Background to the IOC PPO

The UNESCO IOC Perth Programme Office was formally established in 1998.

It was formed jointly by UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (UNESCO IOC), the Australian Bureau of Meteorology and the Western Australian Government, under a tri-partite sponsorship agreement.

The Office is designed to serve the balanced mutual objectives of its three sponsors as a regional node of UNESCO IOC and is one of only a few IOC regional focal points around the world.

It is co-located with the Secretariat of the Intergovernmental Coordination Group for the Indian Ocean Tsunami Warning and Mitigation System (ICG/IOTWMS), which the IOC PPO helped to establish soon after the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami.

The Office is run by a Head of Office, with technical and administrative support by a Program Officer on secondment from the Bureau of Meteorology. Other technical/administrative assistance is provided as required, and the Office also establishes programmes with external parties under co-sponsorship arrangements. Master Students under the European Union’s Erasmus Mundus Master course in Maritime Spatial Planning (EMMCMSP) programme have undertaken internships at the Office since 2015 on an annual basis.

The Office works closely with Western Australian, Australian and international marine and climate scientists, government agencies and marine stakeholders. It also collaborates with personnel of the IOC Secretariat based in the IOC’s Paris Headquarters and with professional and technical staff in IOC Regional Sub-Commissions (i.e. IOC WESTPAC and IOC Africa), IOC Regional Committees and other IOC Project and Regional Programme Offices around the world (i.e. International Oceanographic Data and Information Exchange (IODE) Project Office).

Goals of the IOC PPO

The IOC PPO seeks to achieve an improved characterisation and prediction of oceanographic and related marine ecological and meteorological processes, along with an improvement in associated data management/access, capacity building and operational applications, for the southern hemisphere oceanic regions centred on Australia. This is relevant in order to understand and effectively manage the resources of the ocean and coastal areas. By applying this knowledge the IOC PPO aims to improve the governance, management, institutional capacity and decision-making processes of member states of the IOC in the southern hemisphere region with respect to marine resources and climate variability and to foster sustainable development of the marine environment.

Since its establishment in 1998, the IOC PPO has become known as a key catalyst, advocate and broker of IOC programmes within the region. Its role encompasses helping to develop, coordinate and implement a range of collaborative science alliances and associated marine and climate science projects through its network of strong partnerships with government agencies, marine science institutes, universities and other international organisations or programmes in the region.

Science motivation for the IOC PPO

The seas surrounding Australia (Indian Ocean, South East Asia, Pacific Ocean and Southern Ocean) are interconnected physically and biologically by currents which span local, regional and oceanic scales. The meteorology above the sea also exhibits an interconnected nature and many climatic systems transmit across and between these oceanic basins and over adjacent land masses. Many atmospheric systems drive oceanographic processes that then also transmit across and between oceanic basins, and many oceanographic properties influence the atmospheric formation of weather systems above particular oceanic regions. There is strong coupling between the oceans and atmosphere, with oceanic phenomena being critical factors in local, regional and global climate systems and essential to understand in respect to climate variability and change.

Under this broad scientific motivation, the IOC PPO acts as a broker in the development and implementation of international oceanographic science programmes that respond to the IOC’s High Level Objectives of ecosystem health, marine hazards, climate change and enhanced scientific knowledge.

The IOC PPO was established as a focal point to address the relatively poor representation and presence of IOC programmes that existed in the southern hemisphere region in the 1990s. Significant progress has been made since then of benefit to all IOC Member States in the region, but much work remains to be done through the ongoing regional facilitation and coordination of existing and new programmes and initiatives under the IOC PPO and associated IOC alliances.