• June 3rd, 2020

Getting to know the Abidjan Convention

Absalom Shigwedha 

Marine and coastal areas of the Atlantic Coast in West, Central and Southern Africa contribute hugely to economic development of countries which shares this ocean, through activities such as fishing, maritime transportation, oil and gas exploration and tourism.

The Guinea Large Marine Ecosystem, for example – contribute about US$18 billion annually to this West Africa country’s economy. However, the marine and coastal areas are also facing a number of problems due to human activities such as marine litter, oil spills, over-harvesting of marine resources and marine bio-fouling and climate change - leading to the reduction in ocean biodiversity and degradation in marine habitats. 

It is against this background that the Nairobi-based United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) saw the need for the establishment of a body aimed at ensuring the protection and sustainable use of the marine and coastal areas of the Atlantic Coast in West, Central and Southern Africa. And this body is the Abidjan Convention to which Namibia is also a party. 

But what is really the Abidjan Convention and how does it work? Adopted in the Ivorian capital city Abidjan on 2nd March in 1981, the Abidjan Convention is the overarching legal framework for Cooperation in the Protection, Management and Development of the Marine and Coastal Environment of the Atlantic Coast of the West, Central and Southern Africa – stretching from Mauritania down to the sea-bed of South Africa. 

Globally, about half of the world’s population lives within the coastal zones and ocean-based businesses contribute more than $500 billion to the world’s economy. The Executive Secretary of the Abidjan Convention said in Africa marine litter is the major stumbling block towards achieving the blue economy and food security.

Africa, he said, collectively stands to lose millions of Dollars due to marine litter as it is harming marine life such as fish, seals and causing alien invasive species in the oceans. It was, therefore, a step in a right direction for Namibia to accede to the Abidjan Convention in 2014. 

The convention came into force on the 5th of August 1984 and is one of the Regional Sea Programmes of UNEP. It has embraced the blue economy approach as well as integrated ocean management approach through the using of tools such as marine spatial planning, State of the Environment Report and the identification of Ecologically or Biologically Significant Areas.

The Convention covers the marine environment, coastal zones and related inland waters falling within the jurisdiction of the States of the West, Central and Southern African regions. Currently, there are 19 Contracting Parties and the Abidjan Convention area covers 22 countries. 

The Contracting Parties to the Convention designated Ivory Coast as the Depository and its Secretariat is based in Abidjan. The Convention’s text has 13 Articles which lists the sources of pollution and other activities which requires control, such as pollution from ships, dumping, land-based sources, exploration and exploitation of the sea-bed and pollution from and through the atmosphere. 

It identifies environmental management issues for which co-operative efforts are to be made (coastal erosion, specially protected areas, combating pollution in cases of emergency and environmental impact assessment). Its Conference of Parties (CoPs) is its premier decision-making organ and these CoPs are held after every two years while the Bureau of the Convention oversees the implementation of the Convention between the two CoPs.  

The Abidjan Convention’s funds are derived from its Parties, Governmental, Inter-Governmental and Non-Governmental Organizations and other sources.

It also works with a number of partners such as African Union, International Maritime Organization, International Union for the Conservation of Nature, World Wildlife Fund, Large Marine Ecosystems, UNEP, African Development Bank, Saudi Fund, Switzerland, The Netherlands, Canada, France, GTZ and the World Bank.
One of the challenges facing the Abidjan Convention is that it is not yet well known at national levels. It also suffers from lack of more political support and lack of financial resources.

*Absalom Shigwedha is a Namibian award-wining independent environmental journalist. He serves as Namibia’s Media Focal Point for the Abidjan Convention and is a member of the Network for Marine and Coastal Journalists in the Abidjan Convention Area.

New Era Reporter
2019-01-16 09:31:05 | 1 years ago

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