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THE BIRTH OF CCOP (1966)
In 1947 the UN Economic Commission for Asia and the Far East (ECAFE) was established under the umbrella of the United Nations Economic and Social Council with the aim of assisting member states to revive their economies. The Mineral Resources Section of the Industry and Natural Resources Division of ECAFE was one of the organization’s most active units in its early days, with two conference units known respectively as the Subcommittee for Mineral Resources Development and the Working Party for Senior Geologists. The latter consisted mostly of representatives of the national geological surveys of the ECAFE region. It met every two to three years and was then the only regional meeting for senior geological survey personnel. It was from these meetings and associated activities that the seeds were sown that would, lead to the formation of CCOP. These UN funded activities, in the years between 1955 and 1965, included study tours, seminars and workshops conducted by international scientists, implementation of cooperative projects such as compilation and publication of 1:5 million scale regional geological maps and compilation of an inventory of mineral resources of the region. Also, at this time, international geoscientific organizations, such as The Commission for the Geological Map of the World and the International Union of Geological Sciences started or resumed their activities in earnest.

In the early 1960s a series of remarkable discoveries related to marine geology became evident to the world’s geoscientific community. In particular offshore geophysical surveys were resulting in offshore oilfields being discovered and developed in various parts of the world but the formidable costs involved excluded most national geoscience organizations from carrying out such surveys. It was against this background that a proposal that involved collaborative international offshore geophysical surveys of the continental shelf areas of the ECAFE region was first discussed by the ECAFE Secretariat in 1965. An ad hoc Working Group of Experts subsequently recommended that a ‘coordinating committee’ consisting of representatives of interested countries should be established. In November 1965 the Executive Secretary of ECAFE invited the governments of all interested countries in Asia to consider what action might be taken in connection with the recommended establishment of a ‘Committee for Coordination of Prospecting for Mineral Resources in Asian Offshore Areas’.

The proposal to establish such a committee to coordinate offshore activities in the ECAFE region came as a surprise to many of the region’s national geological survey organizations. Although international cooperative projects in the geosciences had been expected to be encouraged by ECAFE and marine surveys seemed particularly timely, most of the geological surveys were not involved in petroleum exploration and lively debate ensued regarding the merits of such a proposal with the result that when the individual delegates reported back to their Governments those represented agreed to approve the recommendations of the Expert Group Meeting with the proviso that purely commercial aspects of marine geoscience surveys should left to the private sector. In February, 1966, the Governments of the Republic of China, Japan, the Republic of Korea and the Philippines agreed to become the founding members of the proposed Coordinating Committee for Offshore Prospecting in Asia, just one year after the idea had been first discussed.
 
1966 CCOP Established under UNESCAP with the name “The Committee for Coordination of Joint Prospecting for Mineral Resources in the Asian Offshore Areas”
Government of the Philippines invited the newly established Coordinating Committee for Offshore Prospecting in Asia to meet its first session in Quezon City from 27 May to 2 June 1966. This very first session, representing the formal birth of the Committee, was inaugurated by the Minister of Education of the Philippines who was subsequently to become the first Asian President of the General Assembly of the United Nations. Present at the Session were representatives of the four founding-member Governments together with their expert advisers. Also, present were representatives of the ECAFE Secretariat, including the Chief of the Mineral Resources Division, Mr. C.Y. Li, who was to play a prominent role during the early years of the Committee.

In all, over forty people took part during the seven days of the meeting in Quezon City. At the meeting’s outset, draft terms of reference for the committee, as originally proposed in November 1965, were formally adopted. These stated that the primary function of the committee was, on request from the participating Governments, to promote and coordinate the planning and implementation of offshore geophysical and other prospecting projects on the marine shelves of those countries of the region represented on committee.

It was agreed that the Committee should have a Technical Secretariat and that the Mineral Resources Development Section of ECAFE could form the temporary core of such a body. The Japanese Government offered funding for services of an experienced geophysicist to be attached to the Technical Secretariat for one or two years under the auspices of ECAFE. It was also decided that a Technical Advisory Group (TAG) should be formed to advise on technical matters and to review programmes drafted by the Technical Secretariat. The Technical Advisory Group was to include experts form advanced countries designated as ‘Special Advisors’.

