Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission

The Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) of United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) is the UN body responsible for ocean science. It supports international collaboration and standards in ocean science. The NOC leads the UK’s delegation to the  Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) in order that that representation is scientifically and technically led. The NOC receives and disseminates information relating to global scale programmes, such as the Global Ocean Observing System (GOOS), Tsunami Warning and Mitigation Programmes or the General Bathymetric Chart of the Oceans (GEBCO). The remit also involves contributing to policy and programme decisions by way of participation at biannual meetings of the Executive Council and General Assembly.

UK delegation at the 2016 Executive Council meetingEstablished in 1960, the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) of UNESCO promotes international cooperation to learn more about, and better manage, the nature and resources of the ocean and coastal areas. It is the primary body in the UN system for coordinating marine science and its programmes cover the following.

  • Capacity development
  • Ocean observations and services
  • Ocean sciences
  • Tsunami warning and mitigation systems.

Where appropriate, IOC works with other intergovernmental organisations and international partners.


Within the UK responsibility for handling IOC matters, including ensuring appropriate UK representation at IOC and its subsidiary bodies, are devolved by Government to the Natural Environment Research Council. Tasks are carried out by the UK IOC Office, funded by the Natural Environmental Research Council (NERC), and hosted at the National Oceanography Centre.

The NOC is assisted by the national committee for IOC and calls on the expertise of scientists, policy makers and marine partners from throughout the UK. IOC is represented by the Chair of the UK Committee for IOC on the Marine Science Coordination Committee (MSCC) International Network. Good links are maintained with the UK’s Permanent Delegation in UNESCO.

At present, the UK’s main focus is on the following IOC activities.