In a resounding show of commitment to safeguarding our oceans and marine ecosystems, the second negotiations meeting for amending the Protocol Concerning Protected Areas and Wild Fauna and Flora of the Eastern African Region was held on September 13-15 2023, in Antananarivo, Madagascar. This gathering was meaningful as it propels marine conservation efforts in the Western Indian Ocean (WIO) region to new sustainable and coordinated heights.
The Nairobi Convention Protocol concerning marine protected areas and wild fauna and flora is a vital legal framework for the protection, management, and sustainable development of the marine and coastal environment in the WIO region. Enacted in 1985, this Protocol acknowledges the dangers posed by human activities to the region’s marine and coastal ecosystems, emphasizing the critical need for establishing protected areas.
Speaking during the Negotiations, the Minister of Environment in Madagascar, Hon. Ms. Marie Orléa Vina noted the importance of the negotiations, stating,
“Our commitment to the preservation and responsible management of the WIO’s marine and coastal resources is unwavering. Through these negotiations, we aim to strengthen the legal framework for biodiversity conservation in our region, and Madagascar stands ready to play its part in safeguarding our natural heritage for future generations.”
The considerations for amending the Protocol revolved around a comprehensive evaluation of its effectiveness in conserving marine biodiversity in the WIO region. Key areas of reflection included assessing conservation gains since the Protocol’s enactment, examining contemporary conservation processes at national and regional levels, and evaluating progress in reducing critical habitat loss and increasing protected area coverage for ecological connectivity.
Over the course of two days, negotiators conducted a comprehensive article-by-article review of the Protocol, focusing on minimizing threats to ecosystems, ensuring genetic diversity, maximizing conservation and socioeconomic outcomes, and addressing the impacts of climate change, sea-level rise, damming, and water abstraction on coastal ecosystems and communities.
The amendment of the Protocol aimed to sustainably conserve and utilize coastal and marine resources in the WIO region. It sought to address critical gaps in the existing framework, adapt to evolving challenges facing marine biodiversity, and align with contemporary international and regional agreements. The amendment aimed to strengthen the protocol’s legal foundation, enhance its effectiveness in conserving and managing coastal and marine ecosystems, and provide a more robust response to emerging threats such as anthropogenic pressures, habitat degradation, natural disasters, and climate change.
The negotiators explored strategies for achieving biodiversity conservation and sustainable development, aligning with global biodiversity targets, and considered the need for a regional governance framework. They also examined transboundary conservation initiatives, cooperation for better representation of biodiversity, harmonization of regional and national goals, definition of common indicators for conservation and sustainable development, addressing capacity needs, and establishing reporting mechanisms.
The Nairobi Convention provides a platform for governments, civil society, and the private sector to work together for the sustainable management and use of the marine and coastal environment. It is signed by Comoros, France, Kenya, Madagascar, Mauritius, Mozambique, Seychelles, Somalia, Tanzania, and the Republic of South Africa. The Contracting Parties to the Convention are part of more than 143 countries that participate in 18 Regional Seas initiatives.
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