Questions for Julian Barbière, UNESCO

Julian Barbière is Chief of Section for Marine Policy, UNESCO Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission

  • How does the United Nations Organisation take action to protect the Oceans, and since when has it been doing so?

The UNESCO Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) has been in existence since 1960, and currently includes 147 Member States. It is the only inter-governmental body within the United Nations that has a mandate to promote marine science. The primary aim of this international platform is to encourage international cooperation, in order to understand and ensure the effective management of oceans and coastal regions’ resources. Furthermore, the IOC monitors the oceans, and carries out research on the physical, chemical, and biological aspects of marine environments, in order to inform stakeholders before taking any decisions regarding marine issues. In addition, this Commission provides assistance to countries that are the victims of climate disruption. To achieve this aim, it specifically coordinates and encourages the creation of tsunami warning and mitigation systems in the Pacific and Indian Oceans, the North-East Atlantic, the Mediterranean, and the Caribbean Sea.


  • World Ocean Day, an event organised by UNESCO, and the starting point for the partnership signed with SUEZ, was held on 8 June this year. What is the practical role of a partnership like this one?

To implement a genuine sustainable development policy, you need to launch tangible initiatives; a partnership like the one that we are developing with SUEZ goes precisely in that direction. The Group’s involvement in World Ocean Day on 8 June this year will be renewed via an awareness-raising and information dissemination programme that will extend over the next two to three years. In fact, we urgently need to raise the general public’s awareness of these fundamental issues. The United Nations will announce the sustainable development targets adopted by Member States, which determine the action framework for the next 15 years, this September. This is an opportunity to make these issues the focal point of discussions, ahead of the COP 21, which will be held in Paris in December 2015. Indeed, we have to admit that the oceans have been largely forgotten during previous negotiations. Our partnership with SUEZ underlines this strong determination to take action together, in order to inform, raise public awareness, and incite governments to implement an ocean-focused policy..

  • Can we still have confidence in the future when faced with the environmental disaster that is ocean pollution?

It is true that the research is now showing us that no area of the sea anywhere in world can escape from the presence of human beings, i.e. plastic waste pollution, and the impact of fishing and mining prospection, etc. However, we must remain positive. Although advances are slow to be put in place, as demonstrated by the 10 years of discussions required in order to agree on the organisation of protected marine areas on the high seas, at least they are seeing the light of day. The road is a long one; however, we will succeed in changing things if we combine our strengths. To achieve this aim, we must work on better collaboration between scientific research and politicians. Politicians must take into account the major role played by the ocean as a “climate driver”, and dispel the idea that only those people who live close to the coast are concerned by marine pollution issues. Learning about the ocean is far from a matter that is just for children!

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The Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission