Statement on passing of a Ocean hero Dr Biliana Cicin-Sain

Reflection by Felix Dodds:
Biliana was a force of nature in the Ocean Community someone who I had the pleasure to work with on a number of Ocean related conferences that Stakeholder Forum engaged in. 

I met Biliana in the run-up to the World Summit on Sustainable Development in 2002 when most people were not seeing the importance of work on oceans. Biliana was a voice for those who were passionate about ocean issues she also brought people together. Her organization of the Global Forums on Oceans and in particular the one in 2012 complemented the Monocca Oceans conference in 2011 and helped move oceans up the political agenda for Rio+20. This gave it the prominence that helped secure at Rio +20, that governments committed themselves: 

"to address, on an urgent basis [...] the issue of the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction, including by taking a decision on the development of an international instrument under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea." 

It is very sad that she will not be here to see the outcomes from the Intergovernmental Conference on an international legally binding instrument under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction (BBNJ intercessional work.

She organized ocean days at the UNFCCC bringing in oceans issues into a forum that had not considered them important before. 

Her legacy will be carried on by her friends and colleagues who have worked with her over the years but also as professor and director of the Gerard J. Mangone Center for Marine Policy at the University of Delaware, Biliana she helped a generation of young 'ocean voices' to find their place in the world. They will take her vision forward in their work. Biliana we will miss you.   

Statement by the IOC Community: Professor Cicin-Sain was a close collaborator and friend of IOC. Starting with her and her husband Professor Robert Knecht’s sabbatical at the headquarters of IOC in 1995-96, Professor Cicin-Sain’s work was instrumental in the design and testing of the Commission’s programme in Integrated Coastal Management. It is in the very premises of IOC that the book Integrated Coastal and Ocean Management: Concepts and Practices by her and her husband was written – a seminal book that formalized what went to become the most adopted framework to apply the ecosystem approach in the coastal areas of the world.

This approach was enlarged eventually to ocean areas, including in areas beyond national jurisdiction. In this regard, the scholarly work of Professor Cicin-Sain and the network of scholars that she assembled through the global conferences on ocean and coastal areas that she convened since 2001 played a central role in supporting with evidence the need for articulating the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea further and to operationalize relevant provisions of it to protect the biodiversity of ocean areas beyond national jurisdiction for the sake of current and future generations.

The passion and unlimited energy and power of listening and of persuasion of Professor Cicin-Sain brought her to be acknowledged as an honest broker by a multitude of non-governmental stakeholders as well as governments in support of formal negotiations on the ocean policy agenda, starting with the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 and continuing relentlessly through the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg in 2002 and the Rio+20 Summit in 2012. During the past few years, the work of Professor Cicin-Sain focused on the need to recognize fully the unique role of the world ocean and coastal areas in climate regulation and the mitigation of, and adaptation to, climate change, particularly, in the context of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. She was able to rely on the profound sense of mutual respect and trust built over the years to help bring together communities as diverse as knowledge holders and representatives of local and traditional communities, the private sector, non-governmental organizations in charge of ocean advocacy and ocean education in support of the global intergovernmental agenda, thus increasing significantly timeliness, relevance and legitimacy in decision-making. In all of this, she was always and solely motivated by her love for the ocean and profound understanding that only through a collective vision will we be able to ensure ocean sustainability. In all of her work, she always recognized and nourished the contribution of ocean science – from research to observations and also scientific assessments – to the political dialogue on our common ocean, for the benefit of humankind as a whole, also advocating for the work of science organizations such as IOC and FAO.

Particular recognition deserve the efforts of Professor Cicin-Sain in building capacities of those who were lagging behind in order to ensure that countries and their peoples could benefit from the highest possible level of knowledge and technology in preserving and sustainably using their ocean and coastal areas and resources therein, through the multiple capacity development projects led by her and the Global Ocean Forum, which she founded.

As a teacher, Professor Cicin-Sain leaves a legacy of hundreds of young and less so, considering the 50-year time span of her academic career, ocean professionals that will continue carrying her vision and enseignements, for a better ocean and a better world. Thank you, Professor Cicin-Sain and friend of the world ocean Biliana.

The IOC Community at Large

Global Ocean Forum President Biliana Cicin-Sain delivers the opening keynote at the Climate Change Conference.


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