement training courses that are of relevance and serve needs within their region; Promote the use of local experts as lecturers and training assistants by the Regional Training Centres; Promote the collaboration between the (RTCs) by enabling (through advanced information technology) lecturers from multiple regions to contribute lectures; Further develop the OceanTeacher Learning Management System to cover multiple IOC (and associate) programmes. While the classroom based training combined with the online training platform proved to be very successful the training programme had certain limitations, mainly: limited number of students could be trained; courses were taught in English only; it was not possible to focus on local needs. The OceanTeacher Global Academy (OTGA) Project was started in 2014 to address these limitations. THE OTGA WILL: 21 OCEAN TEACHER GLOBAL ACADEMY (CONTINUATION) TOTAL PARTICIPANTS TSUNAMI SEA LEVEL STATION SERVICE COUNTRY OF ORIGIN OF THE TRAINEES 300 250 The UNESCO IOC Sea Level Monitoring Facility is a webaccessible tool for viewing sea level data received in real time from different network operators. This service of IOC is freely available to all. 200 This service provides: Information about the operational status of global and regional networks of real time sea level station. A display service for quick inspection of the raw data stream from individual stations. 150 100 50 22 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 GENDER BALANCE 579 The OceanTeacher Global Academy builds upon and expands the existing OceanTeacher Academy based at the IOC Project Office for IODE in Oostende, Belgium, to a truly worldwide training facility. This will lead to the following benefits: Increase the annual number of trainees that can participate in OceanTeacher Academy courses. Use mainly local experts as lecturers and thus reduce the costs and other drawbacks of long-distance traveling by trainers / lecturers and trainees. Allow teaching in locally relevant languages. Increase the focus on local issues while keeping a global perspective. Increase self-driven capacity development. During 2014 a network of 10 RTC’s has been identified spanning from America (Colombia, USA), Africa (Senegal, South Africa, Mozambique, Kenya), Asia (India, China, Malaysia) and Europe (Belgium). From 2015 onwards the RTCs will develop joint 780 training courses targeting national, regional and international training needs in marine sciences in a coordinated way. It will do so by providing a programme of training courses related to IOC programmes covering topics related to, inter alia, IODE, IODE/ OBIS, IODE/ICAN, HAB, ICAM, GOOS, Tsunami, JCOMM, etc, through the OceanTeacher Learning Platform. Further to its role as a Regional Training Centre, the IODE Project Office will continue its coordination role of the OTGA network overall. The site initially focused on operational monitoring of sea level measuring stations in Africa and was developed from collaboration between Flanders Marine Institute (VLIZ) and the ODINAFRICA project of IODE. It has been expanded to a global station monitoring service for real time sea level measuring stations that are part of IOC programmes i.e. the Global Sea Level Observing System Core Network and the networks under the regional tsunami warning systems in the Indian Ocean (IOTWS), North East Atlantic & Mediterranean (NEAMTWS), Pacific (PTWS) and the Caribbean (CARIBE-EWS). As of September 2010, 89 organizations were contributing data. THIS IOC SEA LEVEL MONITORING FACILITY WEB SITE PROVIDES: Global sea level network map, showing color-coded operational status (working/not working), Station listing, showing metadata (4-letter code, GLOSS ID number, Location, Collection method, Last Data Transmission date/time, Delay, and Transmit Interval) Plotting and download of data received. The OceanTeacher Global Academy will change training from a ‘north to south’ culture to a north-south, south-south, and south-north model and will substantially increase the impact of the training activities. WWW.IOC-SEALEVELMONITORING.ORG 23 CONTRIBUTION OF THE FLEMISH GOVERNMENT TO IOC Flanders has a long history with the sea. The North Sea has always been its strong ally and offered a gateway to the world. Navigation and trade brought prosperity to the Low Countries for many centuries now and have made the Flemish coast one of the most active centers of maritime activities and marine research in Europe. It is precisely because the Flemish Community of Belgium has been living such a long time next to the sea that it understands its importance, both at a local as well as at a larger regional and even the global scale. And it is for the same reason that Flanders, despite its small coastline, is strongly committed to help the international community in tackling ocean-related global challenges. 24 Almost 65% of the world’s population now lives on or near the coast, and in particular people in developing countries heavily dependent on the sea for their food. Meanwhile, the exponential increase of human activity is placing mounting pressure on natural resources in coastal areas and the deeper seas adjoining them. Very few of those problems stop at the national borders, which is the main reason why the international community relies on the involvement of international organizations. More than 15 years ago, the Flemish Government made a very clear choice. In 1998, its Minister-president decided to engage with UNESCO and support the capacity building of monitoring-, collection- and analysis of ocean related data, to support the training of experts in ocean management, and to provide the knowledge and the instruments to understand our oceans better. Although the size of the Flemish Community does not allow for large scale investments in major