What is the Nairobi Convention?

western indian ocean, nairobi convention

Back in 1985 when the Western Indian Ocean (WIO) was still pristine, leaders of the region together with several partners had the foresight to create a mechanism for regional cooperation, coordination and collaborative actions to enable better management of their shared marine space. This collaboration was an important step in getting the countries of the region to address common priorities through a mechanism that was legally binding with the aim of achieving long-term sustainable measures.

The United Nations Environment Programme hosted the 1985 conference of plenipotentiaries for the Nairobi Convention for the Protection, Management and Development of Coastal and Marine Environment of the Western Indian Ocean (WIO) region. The Convention entered into force in 1996 with a great vision of a prosperous Western Indian Ocean region with healthy rivers, coasts and oceans. To realise the vision, the Convention aimed at increasing the capacity of the Western Indian Ocean nations to protect, manage, and develop their coastal and marine environment.

The Nairobi Convention is part of UNEP’s Regional Seas Programme. It aims to address the accelerating degradation of the world’s oceans and coastal areas through the sustainable management and use of the marine and coastal environment. It does this by engaging countries that share the Western Indian Ocean in actions to protect their shared marine environment.

The Nairobi Convention—signed by Comoros,  France,  Kenya,  Madagascar,  Mauritius,  Mozambique,  Seychelles,  Somalia,  Tanzania, and the  Republic of South Africa — 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. The Contracting Parties to the Convention are part of more than 143 countries that participate in 18 Regional Seas initiatives.

Objectives of the Nairobi Convention

The specific objectives of the Convention are to:

  • offer a legal framework and coordinate the efforts of the countries to plan and develop programmes for strengthening their capacity to protect, manage and develop their marine space,
  • provide a forum for inter-governmental discussions for better understanding of regional environmental problems, the strategies needed to address them and solutions,
  • promote the sharing of information and experiences amongst countries, and
  • facilitate the periodic assessment of the state of the coastal and marine environment.
western indian ocean

Financial Arrangements

western indian ocean, nairobi convention

The success and sustainability of the Nairobi Convention is dependent on the availability of adequate financial resources for the implementation of (i) priority activities identified in the Convention, and Protocols, (ii) the growing number of decisions taken by the Members States of the Convention during COP meetings, and (iii) operational costs to run the secretariat.

The Member States as well as the parties continue to take full responsibility to fund their Convention activities and ensure a financially self-supporting programme. For this reason, a trust fund financed by, inter alia, assessed contributions from the Member States and parties exists, for which UNEP provides a secretariat and coordination functions management of the trust fund.

Structure of Nairobi Convention

  • The structure of the Nairobi Convention is composed of a Secretariat, a set of National Focal Points, the Partners of the Convention, expert groups/task forces, and the Regional Coordinating Unit (RCU). The Secretariat serves as the central administrator for the Convention and implementation of the work program.


  • The Conference of Parties (COP) is the main decision-making body of the Convention, composed of experts from each country. The COP is convened every two years to review the implementation of the Convention and the Protocols (a smaller group, the Bureau of Contracting Parties, meets between COP meetings to address issues related to the implementation of the Convention). The Bureau exercises decision-making powers on substantive issues related to the implementation of the Convention and its protocols between ordinary meetings of the Contracting Parties, reviewing preparations for the ordinary and extraordinary meetings and providing guidance to the Secretariat of the Convention, and making adjustments in the programme and budget as necessary. It is composed of a President, Vice-President, and Rapporteur.


  • To address emerging issues in the region, the COP has also established expert groups and task forces, such as the Mangrove Network, the Coral Reef Task Force, Marine Turtle Task Force, the Forum for Academic and Research Institutes (FARI), and the Legal and Technical Working Group.
nairobi convention