Professor Elaine Baker appointed as UNESCO Chair

20 September 2013

Professor Elaine Baker, from theSchool of Geosciences, has received the prestigious appointment of a UNESCO Chair in Ocean Governance at the University of Sydney from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, starting in mid-September 2013.

The international UNESCO Chair positions aim to improve the capacity of institutions to work globally and form partnerships with each other to deal with issues which transcend the borders of any single state. Professor Baker's position is for four years, with the option of renewal at the end of this period.

Professor Elaine Baker, from the School of Geosciences, has received the prestigious appointment of a UNESCO Chair in ocean governance from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation.

"Being made a UNESCO Chair is a great honour and I am hoping that it will enable us to develop a more visible presence at the University of Sydney for the science that supports the sustainable use of the oceans. There is growing interest in how we use and value the resources of the ocean," said Professor Baker.

"Most recently the United Nations has launched a program - the World Ocean Assessment - to make regular reports on the state of the marine environment including socioeconomic aspects. I have been very much involved in this process," explained Professor Baker.

"In addition, we have a number of programs, such as the University of the Sea, the Pacific Marine Spatial Information System, Deep Sea Mining and Blue Carbon, that link institutions in research, capacity building and knowledge transfer partnerships."

Professor Baker is the co-ordinator of University of the Sea - a program of the Asian Neighbours Network that allows senior researchers from the Asia-Pacific region to work with young local scholars on marine issues of direct interest to the region.

She leads the partnership between the 28 organisations involved in University of the Sea, which include the University of Sydney, University of NSW, University of Technology Sydney, Australian National University, University of Tokyo, Korean Ocean Research and Development Institute, Tongji University China, Partnership for Observation of the Global Oceans Canada, National Institute of Oceanography Goa, Indonesian Research Centre for Marine Technology, and the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO.

"The UNESCO Chair position came about as the result of the collaborative project that is University of the Sea, but this is only one of many collaborative projects and capacity building activities that I am involved in. In addition to the 28 partner organisations in University of the Sea, I work with many other state government and institutional partners in the Pacific and West Africa on aspects of ocean governance," said Professor Baker.

Marine spatial planning and The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB) for oceans project will be Professor Baker's major research focuses in this new position. She has recently received a large AusAID grant from the Australian federal government to conduct marine spatial planning with Pacific partners. The TEEB project was kicked off by a discussion paper commissioned by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), on which Professor Baker was an author. She is now developing a large scale project for TEEB with global partners.

"I think the UNESCO Chairs program is a great opportunity to capitalise on the research done at universities like Sydney, where we have fantastic people and research capacity, and can really contribute to the global debate on how we manage our marine environment, a large part of which has been designated the common heritage of mankind.

"Importantly, it gives us the opportunity to help build the expertise and leadership of marine scientists from the region so that they can sustainably manage their marine resources. This is very important for developing states and small island developing states in our area, as they are custodians to some of the largest marine jurisdictions and most valuable marine resources on the planet."

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