Founding Members of CCOP in 1966 were the Republic of China, Japan, the Republic of Korea and the Philippines. It was agreed at the outset that a cautious approach should be taken, on the one hand, to “spreading the activities over too wide an area” but, on the other hand, that other ECAFE members in proximity to the Pacific Ocean would be welcome to join the Committee at the appropriate time. This invitation was quickly taken up with Thailand and the Republic of Vietnam joining in 1968, Cambodia , and Malaysia in 1969 and Indonesia in 1970 so that after its first five years of existence the Committee already had nine-Member Countries.

1971, the People’s Republic of China replaced the Republic of China in the United Nations and therefore became the CCOP Member Country representing China, greatly increasing the total population within the CCOP region. In the 1970s expansion of the Committee continued; Singapore became a member in 1973 and the Pacific Islands Trust Territory became a Member Country in 1975 only to leave in 1981. Papua New Guinea became a member in 1977, so that by 1980 the Member Countries total led eleven. This rapid pace of expansion was now to slow down with no new members for almost the next three decades. The expansion, however, was to continue in the next century with Timor-Leste (2009), Lao PDR (2011) , Myanmar (2015), and Mongolia (2018) joining. In 2020 Brunei Darussalam joined, completing the ASEAN member states to be CCOP members, and bringing the cur-rent total up to sixteen Member Countries.
1987 CCOP became Intergovernmental Organization (UN funding continued)

The Republic of Korea signs the Memorandum of Understanding with CCOP, 1987.

Signing Ceremony of the CCOP Memorandum of Understanding to establish CCOP as an Intergovernmental Organization. Hosted by the Deputy Prime Minister of the Royal Government of Thailand at Government House on 25 March 1987.
Nineteen eighty-seven was a watershed year for CCOP; it was not only the twenty-first birthday of the organization but also, as befits a ‘coming of age’, it saw a radical change in CCOP’s international status. At the annual Session in 1986, the question of what should happen after 1987, when the UNDP project’s financial support for the institutional costs of CCOP were to come to an end, prompted a lengthy discussion on the future legal status of CCOP. There seemed to be two possibilities, either CCOP should be absorbed into ESCAP or it should become an independent organisation. A legal consultant provided by the UNDP prepared a draft Memorandum of Understanding together with new Terms of Reference for CCOP in order to establish it as an independent organisation and after lengthy discussion of the various options for the future, it was recommended that Member Countries should proceed to sign the new MoU and Terms of Reference for CCOP as soon as possible, though Japan still favored CCOP becoming a part of ESCAP. The matter was resolved when a Memorandum of Understanding to confer on CCOP the status of an Intergovernmental Organisation (IGO) was signed by China, Democratic Kampuchea (Cambodia), Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines and Thailand on 25 March 1987. Signing ceremonies for Republic of Korea and Malaysia took place later in 1987 and the Socialist Republic of Vietnam in 1989. The redrafted Terms of Reference of CCOP were also attached to the MoU in which CCOP is officially referred to as the “Committee for Coordination of Joint Prospecting for Mineral Resources in Asian Offshore Areas”, confirming that the offshore emphasis to its work was to be maintained. The Memorandum of Understanding was put into force from 29th August 1987. The intense diplomatic activity of the previous eighteen months meant that at the opening ceremony of the 24th Session of CCOP in Thailand in October 1987, ESCAP was able to note the change in status to CCOP and to state that action would shortly follow to allow the transfer of responsibility for UNDP project execution to the CCOP Secretariat whereupon ESCAP’s role would shift from direct support for CCOP to complementarity.

After twenty-one years CCOP has finally become an independent intergovernmental organisation. The UNDP representative expressed satisfaction with the new status of CCOP and reported that since 1972 UNDP had provided almost USD 6 million to assist CCOP and that 1987 was not to be the end of UNDP involvement with CCOP as USD 3 million had already been allocated for assistance to the work programme of CCOP during the next four years. Though not the end it was, however, the beginning of the final chapter in a story of twenty years of UNDP’s constructive involvement in CCOP.
1991 CCOP became full Intergovernmental Organization (IGO)


