• What is the overall state of the world’s oceans and seas?
  • Are marine ecosystems around the world improving or declining?
  • What benefits do we get from the world’s oceans and seas, and how are they distributed?
  • How can we measure the state of the oceans and seas?  And what threatens them?

Oceans and seas cover over 7/10ths of our planet.  Until now, there has been no system to provide an integrated, world-wide view of what is happening to the oceans and seas and our uses of them.  Following the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, South Africa, the United Nations set up a regular process to review the environmental, economic and social aspects world’s oceans and seas – the three pillars of sustainable development.  This is the “Regular Process for Global Reporting and Assessment of the State of the Marine Environment, including Socioeconomic Aspects”.  The outputs will be a series of World Ocean Assessments, building on the many assessments already carried out by States and international organizations.  The aim is to provide a sound, scientific basis for decisions at the global level on the world’s oceans and seas, and a framework for national and regional assessments and management decisions.

The United Nations General Assembly has entrusted oversight and guidance of the Regular Process to an Ad Hoc Working Group of the Whole, comprising representatives of Member States.  Intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations with consultative status with ECOSOC may also take part in meetings.

A Group of Experts of the Regular Process of up to 25 members, representing all regions of the world, will carry out the World Ocean Assessments.  The Group of Experts will be assisted by a Pool of Experts (without limit of numbers) nominated by States, through the regional groups of the UN General Assembly.  The Pool of Experts will provide expertise in the wide range of areas and subjects needed for the World Ocean Assessment.

The first World Ocean Assessment is to be completed by the end of 2014.  The Outline for this assessment has been approved by the UN General Assembly, on the basis of a recommendation from the Ad Hoc Working Group of the Whole.  The UN General Assembly has already approved the overall objective, scope, principles and best practices for the work of the Regular Process.