The International Seabed Authority (ISA) launched a pioneering report, “Empowering Women from LDCs, LLDCs and SIDS in Deep-Sea Research,” on 30 June at the United Nations Ocean Conference in Lisbon, Portugal. The report provides detailed information resulting from the first ever gender mapping undertaken in the field of deep-sea research and related disciplines. The report also identifies the critical barriers faced by women scientists from least developed countries (LDCs), landlocked developing countries (LLDCs) and small island developing States (SIDS) to participate in deep-sea research and related fields and access leadership positions.

The Secretary-General of ISA, Mr. Michael W. Lodge, opened the event with the participation of the Honorable Minister Fekitamoeloa ‘Utoikamanu, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Tourism of Tonga, Mr. Miguel de Serpa Soares, Under-Secretary-General for Legal Affairs and United Nations Legal Counsel, H.E. Mr. Dwight C.R. Gardiner, Permanent Representative of Antigua and Barbuda to ISA, H.E. Ms. Vanessa Frazier, Permanent Representative of Malta to ISA and the United Nations, and H.E. Ambassador Josefa Leonel Correia, Commissioner for Rural Economy and Agriculture at African Union Commission.

This event presented an opportunity for international experts to share their experiences, including Mr. François Houillier, President of Ifremer, Dr. Wan-Hyun Choi, President of the National Marine Biodiversity Institute of Korea, Dr. Suzan Mohamed El-Gharabawy, Head of Marine Geophysics Department, National Institute of Oceanography and Fisheries of Egypt, Dr. Zoe Jacobs, Biogeochemical Modeller, National Oceanography Centre of the United Kingdom, Dr. Katy Soapi, Coordinator, Pacific Community Center for Ocean Science, Secretariat of the Pacific Community, Ms. Claire Jolly, Head of Unit, Directorate for Science, Technology and Innovations, Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, and Ms. Tishka Francis, Senior Sustainable Development Officer, at the United Nations Office of the High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States (UN-OHRLLS).

In his remarks, Secretary-General Lodge reiterated the importance of a full and effective participation of women in science as an essential prerequisite to enabling scientific and technological advances to support the achievement of the 2030 Agenda and associated targets. “Despite numerous initiatives adopted and implemented at global, regional and national levels, women continue to be underrepresented in ocean science, particularly in highly technical areas like deep-sea research and leadership roles,” he said. “Unless a systematic change is introduced to reduce the gender gap, existing ocean-based sectors as well as emerging and future ocean-based sectors such as marine energy and marine minerals will continue to suffer from the same lack of gender parity,” Mr. Lodge said.

The Honorable Minister Fekitamoela ‘Utoikamanu, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Tourism of Tonga, underlined the important role of ISA in implementing relevant provisions under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea relating to capacity building and access to marine scientific research. “ISA has been instrumental in fostering international and regional cooperation in support of the sustainable development of the blue economy in the LDCs, LLDCs and SIDS,” she said.

Speaking at the launch of the report, the United Nations Legal Counsel, Mr. Miguel de Serpa Soares, recalled that “all States have recognized the importance of achieving gender equality in Sustainable Development Goal 5 and the targets and indicators thereunder. (…) Women’s participation is essential to reaching our goal of sustainable ocean management and achieving Sustainable Development Goal 14.”

H.E. Mr. Dwight C.R. Gardiner, Permanent Representative of Antigua and Barbuda to ISA, stressed that his country believes that strategic partnerships can be critical factors in accelerating women’s participation in deep-sea research. “Focused initiatives that commit to concrete actions have the power to harness innovative ideas through a wide range of stakeholders working together to generate sustainable solutions and realize the vision of Planet 50-50 by 2030. To this end, I would like to commend ISA on the launch of its report. I hope this event and the findings in this report will continue to develop the enabling conditions to improve effective participation of women from developing States, particularly LDCs and SIDS, in the global ocean science community,” he said.

The report was produced under the Women in Deep Sea Research (WIDSR) project, jointly implemented by ISA and UN-OHRLLS to advance women empowerment and leadership in deep-sea research and related disciplines, especially women scientists from LDCs, LLDCs and SIDS.

The WIDSR project focuses on four areas of action: policy development, capacity development, sustainability and partnerships, and communications and outreach. It involves over 20 entities, including Member States, international and regional organizations, research institutions, non-governmental organizations and the private sector. The project aims to address the issue of the underrepresentation of women in ocean science.

Invited to discuss the importance of women empowerment and leadership in marine scientific research for the development of an inclusive and sustainable ocean economy, Ms. Tishka Francis, Senior Sustainable Development Officer at UN-OHRLLS, underscored that existing available data indicate that, as of today, women have fewer opportunities and receive less institutional support to grow their careers and become leaders in deep-sea research. “We all need to do more to make marine science inclusive. Taking forward the findings of this report, a programmatic approach to capacity development taking into account the specific needs of these countries is key. OHRLLS stands ready to raise awareness and strengthen engagement with under-represented countries on how best to support their needs,” Ms. Francis said.

Speaking on behalf of H.E. Ambassador Josefa Leonel Correia, Commissioner for Rural Economy and Agriculture, African Union Commission, H.E. Ambassador Rosette Nyirinkindi Katungye emphasized that Africa wants to play a leading role in the global ocean agenda. “The continent is also eager to dive into the future, underpinned by science, technology and innovation. Cutting across all these pillars is the importance of placing women at the heart of the strategy. Women need to be involved in the design, policy and implementation of blue economy policies,” she said.

This new report builds on primary and secondary data collected through surveys at national, institutional and individual levels from 52 institutions and 128 individuals from 23 LDCs, LLDCs and SIDS globally, covering Africa, Asia-Pacific and Latin America and Caribbean regions. It is intended to inform all relevant stakeholders, including governments, donor agencies, international and regional organizations, multilateral development banks, academia, industry, civil society and the international scientific community working in ocean affairs. The findings of the report are expected to stir up the discussion on ways to foster international and regional cooperation for concrete actions in support of women’s empowerment and leadership in deep-sea research.


The report can be accessed at


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