Vidar Helgesen leading UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission

Following his official appointment by the UNESCO Director-General in December 2023, Vidar Helgesen (Norway) officially takes over as Executive Secretary of the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO and Assistant Director-General of UNESCO.

Mr Helgesen brings to UNESCO a rich professional experience, having served in a variety of senior governmental and private sector positions, including as Minister of Climate and the Environment of Norway and Executive Director of the Nobel Foundation. As Norway’s Special Representative for the Ocean he initiated and led the work of the High Level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy.

Prior to his appointment, Mr Helgesen had already been actively contributing to the work of the IOC as co-Chairperson of the advisory board of the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development 2021-2030. Leading the IOC Secretariat as Executive Secretary and Assistant Director-General of UNESCO, Mr Helgesen will steer the Ocean Decade through the coming years.

On his first day of office, Mr Helgesen organised a meet and greet with the IOCSecretariat staff, and will meet individually with the various teams to familiarise himself with the ongoing activities, and co-design a strategy for the coming year.

“At a moment when the ocean has never been so high on the global agenda, the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO has a unique  mandate that combines an iron-clad commitment to improving our knowledge of the ocean with a vision for a sustainably managed ocean and an ocean literate society,” he pointed out. “This is tightly linked with the vision of the Ocean Decade, and with my own vision as well, which is why I am very excited to lead the IOC Secretariat at such a crucial moment in the history of the Commission.”

Among his upcoming flagship events are the 2024 Ocean Decade Conference (10-12 April, Barcelona, Spain), and the 2025 UN Ocean Conference (9-13 June, Nice, France).

Mr Helgesen was preceded in office by Dr Vladimir Ryabinin (Russian Federation), who led the IOC/UNESCO Secretariat during the period 2015-2024.

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