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Human civilization heavily impacts on the oceans, by pollution, overfishing, and through climate change. While the use of the oceans is governed by several international treaties, many aspects are not clarified. UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Organization (IOC) plays a pivotal role for the oceans.

In order to understand human impacts, both innovative research and permanent observation are necessary. Because of national sovereignty and the high cost of data collection, research and monitoring of the open seas are classical intergovernmental tasks. The IOC negotiates the requirements to understand global change and to respect national sovereignty. The IOC is a largely autonomous body within UNESCO that already exists since 1960; within the UN, the IOC has the lead role for UNOceans, the main coordinating body for the seas.

Germany and the IOC

Germany is a founding member of the IOC. The German Section of the IOC coordinates Germany’s participation in the IOC's programmes. About 20 German scientists are working in very diverse IOC bodies. DUK is a member of the German Section of the IOC. Germany places at the IOC’s disposal permanent national infrastructure for research and observation, bursaries and training programmes. To give an example, this includes making available the German research ships “Polarstern”, “Sonne” and “Meteor”.

Photo of launching a buoy of the German-Indonesian Tsunami Early Warning System
© GFZ Potsdam

Currently, the IOC activity within which the German government and German scientists are most heavily involved is the implementation of a Tsunami Early Warning System in the Indian Ocean and the Mediterranean/North East Atlantic Ocean. The German-Indonesian national tsunami warning system for Indonesia GITEWS has been constructed with financial support from the Federal Ministry for Education and Research, to the tune of 40 million euros. The main implementing partner is the GeoForschungsZentrum Potsdam.


Bundesamt für Seeschifffahrt und Hydrographie
Deutsche IOC-Sektion
Bernhard-Nocht-Straße 78
20359 Hamburg, Germany
Tel. +49 40 3190 0

UNESCO-IOC website

German-Indonesian tsunami warning system



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