Shining Bright at UN Ocean Decade Conference

In April, Aotearoa New Zealand took center stage at the inaugural UN Ocean Decade Conference in Barcelona, where we shared our unique approach to the Decade of Ocean Science with a global audience.

Tāwera, Te Aramahiti

New Zealand was represented at the Conference by our Culture Commissioner, Dr Dan Hikuroa, and Natural Sciences Commissioner, Linda Faulkner, as well as Master Navigator Jack Thatcher, and Aurere Thatcher. National Commission Senior Advisor Yana Selyuk supported the delegation.

“It was an honour and a privilege to represent Aotearoa at the UN Ocean Decade Conference and to share what we are doing in Aotearoa for the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development with the 1500 attendees, including UNESCO Director General, Heads of State, scientists and practitioners,” said Dan Hikuroa.

Aotearoa New Zealand was one of the first nations to take to the Conference stage after the conclusion of the heads of state opening, when Master Navigator Jack Thatcher took to the stage during the opening plenary and shared a captivating kōrero which outlined the importance of indigenous knowledges to ocean science, in particular the role and value of Mātauranga Māori.

“My greatest highlight was seeing the world marvel at member of the NZ delegation Master Navigator Jack Thatcher’s opening plenary – the audience was spellbound,” said Dan.

As part of his presentation, Jack launched Tāwera, Te Aramahiti, the morning star guides eastward: reviving traditional navigation knowledge in the Pacific, a paper that delves into the Pacific ocean knowledge, wayfinding, and the heritage of long-distance navigation.

The paper can be downloaded from our Knowledge Hub. It prioritises and centres the voices and vast knowledge of those who know and understand voyaging waka best - the navigators.

Linda believes throughout the three-day Conference the NZ National Commission for UNESCO made an enduring impact.

“The importance, value and contribution to be made by multiple knowledge approaches, particularly indigenous and First Nations knowledge, echoed throughout the conference. This was no doubt led by the fact that although the conference was held in Europe, the first two plenary sessions of the conference were led by New Zealand and Australian Indigenous and first nations interventions,” said Linda.

“Master Navigator Jack Thatcher shared a small morsel of his vast knowledge of charting the oceans using the stars, while a contingent from the Great Barrier Reef Foundation provided a powerful presentation about their traditional knowledge, connection and work with the reef. This was then followed by panel discussions dominated by New Zealand, Australia and Pacific representatives,” said Linda.

The panel discussion, of which Linda was a part of, was entitled Indigenous Knowledge Systems and Community-Engaged Ocean Science and was a collaboration between the NZ National Commission, the Canadian Commission for UNESCO, Pacific Community SPC and the Great Barrier Reef Foundation, and was moderated by Dan.

“There was a palpable thirst for learning how to weave knowledges. A round of applause was the response to my assertion that the solutions the Ocean needs won’t be drawn from one body of knowledge in isolation – rather we need to weave all available bodies of knowledge to achieve the most enduring and innovative solutions,” said Dan.

During the Conference the New Zealand delegation also attended a number of satellite events.

“These enabled us to share and benefit from the wisdom of others, and there was indeed a significant appetite for hearing about the experience of dual knowledge approaches here in Aotearoa. This was exemplified by the fantastic turnout at our jointly hosted reception with the Canadian National Commission for UNESCO, SPC and the Great Barrier Reef Foundation. It was a celebration of culture, knowledge, generosity and curiosity. Some extremely valuable relationships were forged with others aligned or interested in our work, as well as with people we can learn from to inform the extension of our work and impact both within Aotearoa New Zealand and beyond,” said Linda.

Jack’s plenary presentation can be viewed here: at 2:29:41

The panel discussion featuring Linda and Dan can be found here: at 3:53:58.

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