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3. International cooperation

Although all coastal States have local problems which require marine scientific research for their solution, they also have problems which can only be resolved by investigations on a wider geographical scale. Over the years, a pattern of international cooperative programmes has emerged and procedures for planning and implementing these have been worked out by groups of States. In parallel with this regional development, global cooperative programmes in the field of ocean science and ocean services have been launched. As the number of developing States involved in regional programmes especially has increased, so have these regional programmes increasingly been directed toward solving problems addressing transnational oceanic phenomena of particular interest to those states. All developing coastal States, if they are engaged in marine science at all, are involved in various forms of international cooperation. Because of the nature of the marine environment, and the history of its use, some advanced countries are also participating in most of these programmes, even in regions where they are not coastal. Inevitably, the more advanced countries obviously have contributed a large share of the effort to acquire relevant knowledge; many of the developing countries, on the other hand, have obvious difficulty in substantially contributing to these enterprises. Moreover, cooperative programmes are mutually beneficial, especially to the developing countries in so far as they provide an excellent opportunity for interaction and for strengthening of national infrastructures in various disciplines of marine sciences both in coastal and offshore waters.

Most international cooperative programmes require action at the regional level through provision of coordinating secretariats, regional data centres, and some common research facilities. Most of the effort is, however, undertaken by the participating States. Usually, each State takes a specific share, geographically, in the investigations. In addition, selected national units will commonly perform international functions for the duration of the programme and sometimes after it. This often calls for international funding to strengthen them. Financial help can make a substantial contribution to such programmes when provided through regional/subregional aid projects for the particular purpose of strengthening the participation from the developing States in such a way that their national capabilities in marine science are permanently enhanced.

The Law of the Sea specifically requires States to cooperate on a global and, as appropriate, on a regional basis in the protection and preservation of the marine environment, taking into account characteristic regional features (article 197). This also implies cooperation in, and promotion of, marine scientific research and systematic observations for common use. It is also specifically stated that States and competent international organizations shall promote international cooperation in marine scientific research for peaceful purposes (article 242). This cooperation can occur through inclusion of bilateral and multilateral agreements, so as to create favourable conditions for the conduct of marine research and integrate efforts of scientists studying the essence of phenomena and processes occurring in the marine environment and the interrelationships between them (article 243).

The Convention likewise stimulates international cooperation for the development and transfer of marine technology, through existing bilateral, regional, and multilateral programmes and through expanded and new programmes, in order to facilitate marine research and appropriate international funding for ocean research and development (article 270). In this context the establishment of national marine scientific and technological research centres and the strengthening of existing national centres is promoted (article 275). Adequate support is encouraged to facilitate the establishment and strengthening of such national centres and to provide advanced training facilities and necessary equipment, skills and know-how, as well as technical experts to States which may need and request such assistance (article 273).

The promotion of the establishment of regional marine scientific and technological research centres, particularly in developing States, is also encouraged, in order to stimulate and advance the conduct of marine scientific research by developing States and foster the transfer of technology (article 276). Examples of the functions of such regional centres are also explicitly given (article 277).

These mechanisms should be used. Several endeavours are underway including in the Mediterranean and the wider Caribbean. Regional networks are being established through regional research and observation programmes, addressing identified priorities. This mechanism is very viable but requires increased financial support on an interregional basis. The multilateral funding mechanism needs strengthening, to adequately supplement the bilateral ones.

4. Major phases of the development of regional cooperation

Through the establishment of the IOC in 1960 a mechanism was created to foster intergovernmental cooperation in marine sciences. The IOC, from the start, emphasized regional actions, through concerted action, with the participation of the States, both from inside and outside the region in question. Examples are the International Indian Ocean Expedition, 19601965; the Cooperative Study of Kuroshio and Adjacent Regions, 1962-1977; the Cooperative Investigations in the western African region; and in the Caribbean (see for example, Roll H.U., 1979, IOC Technical Series No. 20; M. Haq, 1989 Document IOC/INF-773).

These activities gradually led to the realization that regional cooperation gave great benefit to the participating nations and to the establishment of regional coordinating Committees. The negotiations during the UN Conference on the Law of the Sea stimulated an upgrading of these bodies to Regional Committees as IOC regional subsidiary bodies. The existing IOC regional subsidiary bodies are given in table 1, together with some information about them.

Table 1 Existing IOC intergovernmental regional subsidiary bodies

IOC Sub-Commission for the Caribbean and Adjacent Regions (IOCARIBE)
Created: 1982  
First Session: 1984 Last Session: 1992
IOC Regional Committee for the Central Eastern Atlantic (IOCEA)
Created: 1984  
First Session: 1987 Last Session: 1993
IOC Regional Committee for the Cooperation Investigations in the North and Central Western Indian Ocean (IOCINCWIO)
Created: 1979  
First Session: 1982 Last Session: 1992
IOC Regional Committee for the Central Indian Ocean (IOCINDIO)
Created: 1982  
First Session: 1988 Last Session: -
IOC Regional Committee for the Southern Ocean (SOC)
Created: 1967  
First Session: 1970 Last Session: 1987
IOC Sub-Commission for the Western Pacific (WESTPAC)
Created: 1989  
First Session: 1990 Last Session: 1993

It is noted that two of those Regional Committees have been upgraded to IOC Regional Subcommissions for WESTPAC and for the Caribbean and Adjacent Regions (IOCARIBE). These Subcommissions have wider functions and roles than the regional committees, and they suggest a certain maturity towards marine research and observations, and related cooperation in the regions. The IOCARIBE Subcommission was created in 1984 and the WESTPAC Subcommission in 1989/90. It is to be noted that these are parts of the IOC and not independent bodies. The idea is that the regional programmes and their implementation shall benefit from the global programme developments in the IOC framework, but that they, at the same time, are addressing regional priorities. The establishment of the Subcommissions was only done after careful and in-depth evaluations of the developments of the marine programmes in the regions (see for example, M. Haq, 1989).

The possibility of merging the IOCINDIO and IOCINCWIO Regional Committees into one IOC Subcommission for the Indian Ocean and adjacent regions has been discussed. The analysis suggests that this is premature in view of the large differences in the state of development of marine science in the countries surrounding the Indian Ocean. However, there is no doubt that the creation of an IOC Subcommission for the Indian Ocean is one goal for the 1990s.

The increasing interest in the Southern Ocean in relation to its role in the climate system, the potential further exploitation of marine resources in the Southern Ocean, and its possible contamination by long-range transfer of pollutants - as well as through actions in the region and in Antarctica - has led to a strong realization of the lack of data from this region. Efforts are therefore underway in IOC and its Regional Committee for the Southern Ocean to increase ocean observations there, and WOCE has a large hydrographic programme in the area. There also appears to be a need for increased cooperation in marine research in the Southern Ocean, in view of its possibly vital role in the climate system. Also in the Arctic and northern North Atlantic regional cooperation is increasing in the context of the climate system research, likewise in view of the possibly critical role of these areas in the climate system. Considerations are underway for the creation of a regional centre for logistics and operational support in Iceland, and the IOC has expressed interest in cooperating with such endeavour.

One basic task of the IOC is to facilitate international cooperation in marine science, among Member States and among organizations. Hence the IOC subsidiary bodies are endeavouring to cooperate with other regional bodies, inside and outside the UN system. In this way, cooperation and dialogue is established between the marine science community and the management communities who are supposed to use the results of the marine research and systematic ocean observations. Clearly such a dialogue is a must - but nevertheless, it is difficult to establish. There is some interaction with the regional FAO Fisheries Council and Commissions - but not very much. As an example, the efforts and potential of the IOC regional mechanisms are hardly referred to in the recent study by the World Bank, FAO and others on the development of fisheries, including related ocean research.

Very close cooperation has been established with the UNEP Regional Seas Programme in most of the regions. The UNEP Programme addresses the questions related to the management and control of marine pollution mainly from land-based activities, and focusing on a regional scale. This programme is thus interested in using scientific results and adequate, reliable observations. In many cases IOC and UNEP regional definitions overlap, and cooperation and coordination between the programmes and activities would, therefore, seem natural. It has, however, taken a long time and strong efforts to achieve this goal. Presently the cooperation is strong in several regions and include joint programmes in the Caribbean, Southeast Pacific, East and West Africa, but not in the South or Western Pacific, or in the East-Asian or South-Asian Seas. This is related to the different definitions and to the level of development of the programmes, and that the IOC has not really been present in the South Pacific.

The IOC has also promoted a policy of cooperation and coordination with regional bodies, including ICES, ICSEM, CPPS, IOMAC. This has led to joint programmes and activities with these bodies.

