The early years: Elisabeth Mann Borgese and the UNCLOS Narrative

After the devastation of the second world war the world, on the cusp of history, looked towards a future where new paradigms and new governance models could be explored. A new paradigm for the ocean was in construction - no longer mare liberum, no longer mare clausum, and Elisabeth Mann Borgese, founder of the IOI, was at the centre of momentous events, along with other outstanding thinkers of the time. In the making of the constitution of the ocean through the Third United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS III), and in the principle of the Common Heritage of Mankind she saw the making of a new world order where the international regime for the peaceful uses of Ocean space could everywhere safeguard precious life on earth. 


She was a passionate campaigner for a world order founded on distributive justice and, to her, the sea offered the best laboratory for the application of a set of ethical principles guiding humanity to the equitable use of natural resources.  Elisabeth was instrumental in encouraging world leaders to rethink our relationship with the oceans and our management of marine resources and to the consideration of the oceans as a "great laboratory for the making of a new international order based on new forms of international cooperation and organisation, on a new economic theory, on a new philosophy." It is this thinking which led to establishment of the Pacem in Maribus Conference series with PIM I in 1970 and the foundation of the International Ocean Institute in 1972.  


Since then, the IOI has progressed synchronously along many development curves to promote the consideration and understanding of Ocean issues, to adapt and respond to the international challenges of Ocean governance, and to support and foster the creation of Ocean leadership, equitable and sustainable development, and the principle of a shared global destiny and access to resources held in common heritage in areas beyond national jurisdiction.


Notable and ongoing achievements of the IOI since 1972:


The Pacem in Maribus (PIM) Series (1970 to 2013): the IOI organised its flagship PIM Conferences as a forum where the challenges of ocean space could be considered in their interconnectedness. 34 PIM convocations were held globally, respected as important events where experts and policy makers came together to contribute to think tanks, roundtables, workshops and large-scale events. 


International Relations and partnerships: Since the beginning, IOI engaged in collaboration, cooperation and partnership with the international ocean community at several levels: through the international UN system, regional groupings and bodies, NGOs, IGOs, academia and institutions of learning; international organisations and many others across a broad spectrum of activities relating to ocean governance, and in support of the IOI mission and objectives. 


The IOI training, education and capacity development programmes: Offered in various formats, focussing on ocean-related topics and targeted to audiences of Ocean policy makers and stakeholders, the IOI has offered hundreds of events in the years since foundation and has fostered the development of several hundred ocean leaders since. The more recent among these offerings are the global IOI Ocean Governance training courses, the MA degree course in Ocean Governance,  the online IOI Alumni Continuous Professional Development courses, other IOI-led seminars, roundtables and webinars which build upon the early IOI offerings targeting training of personnel from SIDS and newly developing countries in the years around the discussion, creation and ratification of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.


IOI Outreach to Coastal and Ocean Stakeholders, Ocean Literacy and Citizen Science programmes: a significant benefit of the IOI’s global network of centres over the years has been its local reach into coastal communities through programmes such as the online IOI Ocean Academy, the MOOC One Planet: One Ocean, the IOI’s Women Youth and the Sea Programme (2000-2015) and other activities designed to enhance ocean knowledge, such as children’s competitions, outreach days, World Oceans Day celebrations and many, many more over the years.


IOI Publications: The establishment and dissemination of relevant publications are a further core activity of IOI; the principal publications support IOI action and underpin and facilitate knowledge transfer at all levels. The IOI Ocean Yearbook, published since 1978, presents leading-edge articles, reports and reference materials devoted to the issues and concerns affecting the world’s oceans. The World Ocean Review series aim to present scientifically robust knowledge in a form accessible to any interested person, as part of the IOI’s ocean literacy efforts, and are distributed, or easily downloaded  at no charge.