What is the IOC?


The Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) exists under the umbrella of UNESCO. It was established in 1960 to promote international cooperation in the study of the ocean, particularly in those aspects that are so demanding as to be beyond the means and capacity of any single nation or small grouping of nations. It is the only such body for which the emphasis is on cooperation between governments in the study and observation of the oceans. (The Scientific Committee on Oceanic Research, SCOR, reporting to the International Council of Scientific Unions, which has Consultative and Associate status in UNESCO, was founded in 1957 to further international scientific activity in all branches of oceanic research, but is not intergovernmental in scope.)

There are four major themes under which the IOC organises its activities. These are intended to:

  • Develop, promote, and facilitate international oceanographic research programmes to improve our understanding of critical global and regional ocean processes and their relationship to the sustainable development and stewardship of ocean resources.

  • Ensure effective planning, establishment and coordination of an operational global ocean observing system to provide the information needed for oceanic and atmospheric forecasting for oceans and coastal zone management by coastal nations, and for global environmental change research.

    Within this theme lies the Global Ocean Observing System, GOOS, which is intended to be a permanent global system for observation, modelling and analysis of marine and ocean variables needed to support operational ocean services worldwide.

    GOOS will provide:

    (i) accurate descriptions of the present state of the oceans, including living resources;

    (ii) continuous forecasts of the future conditions of the sea for as far ahead as possible; and

    (iii) the basis for forecasts of climate change.

  • Provide international leadership for education and training programmes and technical assistance essential for systematic observations of the global ocean and its coastal zone and related research.

  • Ensure that ocean data and information obtained through research, observation and monitoring are efficiently handled and made widely available.

The IOC has particular interest in remote sensing, for which its principal objectives are:

  • To promote access to and exchange of satellite data within the ocean community leading to product development to address critical needs. This includes development and promotion of projects in capacity building.

  • To present the requirements of the ocean community for remotely-sensed data and, through participation, represent the community in activities of satellite agencies and other international organisations such as CEOS (the Committee on Earth Observing Satellites), IGBP (the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme) and WMO (the World Meteorological Organisation).

Further information can be obtained at the IOC website.

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