Bringing the Ocean to Society
28 Mar 2019
Young Professionals tell the Policy Makers: we are here and we are the future, do not exclude us!
Major statement was made in Brussels by the youngest participants of the 2019 Ocean Dialogues.

On 18 March 2019, two H2020 projects MARINA and ResponSEAble recently jointly organised the Ocean Dialogues, a conference in cooperation with the European Parliament – SEARICA intergroup - and IOC-UNESCO on the role of Ocean Literacy (OL) and Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI) in supporting effective Ocean Governance.

Among many talks and workshops sessions, a parallel workshop of Young Professionals (in between 20 to 35 years old) was organised, in order to give them the opportunity to share their views, consult and connect with experts, meet people from different marine sectors and allow their voice to be heard. The workshop, organised by a team of young professional themselves, part of RespoSEAble consortium, aimed to address how knowledge on the ocean should be produced, shared and used to support effective Ocean Governance, with particular focus on RRI and OL. Twenty five Young Professionals with different expertise and background gathered together for consulting and brainstorming on this matter. Bright and innovative ideas for a better European Ocean Governance stood out from a morning lively discussion; one of these was the creation of an European Ocean Agency, which was also suggested the day after by the director of Geomar, (Germany) at the High Level Ocean conference lead at the EU parliament on the afternoon 19 March:

"Our ocean is a patient in intensive care, but we are being lousy doctors. Why do we have a European Space Agency but not a European Ocean Agency?" - Peter Herzig director of GEOMAR.

The conversation verted then toward the actual role of Young Professionals (YP) in supporting Ocean Governance, and the necessary to include them in discussions and in early stages of decision making process. After the whole day brainstorming, Young Professionals were encouraged to share their ideas and build discussions with experts at the conference.

But “was the conference a real Ocean dialogues or a monologue?”, the Young Professionals were wondering afterwards. Standing all together in one minute of silence in front of the entire audience they gave a clear message to the participant of the Ocean Dialogues event on how they felt their voice actually is not heard.

“The Young Professional making us uncomfortable. We never spoke to them so why should they speak to us? 1 minute of silence that shamed me at least” was one the many Tweets from the audience of Ocean Dialogues conference appearing in the social network right after the statement.

Young Professionals are the ones that will be leading and carrying on the ocean matter. Is it not therefore essential to increase opportunities for them to be heard, to share ideas, to learn by doing, and to feel part of the governance process? Ocean literacy is now a powerful tool for increasing the knowledge and the interest of the society, including the young generation, towards ocean protection; RRI criteria stress on a multi-actor and public engagement through a participatory process of exchanges and dialogues on science and technology issues: Youth and young professionals are part of the public and of the society, and are becoming more and more ocean literate; with their creativity, fresh ideas, IT expertise,  social media powerful tools, and “out of the box” way of thinking they can help bringing new prospective and solutions to the conventional tables of discussions.

The results of the OceanDialogues2019 conference were presented at SEARICA Policy Workshop organised on the 20th of March at the EU Parliament. Among the main conference outcomes, space was finally given to two ambassadors of the Young Professionals, Théophile Bongarts from the Ocean & Climate Platform, France and Summer Snell, from The National Marine Aquarium, UK to be the voice of theYoung Professionals who joined the Ocean Dialogues Young Professionals Workshop. Clear points on the integration of the Youth in the whole process of Ocean Governance were given:

  • Young Processionals must be integrated into the political decision-making process from the first day of the work/workshops.
  • National and European delegations should include Young Professionals, and this must be done on the same model and for the same reasons as the inclusion of women in delegations in order to reach equality.
  • On the basis of the Erasmus model, Young Professionals exchanges should be facilitated. The objective is to enable each young professional to grasp all marine issues and to build an active network of Young Professionals.

The Young Professionals arguments were then integrated in the just released Ocean Dialogues manifesto:

“Recognise the importance of the Youth and Young professionals as being part of the solution, and their capacity to drive changes - if associated from the onset on equitable grounds to the social and policy debates on the development of the ocean knowledge system and the wider sustainable management of the ocean”

The workshop was an example on how is it possible to involve Young Professional in the EU Ocean Governance and discussions; such an event should become normality instead of exceptionality. Integration of the Youth for achieving one of the seventeen Sustainable Development Goals, which is about the sustainable use and conservation of the ocean, is already in the agenda of the Commission, which  is now planning to create and European Youth Forum of the Ocean.

(by Margherita Zorgno, EurOcean Science Officer and participant of the Young Professionals Workshop)