[from Deep-Sea Life Vol 13]
Bringing Stakeholders Together to Improve Ocean Planning and Governance for Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction in the South East Atlantic and Western Indian Ocean
10–12 June 2019, Cape Town, South Africa
African States met in Cape Town in June to address ocean sustainability. Government officials, international and regional organisations, NGOs and academia came together for an open dialogue on sustainably managing marine resources, including in the High seas, to secure nature conservation, social and economic stability and regional cooperation.
Over 70% of the surface of the Earth is ocean. The ocean includes diverse and dynamic ecosystems that provide benefits and services to societies, through fisheries, climate stabilization and oxygen production. However, pressures over biodiversity, commonly seen as unlimited resources, are alarming. The growing economic and political interest in marine resources use – both within countries’ national waters and in the High Seas or Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction (ABNJ) is putting ocean life at risk and greatly threatening human wellbeing. To address this global challenge, countries have made voluntary international commitments to use natural resources wisely and meet the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. Activities in the High Seas that impact biodiversity can have implications for biodiversity in national waters too, adding pressures on coastal communities.
“It is essential that the world community, including all African States, take significant strides to effectively and coherently conserve and sustainably manage marine resources – both within and outside of national jurisdiction. Without immediate action to overcome marine biodiversity loss, there will be severely negative consequences for all human life” says Ben Boteler, from IASS and coordinator of the event in Cape Town. Fortunately, the international community is awakening for this important issue and agreed to develop a global, legally binding instrument on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction. This instrument should address countries’ roles and responsibilities in governing international waters, that is, waters that are outside the jurisdiction of single countries under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. The negotiations of this instrument started in April 2018.
To help facilitate this discussion for African States, the ABNJ Deep Seas and STRONG High Seas projects, and Abidjan and Nairobi Convention Secretariats presented the state of play for ocean governance in Africa with regard to sustainable use of marine biodiversity in ABNJ and the ongoing UN Negotiations at a Dialogue Workshop in Cape Town in June 2019. The event in Cape Town aims at advancing this agenda. It will identify new opportunities for the development of long-term strategies and approaches for wider societal participation, enabling the African region with stronger
capacity for more effective engagement in global policy negotiations.
“It is an exciting opportunity to have countries from around Africa working together to strengthen the region’s position in the UN negotiations that could have consequences for marine biodiversity and the Blue Economy, globally” commented Adnan Awad, Director of IOI-SA, one of the local partner institutions. “By developing a united voice towards these shared interests, African States can strengthen their potential to leverage opportunities for their common objectives in future regional and global discussions” continued Adnan.
The workshop will be the final workshop of the ABNJ Deep Seas Project and the second in a series of 5 workshops for the STRONG High Seas Project. These projects work with the Nairobi Convention on the East Coast of Africa and the Abidjan Convention on the West Coast of Africa, respectively. This workshop is a unique opportunity to bring States from both coasts together to share ideas and perspectives in South Africa – a member of both Conventions. For more information visit: www.prog-ocean.org/our-work/strong-high-seas.