Capacity Building: The fate for rational GOOS program in emerging countries.

Eduardo Maronel

During the last years, I had the opportunity to participate in the organisation of training courses in tidal analysis for Latin-American and African countries, with the sponsorship of UNESCO and other international Institutions. As a result of this activity we are publishing this newsletter to keep the group on duty. For the future courses we will also ask for the support of the Training and Mutual Assistance office in Latin-America, and, probably, we will apply, if necessary, to the International Centre for Theoretical Physics support. The main experience we obtained was that for emerging countries, the actual needs are related with courses with very narrow and practical objectives. Courses directed to how to obtain sea level data, how to analyse oceanographic data, how to numerical modelling marine physical processes, how to study global processes, etc., are more likely. After the last twenty years of strong training courses in oceanographic related fields, it seems that rather than general courses, the emerging countries are looking for more specific activities.

Recently, I participated in a working group that met in Miami in February 97, dedicated to propose the planning of the GOOS Coastal Module to the heading panel of the J-GOOS program (Global Ocean Observing System from IOC - UNESCO and other international institutions as World Meteorological Organisation; ICSU - International Council of Scientific Unions; and the UNEP - United Nations Environmental Program). In short words, the GOOS program aims to deploy, all around the world, an oceanographic data collection network for the study of the oceans in the shape we actually have one for the meteorological data acquisition. The GOOS program was divided in four modules, one related with the Health of the Oceans (HOTO - mainly the chemical part), the second one related with Living Marine Resources (LMR - basically the biological part). The third one is the Ocean Processes and Climate module (OPC), related with open ocean processes and climate. The last panel is the Coastal Zone Module of the GOOS program with the main objective of study, in global, regional and local senses, the coastal zones of the world.

All the first three modules are multidisciplinary, as everything in ocean sciences, but leading by chemical sciences, biological sciences and meteorological and open ocean physics, respectively. The Coastal Module is the most complex because it is interdisciplinary at all, with no differences between the importance of any individual ocean sciences (biology, chemistry, geology, physics and so on). It is also complex because the complexity of coastal oceans and because political reasons. Open oceans can be studied by any country, especially those developed, because they are international waters. But coastal waters must be studied by coastal countries, even with strong collaboration of second party countries or international institutions. On the other hand, as the project is in the global sense, it is not possible to design such an international program supposing that they will be geographical gaps in the data acquisition network because some countries have no structure to participate in the program. On that sense, the report to the J-GOOS heading office, produced during the Miami workshop, included an special chapter of Capacity Building (GOOS Coastal Module Planning Workshop - Report to J-GOOS-IV, April 1997). The workshop noted that the coastal zone components of GOOS, initially developed from global perspectives, will subsequently need to be further developed in the context of specific local/regional circumstances. It was agreed that through the tailored development of coastal GOOS activities, both in an international context and in the national and regional levels, the benefits offers should meet both States' individual social, economic and environmental protection aspirations and provide support, through the acquisition of relevant knowledge, to international and regional aspirations and commitments. However, it is essential that the locally designed constituents of a global GOOS are designed in a manner coherent with the global requirements. It is not possible to design a global network for data acquisition, processing, analysis and modelling with a given space and temporal resolution, if the requirement of regularly spaced comprehensive sampling location is not fulfilled. The methodologies used to obtain and to process the data and its quality control, must be of adequate precision and accuracy to meet global requirement, for the same reason. Once the standards are defined, mechanism to assure the required network design must be considered.

These points apply particularly to developing countries, where the human resources for coastal studies are sparse or do not exist. To ensure a good world-wide coverage, these problems must be corrected. The gaps in the geographical distribution of coastal activities are mainly in the Southern Hemisphere, particularly in the less developed regions. Regional and National Coastal GOOS projects on these areas must be encouraged, promoting local groups to build their own local and regional programs, using installed capacity, where possible. On the other hand, strong effort must be applied in the area of educational, promoting facilities for medium and high level scientific and technical education for national scientists of these countries.

Special training courses on the GOOS modules should be organised as soon as possible, especially for emerging country's scientists and technicians. The leading of some international institution to do that will be necessary, but the bottom-up forcing must be present. The profile of this institution must include a good infra-structure for courses and the experience to do that. Also, it is necessary to have an already existing relationship with emerging countries and with developed countries’ scientists. It must have an UNESCO organisation link, and other advantages to lead the task.

There is only two regional GOOS projects in an operational sense, the EUROGOOS, in Europe, and the NEAR-GOOS, the last one is the Northeast Asia Regional GOOS, including Japan, China, South Korea and other countries. These regional experiences must be take into account and can contribute with emerging countries' initiatives. The practical solution to these problems may be obtained through regional initiatives, particularly where these embrace both developed and developing countries. Where this is not possible, the natural teleconnections which are forced by oceanic and atmospheric dynamics, provide a basis for the targeting of aid from developed to developing countries, even on the restricted basis of self-interest.

On the other hand, new financial supports will be available for these activities from several international institutions, not only UNESCO, for who organise such training courses and lead research projects. The GOOS project is the more important international initiative in the field of oceanography in its history, and, hopefully, it will promote the sciences and its benefits for a large number of human beans.


This work was produced during an Associate visit to the International Centre for Theoretical Physics, Trieste, Italy.


GOOS Coastal Module Planning Workshop - Report to J-GOOS-IV, April 1997. 53pp.