India signs Ocean Charter

The oceans sustain life on planet Earth; if the oceans die, we die. We are barely aware of this fact because we live on land. So the United Nations declared 1998 as the International Year of the Ocean (IYO) to provide a window through which governments, organizations and individuals can become aware of the oceans and to consider the actions needed to pursue our responsibility to sustain this fragile common heritage without which we cannot exist.

The idea of designating 1998 as IYO emanated from the 17th Session of the Assembly of the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) of UNESCO held in March, 1993. The Twenty Seventh Session of the General Conference of UNESCO endorsed the proposal in November, 1993. The United Nations General Assembly formally adopted the proposal through a Resolution in December, 1991.

The Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) prepared a text for the Ocean Charter for adoption by all the member states of IOC. The Charter is a statement of principles and is not a legally-binding document. It is a declaration of intent of belief for and commitment to the future of the ocean and marine and coastal environment. The aim of the Charter is to combine political and public commitment as a powerful means of creating awareness. It is expected that this Ocean Charter would be signed by the heads of the State of the member countries. At a function on 9 November 1998 Secretary, Department of Ocean Development signed the Charter on behalf of India. Records of the signatories, dates and signing-events will be kept by Canada for publication after 1998. The function also marked the release of 23 million inland letters which will carry the message of the International Year of Ocean in English, Hindi and regional languages.

The IOC has also designed another Charter for signing by individuals in the member countries. The Department of Ocean Development is planning to approach Universities, national laboratories, research agencies, NGOs, etc. for getting individual scientists and general public to sign.