Building Back Biodiversity in the Western Indian Ocean: Revision of the Nairobi Convention Protocol
The Western Indian Ocean (WIO) region is home to a staggering degree of marine biodiversity. From the waters of Mauritius (which 1,700 marine species call home), the 156 types of fish in Madagascar (66% of fish of which can be found nowhere else), to South Africa (which harbors 15% of the world’s marine species), the WIO places among the most interesting ocean regions in the world.
In recognition that such remarkable biodiversity must be protected, the parties to the Nairobi Convention unanimously adopted the Protocol Concerning Protected Areas and Wild Flora and Fauna in the Eastern African Region in 1985.
In the 36 years since that Protocol was adopted, however, pressures have continued to rise on the Western Indian Ocean’s marine and coastal ecosystems, threatening the region’s precious marine biodiversity
Pressures range from over-exploitation of natural resources, conversion of coastal habitats for other uses (such as agriculture, aquaculture, port/harbour expansion or urban development), and natural factors such as climate change. A lack of adequate coordination of various sectors – which contributes to haphazard coastal development, habitat degradation, and declining ecosystem services – has further exacerbated these threats.
For this reason, the Nairobi Convention Contracting Parties have highlighted the need to review the Protocol at several Conference of Parties (COPs), including COP 3 (Maputo, 2001), COP4 (Antananarivo, 2004), (COP8) (Seychelles, 2015) and COP9 (Mombasa, 2018). The Contracting Parties recognized that the Protocol is ill-equipped to effectively deal with adverse effects on the WIO’s coastal and marine environment, mainly because it does not incorporate the most recent scientific information, knowledge, and assessments on the WIO region. Nor does the Protocol take into account current natural resource management and conservation practices and tools that could make efforts more effective at managing shared ocean space and resources.
The Nairobi Convention, under the African, Caribbean, and Pacific (ACP) Countries Capacity Building of Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEAs) project, is therefore undertaking a review of the Protocol, with the goal of making it a more modern and practical instrument that a) makes provisions for coastal and marine ecosystem-based management as a globally-established good practice for the conservation and management of coastal and marine resources; and b) strengthens the legal and policy framework for the protection of marine and coastal biodiversity, in line with current global and regional legal instruments and political processes; and c) ensures its consistency with the Amended Nairobi Convention that was adopted in 2010.1
Envisaged amendments to the Protocol and its annexes will aim to strengthen its legal framework to make it more effective at conserving biodiversity, managing marine and coastal ecosystems, and addressing current and emerging threats.
The review of articles to be amended will be guided by recent and ongoing global biodiversity commitments and processes. These include the Sustainable Development Goals, Aichi Biodiversity Targets, post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework, advances in blue economy and ocean governance, Paris Agreement, African Union Agenda 2063, and negotiations and processes on biodiversity conservation in Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction (ABNJ).
A progress report of the protocol review will be shared with countries and at the next Conference of Parties of the Nairobi Convention, to be held in mid-November 2021. At least two rounds of negotiations will be facilitated before the amended protocol is adopted.
Check back at nairobiconvention.org for updates on amendments to the Protocol!