In many cases the IOC has entered into formal agreements or memoranda of understanding with partners, well reflecting the complementarity of the activities, as well as the need for dialogue and cross-sectoral interactions between different parts of society.

5. Some experiences

The experience obtained in implementing the priority programmes in marine research and services adopted by the IOC regional subsidiary bodies has identified several difficulties. These can be seen to be accentuated by the success stories. In the Caribbean the regional marine pollution programme of IOCARIBE, CARIPOL, developed very successfully through a careful step by step procedure, which included: identification of the problem; focusing on something realistic and doable; developing the appropriate methods and manuals; instituting the required training; formulation of the regional programme, including an agreed data submission procedure; data analysis and evaluation; bringing together all participants at suitable intervals so as to ensure an active feeling of a network and exchange of experiences, together with the stimulation of seeing and using data obtained from partners in the network. The only gap was the application of the information to formulation and implementation of marine pollution control and abatement measures. This was lacking since there was no real dialogue with, for example the UNEP Caribbean Action Plan, or the IMO. This situation is now remedied - but in the process the close feeling of a network among the CARIPOL participants has been lost. There are several other success stories - but of course also failures.

What then are the major problems which have been encountered? These include: lack of communication; lack of governmental commitment or priority listing, so as to make it difficult to obtain, for example, UNDP funding; lack of commitment on behalf of the national institutions, so as to make it difficult to have active participation of scientists and technicians, since there is no benefit in it for them; lack of funds and partners in the developed regions; and lack of trained personnel and equipment. These problems are interlinked. A basic aim has been, and is, to train personnel but if the institutions are not committed then personnel is not available for training. The lack of governmental support is, of course, related to the fact that marine matters usually are not in focus - man is, after all, a terrestrial animal. The remedies include a dynamic search and pressure in the region. These programmes cannot be operated from far away - there is a definite need to have committed and very competent staff present in the region and actively visiting the participating institutions. The mechanism of regional centres comes to mind. Another remedy is that functioning national liaison mechanisms be established which are linked to all relevant ministries and governmental departments. These bodies must be active on the national scene and fulfil the coordination role.

Finally, another remedy is improved coordination among donors and various supporting agencies. The bilateral and multilateral aid mechanisms must be seen as complementary and not conflicting. Use should be made of a regional mechanism to stir support, on a bilateral or multilateral basis, towards the same goal or programme over a whole region from several donors. This is what we are attempting to achieve through the IOC regional subsidiary bodies, in the establishment of an increasing dialogue with national donor agencies, so as to obtain support to an agreed regional programme.

6. Looking ahead

UNCED emphasized the regional scale in context of the Agenda 21 for the Oceans. It has been considered viable to enhance regional cooperation and coordination for the development, protection, and sustainable use of the marine environment and its resources. At the same time the legal and management framework provided by UNCLOS has been emphasized. The mechanisms provided through the IOC regional subsidiary bodies can, in close cooperation with other parts of the UN system and in particular UNEP, provide the basis for the implementation of studies and systematic observations required for proper assessment of available resources, including their distribution, for marine environmental audits, for impact assessments of climatic and other changes, for formulation of control measures and for help towards their enforcement. A proper information basis and fact-finding process must be part of any sustainable development. With proper coordination and dialogue this can be achieved through existing mechanisms, provided the coordination and dialogue at regional levels are matched by similar efforts at national levels. It should be pointed out that the coordination and cooperation between the existing mechanisms and bodies dealing with the marine environment is reasonably good. It includes frequent interagency consultations, the GESAMP and ICSPRO agreements and the regional bodies.

In this context, the mechanism of regional centres for marine science and technology foreseen in UNCLOS should be considered. Such centres may provide the obvious coordination and dialogue mechanism, provided the structure permits them to work closely with all relevant partners both in and outside the UN system. Isolated centres will not serve the coordination function. The implementation of the IOC/UNESCO Comprehensive Plan for a Major Assistance Programme to Enhance Marine Science Capabilities of Developing Countries could conceivably be tied to the development of such centres, which would inevitably contribute to, and establish, partnerships among participating Member States, both from the region and outside. Such centres may provide a basis for an optimal use of available resources including a scientific community which is often below the critical mass of the national levels, but on a regional integrative basis becomes above critical mass.

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