In celebration of the one year anniversary of the ECOP Programme, we decided to look back over the course of the last year and acknowledge the key people and crucial moments that have helped strengthen this initiative to empower the next generation of ocean leaders.
The ECOP Programme began way before the start of the Ocean Decade in January 2021, in fact, the early signs of a movement towards what we now know as the ECOP Programme was during the first Global Planning Meeting (May 2019) organized by the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO (IOC-UNESCO) in Copenhagen, Denmark.
After identifying the lack of representation for early-career attendants at the meeting, a group of self-organized ECOPs (Alfredo Giron-Nava, Erin Satterthwaite, Guillermo Ortuno Crespo, Harriet Harden-Davies, and others) came together to discuss their vision for the future engagement of ECOPs in the Ocean Decade and beyond.
An informal working group of 42 ECOPs from around the world was formed in December 2019, and soon after, a global survey was launched to better understand the role of ECOPs in the Ocean Decade, from their own perspective. The survey received an overwhelmingly positive response – collecting views from more than 1400 ECOPs from over 100 countries in less than 4 months. This survey and other global consultations identified several broad needs, which were translated into 5 priority areas for ECOP involvement in the Ocean Decade, later forming the basis for the ECOP Programme task teams.
On 1 June, 2021, V.ECOP Day took place. A 24-hour livestream event organized by the German Marine Research Consortium in cooperation with the ECOP Programme and supported by Fisheries and Oceans Canada, the European Commission, IOC-UNESCO, the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research, and ESRI Deutschland as an officially endorsed UN Ocean Decade Activity. This virtual event moved through timezones with the sun, and featured more than 200 unique ECOPs from over 40 countries. In total, over 2000 participants logged in from over 80 countries.
It was this same week that the ECOP Programme received its endorsement from the Intergovernmental Ocean Committee at UNESCO, and the official ECOP Programme was born.
Fast forward to January 2022, as many exciting developments took place over the final months of 2021, including appointment of global and regional coordinators, securing supporting and collaborative partners, plus a brand new ECOPs website. Moving into 2022, task teams in Ocean Literacy and Diversity, Equity and Inclusion have allowed progress in community outreach and best practice policies. A new communications coordinator and plenty of events featuring or led by ECOPs, like the OceanBRIDGES workshop on Ocean Plastics, has meant the ECOP Programme team has been busy and productive.
Since its inception, the ECOP Programme has lived up to its objectives of striving for inter-generational diversity, by working in conjunction with the IOC and channeling opportunities towards ECOPs to present their work and use their voice at high level meetings and events. The ECOP Programme has also increased accessibility to Ocean scientific knowledge in underrepresented regions, by providing capacity development training in the Caribbean and African countries.
As we approach the one year anniversary of the ECOP Programme, it is clear momentum is growing. With nearly 900 members signed up to the global database, and nodes in Africa, Asia (including new national hubs in Japan, India and South Korea) and Canada (with more coming, such as US and South America), our focus on a network of networks and partnership development has already strengthened the global ECOP collective voice.
In 3 weeks time, many of the ECOP Programme’s core team will be in Lisbon for the UN Ocean Conference; it will be a fitting extension of the anniversary and a huge opportunity for ECOPs to meet, liaise and participate in the Ocean event of the year. But this is no party, it is time to bring all hands on deck in a collaborative effort to work towards the outcomes of the Decade of Ocean Science and make sure we achieve the Science We Need For The Ocean We Want before 2030.