From the 27-31 March 2017, the 12th Conference of the Parties (COP) of the Abidjan Convention took place in Abidjan, Côte d´Ivoire.
The Convention, with the full name ‘The Convention 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 Region’, covers a geographic area of 22 countries stretching from Mauritania to South-Africa.
The Conference of the Parties (COP) is the Convention´s highest decision-making body, and meets every 2-3 years to serve as a forum for the member states to advance decisions on the strategic direction of the Convention. The 12th COP included expert contributions, country delegates presenting national initiatives and a wide range of side-events.
The event especially highlighted the theme `Integrated Ocean Management policies in Africa´, and as such was very relevant for the Mami Wata project. Several presentations by experts provided insight on key aspects of marine and coastal management and policy, including the need for safeguarding measures which consider the negative consequences of management and policy decisions, heightened awareness at the ministerial level, and strong cross-border collaboration.
Country representatives from South Africa and Gabon presented on their experiences and lessons from their national initiatives to implement sustainable and integrated development plans of marine resources, respectively Operation Phakisa and Gabon Bleu.
As a key outcome of this COP, the Parties requested the Abidjan Convention Secretariat, taking into account available resources, “to organize broad regional consultations in order to agree on a final version of the integrated coastal and ocean management policy which will be presented for review and adoption at COP 13” (draft decision CP 12/7: Integrated coastal and ocean management policy).
The 12th COP of the Abidjan Convention marked the end of a period of revitalization of the Convention. During the last 10 years, the number of State Parties have increased considerably; 19 out of the 22 signatory states in the Convention area have now ratified it, and a number of productive partnerships have been established.
The African Atlantic coast, while it is rich in highly productive ecosystems and biodiversity, struggles with severe environmental challenges, including illegal fishing, marine pollution, coastal erosion, and mangrove forest degradation. Addressing the complexity of threats to and demands on the ocean and its coastal areas requires collective action and coordinated responses from neighboring countries.
The Abidjan Convention – also known as the UN Environment Regional Seas Programme for West, Central and Southern Africa, and an implementing partner of the Mami Wata project – provides a key regional platform for these environmental matters to be brought to the agenda and acted upon.
“The spirit of cooperation among Parties and Partners at the COP was really inspiring. Participants kept emphasising both the opportunities of working in a Convention, but also how sound ocean management can support Sustainable Development and a Blue Economy. Our joint Mami Wata Project will be a strong contribution to this for the coming years”