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Report of the IOC Working Group on the Future of IOC, UNESCO, Paris, 19-20 February 2008

Author(s) Working Group on the Future of IOC
Summary In accordance to Resolution XXIV-1 and the subsequent work plan established by the Officers following the Assembly and distributed to all Member States, an open-ended Working Group meeting was held at the UNESCO Headquarters in Paris on 19–20 February 2008. The meeting was well attended and participants included at least two Member States from each geographical region, to ensure satisfactory distribution of regional views. The Working Group also had access to the results of a questionnaire that had been widely distributed to Member States and interested organizations soliciting views on the present and future status of the Commission.
The Working Group was chaired by Dr S. Narayanan (Canada), one of the nominated co-chairs for the Group, as the other co-chair, Dr Haiqing Li (China) was unavailable. The Chairman of the IOC and the Executive Secretary also participated in the meeting.
The Working Group generated a very useful discussion and exchange of ideas among participants, which are detailed and made available in the Summary Report of the meeting. The participants were reminded that the issues of programme, resources and future of the IOC had been under discussion for many years under similar exercises such as FURES and DOSS and more recently by the document "We have a Problem" (IOC-XXIII/2 Annex 8) prepared by the current Chairman, which addressed increasing concerns of IOC Member States with respect to the financial constraints faced by the Commission. However, during the Assembly, the theme of the group was expanded to include fundamental questions about the challenges ahead for IOC and the necessary adaptations to cope with them. Many of these new issues refer to the mission of IOC as defined in the Statutes approved in 1999.
The Chairman presented the objectives for the Working Group as examining the various options for the IOC vis-à-vis the UN and UNESCO, the IOC mandate and future needs, funding opportunities, increasing the involvement of Member States and the enhancement of cooperation with other organizations.
As part of the background information for the Working Group, the consultants conducting the study about the visibility and perception of the IOC (Atkins Global International) delivered a brief synthesis of the results from the questionnaire, which was distributed on 21 November 2007 to 304 users, including 138 Focal Points, 45 partner organizations and 125 Permanent Delegations. Atkins received by 17 January 2008, 26 IOC Focal Point responses (19%) and 8 Partner Organization responses (18%).
Key messages extracted from the set of responses indicated that IOC is delivering an important service to Member States and the community at large and confirmed that IOC definitely has a worthwhile role to play in the future. On institutional and financial matters there was a strong consensus that the IOC should remain within UNESCO and should consider all opportunities to find the financial and in-kind support needed to deliver its ocean mandate.
The Working Group recognized that the analysis of the questionnaire responses provided a useful reference for discussion. The group agreed that there would be no further refinement to the present questionnaire during this current process
On the many issues discussed at the meeting the following represent the main conclusions.
On the current mandate: The Working Group confirmed that the current IOC mandate is appropriate and that the existing IOC mandate and Medium-Term Strategy provides a positive starting point for assessing long-term trends that may affect the IOC. The Group further re-affirmed that the Statutes, as amended in 1999, provide a comprehensive IOC statement of purpose and is a flexible institutional mechanism enabling the IOC to adapt to emerging trends in oceanography and respond to Member State priorities in a timely manner.
On institutional arrangements: The Working Group agreed that the future of IOC should be based on the premise that the IOC will remain, and should be reinforced, within UNESCO. The IOC should look for an enhanced role within UNESCO in terms of intersectoral cooperation, based on its strong technical expertise on ocean sciences, ocean services and capacity development. Options for a more independent IOC outside of UNESCO did not receive consensus within the Group.
On financial and programme matters: The Working Group agreed that IOC should seek a clear identification of IOC's budget in the corresponding appropriation resolution of the UNESCO General Conference and in full recognition of the governance expressed by the IOC Assembly, explore the possibility of obtaining from the general Conference the IOC budget as a “financial allocation”.
The Working Group agreed the Commission should explore innovative ways of making full use of Article 10 of the IOC Statutes and to look for every available mechanism for leveraging additional financial resources. The Group also agreed that there is a need for further Secretariat review on how the IOC Special Account is functioning and how it could be improved.
The Working Group also felt that the present programme priorities, as agreed by the Assembly and supported by the UNESCO General Conference, were not an issue for further discussion by the Working Group.
On relations with other intergovernmental and international organizations: The Working Group agreed the Commission should reinforce cooperation with other UN Agencies and to also look for partnerships with appropriate private sector organizations, in accordance with UNESCO Guidelines.
The Working Group requested that, when consulting with competent UN bodies and other competent international organizations and bodies dealing with ocean issues, on matters of policy that will involve the approval of the respective governing bodies, the Officers of the Commission and the Executive Secretary should inform the IOC focal points and Permanent Delegations to UNESCO, in order that Member States can play an active and appropriate role in such consultations.
On improving the involvement of Member States: The Working Group agreed that IOC needs enhanced political will and commitment from Member States to strengthen the implementation of IOC programmes. Member States should examine and re-affirm their agreed obligations to the IOC as stated in IOC Statutes.
The Group recommended Member States further their commitment to IOC through interventions and support at appropriate organizations of the UN system and through the UNESCO strategic planning and budgetary process.
On regional programmes: The Working Group agreed the Commission should look for improved delivery of programme and benefits in IOC regions using existing regional and technical bodies and programmes.
In addition to these findings the Working Group produced a list of short-term actions to be considered by the Executive Council:
• Explore the form that specific agreements between Member States and IOC could take, to strengthen the implementation of, and to increase the national benefits from IOC programmes, with particular emphasis on priority setting.
• Reinvigorate ocean partnerships within the UN system to increase efficiency and improve programme delivery and to identify IOC’s niche and leadership role. In this regard it was suggested IOC could revisit the ICSPRO Agreement (1969) as a possible model or vehicle for action.
• Urge Member States to support a Ministerial Round Table on “Oceans and the IOC” at the next UNESCO General Conference.
• Consider the merits of a ministerial-level meeting or a UN Conference in the medium term, perhaps as soon as 2010, as a mechanism to enhance visibility and political commitment to IOC among Member States.
• Consider the value of a new partnership or other arrangement within UNESCO that could relieve many of the administrative difficulties presently being experienced by the Commission, possibly using existing practices available to UNESCO and also consider whether such interim arrangements could be submitted to the UNESCO General Conference in a Resolution. According to the Resolution that gave rise to the Group, these options, including any raised by the Executive Council based on issues that were not object of a consensus in the group, such as a Protocol, Convention or similar legal framework associated to the implementation of Article 10 of the Statutes, would need to be consulted with the UNESCO Office of International Standards and Legal Affairs and discussed by the appropriate National authorities during the next intersessional period.
Doc Type Report
Status Published on 28/04/08
Notes Executive summary in English, French, Russian and Spanish included. Disseminated by IOC Circular Letter 2260.
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Created at 10:13 on 28 Apr 2008 by Patrice BONED
Last updated at 11:20 on 23 May 2014 by Patrice BONED
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