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Flanders supports IODE

[based upon article "Flanders Supports the "S" in UNESCO", EWI review, No2, October 2007 by Rudy Herman]

Flanders decided to support the IODE programme through FUST (2003-2007 phase, US$ 4.15 million, then equivalent to around €3.32 million), focusing particularly on the Ocean Data and Information Network (ODIN). This package of activities promotes close cooperation between two major IOC programmes: Integrated Coastal Area Management and the operational Global Ocean Observing System. When launching the Ocean Data and Information Networks, the UNESCO/IOC Secretariat secured the necessary commitment from all the member states involved with regard to data centre infrastructure and staff. At the same time, the IOC undertook the required capacity building in member states by organising on-the-job training. Flanders’ input in this respect was crucial, not least because the UNESCO/ IOC Project Office for IODE began operating in Ostend in April 2005. Since this UNESCO expertise centre was set up, 800 experts from 97 IOC member states have received specialist training. Uniformly trained experts are vital for developing data networks according to international standards. This on-the-job training resulted in the accelerated development and launch of new ODINS around the world, based on the successful pilot network ODINAFRICA and its successor ODINCARSA. In total, six ODIN networks have been developed and are now up and running.

The European SeaDataNet (including the IODE Project Office as a partner), which comprises 49 data centres in 36 countries, works closely with the ODINs. One of IODE’s key tasks is to supply targeted information and products to other IOC programmes. These information and data flows are also streamlined with the activities of other IOC programmes and harmonised with data flows from other organisations such as the WMO and UNEP, resulting in joint activities and products. This can best be illustrated with a few examples.

Obvious benefits

Thanks to structural support from FUST, the IOC was able to develop its first uniform Ocean Data and Information Network at continental level: ODINAFRICA. Within this process, a major priority was establishing and strengthening regional centres for information and data management to support integrated coastal zone management. As a pilot network, ODINAFRICA fulfilled a number of needs and priorities reported to UNESCO by the African member states. Until 1999, there were only four African operational measuring stations supplying data to the Global Sea-Level Observing System (GLOSS). Today, GLOSS has around 300 stations that monitor changes in sea level at both regional and global level. Thanks to ODINAFRICA, Africa now figures prominently on GLOSS’s world map. A Pan-African coastal observing system has also been developed, based on a network of 30 or so tide gauges. Through ODINAFRICA a GLOSS-Africa web site as also been established.

Another example of ODINAFRICA output is the African Marine Atlas (AMA), an interactive web application allowing several data layers to be viewed in superposition. AMA can provide such layered data at both local and continental level. For example, it shows the location of all measuring points for the Marine Species Database for Eastern Africa: MASDEA was set up with the assistance of the VLIZ and is now a fullyfledged ODINAFRICA activity.

Through this integrated approach, ODINAFRICA is helping to underpin sustainable protection of Africa’s coastal regions and marine environment. It also fulfils some of the ambitions set out in the marine and coastal resources section of the NEPAD (New Partnership for Africa’s Development) Environment Initiative. Inclusion in NEPAD ensures that all stakeholders have a real say on the marine environment, including the private sector, policymakers and the education sector. With FUST being part of the EWI Science Sharing Programme, Flanders - in collaboration with UNESCO - is making a significant contribution (€1.437 million in 2007) to the development of a sustainable policy for Africa’s coastal regions.