In 1972, the staff of the UNDP Project Office, which was to act as the Secretariat of CCOP, included the Project Manager/Coordinator, two Senior Geophysicists, a Senior Marine Geologist, a Senior geologist/Technical Editor, a consultant the International Law of the Sea, a Consultant on the establishment of data Centers and an Administrative Assistant. After its inception in 1972, the UNDP project was to evolve in a variety of ways. In May 1978, Mr. A Johannes of Indonesia has become the new Project Manage and the Project Office then had the services of a Petroleum Geologist, a Senior Marine Geologist, a Senior Marine Geophysicist, a Technical Editor and an Administrative Office together with additional experts provided by individual Cooperation Countries; these included a Principal Marine Geologist (USA), a Senior Geologist (Japan) and a non-resident expert on Tertiary geology (France). In 1979, a Senior Petroleum Geologist was also appointed to the Project Office. A team of this size and competence was able to provide extremely valuable support to the Member Countries and a document (CCOP/XX-18), reviewing the Project and presented at the 1983 Annual Session, indicated that the total value of service supplied by CCOP to the Member Countries between 1977 and 1982 amounted to about $16.75m. It also listed the value of services provided through the UNDP project office to the individual Member Countries during the six years in question. In all cases this for exceeded their Government’s cash contributions to the project.

Though the UNDP’s role was to become much reduced during subsequent years and finally came to an end in 1991, it had provided CCOP with a vital lifeline for almost twenty years.
 
1994Changed name as “Coordinating Committee for Coastal and offshore Geoscience Programmes in East and Southeast Asia
2001Named as “Coordinating Committee for Geoscience Programmes in East and Southeast Asia

The acronym ‘CCOP’ was first used in the report of the 4th session of the Committee held in Tokyo in 1968 and has been used ever since when referring to the organisation, in spite of several subtle changes in the organisation’s full official title.

In 1994, recognising the broadening of the work programme to more than just offshore prospecting, the Steering Committee considered that the time was ripe for a further adjustment to the title of the CCOP and also the rewording of its mandate. The latter was amended to read, “The purpose of CCOP is to carry out joint applied geoscience programmes for sustainable development of the coastal and offshore areas of East and Southeast Asia”. This acknowledged the fact that the work programme was encroaching on the coastal zone, marking the first tentative steps by CCOP on to dry land. The new title therefore became
  • ‘The Coordinating Committee for Coastal and Offshore Geoscience Programmes in East and Southeast Asia’
. The change of title provoked lengthy debate; there was a great desire amongst members to retain the original and now well-known acronym CCOP so that words starting with those letters should appear at least somewhere in the title. In 2006, with the move to onshore as well as offshore projects assured, the name was changed to ‘the Coordinating Committee for Geoscience Programmes in East and Southeast Asia’. In spite of the removal of ‘Offshore’ from the new title, there was no desire to change the now firmly entrenched and durable acronym ‘CCOP’.
 
2016Celebrated the 50th CCOP Anniversary

2016, has marked some extraordinary accomplishments for the Coordinating Committee for CCOP. It also is a time to celebrate the 50th Year Anniversary of the organization. To commemorates CCOP’s impressive achievements, CCOP produced a publication entitled “Unveiling Stories in Geoscience Development for Society”. It not only celebrates the past 50th years of memories and accomplishments, but also outlines an agenda for the near future. Since its birth and with the unwavering support from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) for twenty years (1972 - 1991), CCOP has grown and prospered so that it currently has sixteen member countries and is recognized as a respected intergovernmental organisation that facilitates and coordinates the implementation of geoscience programmes. The evolving aims and activities of the CCOP through the years are chronicled in its annual reports, newsletters and other such publications. The prosperity and growth of CCOP during these 50 years would not have been possible without the continuing strong support of cooperating countries, international organisations, and more importantly, our member countries.
CCOP TODAY16MCs, 14CCs, 17 COs ready to lead up
Member Countries:
Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Japan, Republic of Korea, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Mongolia, Myanmar, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Timor-Leste and Vietnam.
 
Cooperating Countries:
Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Russian Federation, Sweden, United Kingdom and United States of America.
 
Cooperating Organizations:
ASCOPE, CIFEG, CPC, Euro GeoSurveys, GETECH, IERI, IOC, IOMAC, IUGS, PETRAD, SPC, UN-ESCAP, UNEP, UNESCO, UKM, THE WORLD BANK and YES NETWORK.