research vessels or scientific buoys, by supporting UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC), they reaffirmed their social commitment to coastal and marine environment. Several multilateral organizations play a key role in ensuring a sustainable future for our oceans’ natural resources, but the IOC is the main international body responsible for coordinating the study of seas and oceans and is - together with the European Union - the privileged partner of the Flemish Government in this area. The Flemish Government therefore endorsed in 1999 the creation of the Flanders-UNESCO Trust Fund for Science (FUST). This fund allows UNESCO and the Flemish Government to guarantee a coherent approach in solving global scientific challenges, with a specific attention to water related issues. WWW.ODINAFRICA.ORG WWW.SPINCAMNET.NET What makes this fund so unique is that it allows UNESCO to develop a sustainable long term perspective based on large scale projects. Since its inception, Flanders has focused on a limited area of cooperation, and has been very consistent in doing so. All this time, UNESCO could rely on Flemish experts from Flemish universities and research centres. This modality turned out to be very beneficial for Flanders, too. It offers direct access to international networks and guarantees an impact on a much larger scale than would have been possible with bilateral initiatives alone. The combination of the input of Flemish funding and UNESCO’s expertise often leads to the involvement of other major partners, which brings projects to a whole new level. To give an example, thanks to the Flemish Funds, UNESCO started training the first African experts on ocean data management more than ten years ago. In the meanwhile, those experts have started training other statisticians, marine biologists, and other experts. By ‘training the trainers, the FUST allowed for the creation of an Ocean Data and Information Network, a network of centers of excellence dealing with data collection and analysis all along the African coast. These centers register sea-level and temperature and can help predict abnormal weather patterns that could potentially lead to floods or droughts. Moreover, they have created an early warning system in case a tsunami threatens to hit the coast and they provide a science based approach for a sustainable management of coastal areas and the ocean’s resources. In short, they have become an integral part of a worldwide network of data centers and are nowadays largely self-sufficient. In another joint project, the Flemish Government and UNESCO have designed and established an integrated coastal area management (ICAM) indicator framework at national and regional level in the Southeast Pacific region of Latin America (Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Panama and Peru). This project focuses on the state of the coastal and marine environment attending socio-economic conditions and diversity, to provide stakeholders with information and atlases on the sustainability of existing and future coastal management practices and development (SPINCAM and Caribbean Marine Atlas project). These projects have given excellent results so far and have the potential to be linked to other large scale projects in the area. Flemish experts have contributed to a large extent to these results by sharing institutional and individual best practices. 25 CONTRIBUTION OF THE FLEMISH GOVERNMENT TO IOC (CONTINUATION) Marine scientists know it already for a while, but Ostend is much more than the “Queen of Seaside Towns” in Belgium. 26 Ostend is also a hub for marine and ocean science, a center for data management and a place where scientists from all over the world work together in tracking tsunamis, monitoring the impact of the climate change and keeping track of the changes in biodiversity, just to name a few examples. The Flanders Marine Institute (VLIZ) was established in Ostend in 1999 and has rapidly evolved into the central coordination and information platform for marine and coastal scientific research in Flanders. As a partner in various projects and networks, VLIZ also promotes and supports the international image of the Flemish marine scientific research community and international marine education. The IOC Project Office for IODE is located in the same premises as VLIZ and both centers collaborate intensively. Today, Flanders is the second largest funding partner of IOC, after Norway. By strengthening the medium-term strategies of IOC, Flanders assumes its responsibility in tackling global challenges and provides an answer to very concrete and relevant needs of the Member States concerned. WWW.PEGASOPROJECT.EU WWW.CARIBBEANMARINEATLAS.NET More and more, the Flemish Government and UNESCO find a common ground with the European Union (EU) which relies more than ever on the expertise of international organizations. The EU has provided funding to projects in which both Flemish research institutes and IOC have been working together on coastal and marine areas. One successful example of such collaboration is the PEGASO Project under the 7th Framework Programme of the EU, where experts from the EU, UNESCO and Flanders work together with policy makers, scientists and planners to develop a range of new tools and approaches to achieve a sustainable regional coastal planning and management around the Mediterranean and the Black sea. With the recent agreement between Flanders and UNESCO to extend the support to UNESCO Science Sector through the FUST for the next five years (2014-2018), the Flemish Government has not only confirmed its commitment, but emphasized the importance of the priority on water and of the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission as the competent body for the Oceans within the United Nations system.