The journey has started: Towards a Regional Ocean Governance Strategy for the Western Indian Ocean
“The African ocean territories are of strategic importance on the continent, as they provide opportunities to fisheries, aquaculture, and blue economy activities,” Ms. Olushola Olayide, from the African Union proclaimed in her opening remarks at the virtual meeting of Regional Economic Communities and Commissions on the Development of an Ocean Governance Strategy for the Western Indian Ocean Region.
The April 26 meeting was hosted by the Nairobi Convention, in executing its SAPPHIRE project, to take stock of activities undertaken by the regional economic communities (RECs) that would contribute towards the development of an Ocean Governance Strategy for the Western Indian Ocean (WIO) and the Blue Economy. The framework for this process is envisaged to contribute towards a peaceful, politically stable region, with an environmental healthy ocean and a blue economy based on the protection and conservation of natural resources.
The discussions served as the basis upon which stakeholders could start drawing a timeline of activities to support strategy development to be completed for validation and endorsement by March 2022. The group met to share and provide updates on the status of Ocean Governance and Blue Economy initiatives within their organizations, as well as to discuss the process and roles to further developing the strategy. “The strategy must speak to all of Africa, not just to the Western Indian Ocean,” explained Mr. Dixon Waruinge, Head of the Nairobi Convention. Aware of the importance of keeping momentum, the group set an action plan for the upcoming months.
Progress and achievements
The process of developing an Ocean Governance Strategy for the WIO should provide an integrated framework to improve strategic alignment, coordination and cooperation among actors and stakeholders and to promote integrated and harmonized implementation of sectoral policies to address common environmental, economic and social challenges. “The Ocean Governence Strategy fits within the aspirations of the so-called super decade of ocean science”, stated Jared Bosire, Project Manager within the Nairobi Convention Secretariat.
A lot has already been done, and members of the RECs shared the progress that their organizations have made on their Ocean Governance and Blue Economy processes. “IGAD [the Intergovernmental Authority on Development] has established a Blue Economy unit,” Mr. Ahmed Hersi announced during his intervention. “We also have developed a Blue Economy Strategy manual and we have received seven national and a regional report on assessment of the contribution of blue economy of the region,” he added.
The Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) has also advanced in its initiatives to promote Ocean Governance. Dr. Mclay Kanyangarara explained the role of the institution in “supporting its member states in matters of marine resources” and noted the need to “coordinate what each REC is doing –as there are some overlapping memberships- to be able to give a good value to member states”.
In his presentation, Mr. Domingo Gove from the Southern African Development Community (SADC) underlined their regional indicative strategic development plan 2020-2030, which takes into account an interconnected and integrated blue, green and circular economy for SADC, with the priority of developing a strategic blue economy by 2026. “We have also produced a feasibility study that will be the baseline to provoke the discussion among member states about shipping, fishing, biotechnology, mining, coastal tourism, etc.” he noted.
Ms. Gina Bonne from the Indian Ocean Commission (IOC) also described the different IOC initiatives in progress, such as the Blue Economy action plan and the Fisheries programme in partnership with other organizations. “We are working with the private sector and the Association of Ports in the Indian Ocean to ensure ports are protected,” she added.
One of the main questions during the discussion was how to better incorporate the different stakeholders, as all the organizations recognize the critical role they play in the process. The Western Indian Ocean Governance Initiative (WIOGI) project is working with the Nairobi Convention Secretariat to see how to establish a multi-stakeholder initiative to support blue economy initiatives and to act as an entry point for the private sector to engage with governments – formally and informally. “One of the main objectives is to create an enabling environment for other multi-stakeholder partnerships on the ground to engage meaningfully”, Mr. Robin Farrington from the WIOGI project indicated. Mr. Domingos Gove, from SADC, welcomed the approach: “We are happy that the plan includes the private sector, a sector that is very important for achieving regional integration”, he said, and recognized the importance of not leaving any crucial sector out of the discussions “such as tourism, energy or mining”.
A second virtual meeting will be held within the coming months, where the NCS will present a draft outline of the Strategy to the Core Group for consideration and further input. The draft Action Plan will also be further refined and the process of stakeholder engagement advanced.
This first meeting was supported by the Nairobi Convention Secretariat through the ‘Western Indian Ocean Large Marine Ecosystems Strategic Action Programme Policy Harmonisation and Institutional Reforms’ (SAPPHIRE) project, in collaboration with GIZ through the WIOGI project. The meeting is organized pursuant to the Ninth Conference of Parties to the Nairobi Convention (COP 9) Decisions CP.9/6 on Ocean Governance and Decision CP.9/13 on enhancing cooperation, collaboration and support with partners, and in response to a request by the contracting parties to the Nairobi Convention for the Secretariat to facilitate the process led by the RECS towards the development of an Ocean Governance Strategy for the WIO.