A historic event saw the Nairobi Convention Contracting Parties unanimously agree to, adopt, and sign the Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICZM) Protocol for the Western Indian Ocean after thirteen years of dedicated negotiations. This unfolded at a Conference of Plenipotentiaries held on 11-12 September 2023 in the picturesque Antananarivo, Madagascar, and followed four intergovernmental negotiation meetings, generously funded by Contracting Parties and supported by various donor organizations including the Global Environment Facility, European Union, and the Swedish International Development Agency.
This Protocol marks an important milestone for regional ocean governance in the Western Indian Ocean (WIO) and totals the number of Nairobi Convention Protocols to four including the Protocol Concerning Cooperation in Combating Marine Pollution in Cases of Emergency; the Protocol Concerning Protected Areas and Wild Flora and Fauna and the Protocol for the Protection of the Marine and Coastal Environment of the Western Indian Ocean Region from Land-Based Sources and Activities.
At the opening ceremony Madagascar the Minister for Environment Hon. Ms. Marie Orléa Vina stated “that coastal resources will no longer be borders on maps but places of resilience in the face of urbanization, pollution and climate change.” The Honorable Minister affirmed that “the adoption of the ICZM Protocol is a solemn declaration to restore what is damaged and protect what is left for future generations and that with adoption, countries have committed to enhance concerted efforts for participatory, inclusive governance with private sector and local communities.”
While commending the Contracting Parties, Deputy Executive Director of UNEP Ms.Elizabeth Maruma Mrema made a recollection of the journey since the 1993 Arusha Ministerial Declaration on ICZM and thanked Contracting Parties for the enduring vision and consistency, stating that “it is imperative to adopt the Protocol to address globally-rising temperatures, extreme climate events, biodiversity loss and pollution.”
The legally binding Protocol will accelerate efforts of WIO countries to address current and emergent challenges in the coastal areas and adjacent marine ocean areas and refocus on becoming more coordinated and shift away from taking fragmented approaches. It sets out a varied array of instruments and tools for ICZM. These include marine spatial planning, marine protected areas, and cross-sectoral institutional approaches both at the national and regional levels. Many of these measures include options for targets to be decided unilaterally, or for states to be free to decide upon their own goals but also some that would be achieved through bilateral and regional cooperation.
The adoption of the ICZM Protocol comes at a time when significant advances on blue economy have been made by Nairobi Convention countries since the negotiations began. These include marine spatial planning, blue bonds, green bonds, sustainable ocean plans which are well covered as implementing instruments in the Protocol.
The adoption also comes amid a fresh wave of activity on marine conservation and sustainable use of coastal and marine resources in the WIO and beyond including the Biodiversity Beyond National Jurisdiction (BBNJ) Treaty, Global Biodiversity Framework, Paris Agreement and the Triple Planetary Crises. This was emphasized by Mr. Johan Robinson, Head of the UNEP Ecosystem Integration Branch who hailed “ICZM as an enabling tool to meet agreed commitments and the 5th UNEP Regional Ocean Seas Strategic Directions.” He, in this regard, applauded the Nairobi Convention as a robust framework for convening working groups and Conferences of Parties to achieve a pollution-free ocean for a prosperous Western Indian Ocean region.
While it took more than 10 years to get to this point, one thing is clear: to address the many sustainability challenges we face in the WIO, from biodiversity loss to climate change, countries will need to draw from the full community of WIO stakeholders working on these issues. It has taken a lot of effort to get the Protocol over the finish line and it wouldn’t have happened without the dedication of the Contracting Parties willing to keep pushing and the support of the Nairobi Convention Secretariat, technical experts, and the financial support of a broad range of donors.
About the Nairobi Convention
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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