OSPAR heads to Cape Verde for meeting of Abidjan Convention

24 November 2015

Our MOU with the Abidjan Convention Secretariat led us to the fourth meeting of the Group of Experts in charge of developing an Offshore Protocol for the Abidjan Convention area. The meeting took place in Praia, Cabo Verde from 28-31 October and, thanks to Norwegian cooperation, the OSPAR Secretariat, represented by Deputy Secretary Luisa Rodriguez-Lucas, attended. Well equipped with the advice provided by our experts from the OSPAR Offshore Industry Committee, the OSPAR Secretariat joined forces with the Abidjan Convention Secretariat to advance work on the drafting of the Offshore Protocol. It is expected that the Protocol woll be adopted by 2017, as part of a comprehensive regulation package for the area. OSPAR's cooperation with the Abidjan Convention is here to stay. We'll keep you updated on all future developments.

The Abidjan Convention

The Convention for Cooperation in the Protection, Management and Development of the Marine and Coastal Environment of the Atlantic Coast of the West, Central and Southern Africa Region (Abidjan Convention in short) covers a marine area from Mauritania to South Africa which has a coastline of just over 14,000 km.

The Convention provides an overarching legal framework for all marine-related programmes in West, Central and Southern Africa.

Under its articles, the Convention lists the sources of pollution that require control as: ships, dumping, land-based activities, exploration and exploitation of the seabed, and atmospheric pollution. It also identifies environmental management issues from which cooperative efforts are meadows, wetlands, barriers and lagoons. These highly productive and diverse ecosystems support fisheries, coastal tourism, industries, minerals such as limestone and sand, busy ports and oil extraction. However, the region’s rapid modernization has led to the unsustainable use of natural resources and to extensive pollution. As a result, crucial habitats are disappearing.

The Convention’s secretariat states its mission as to “Protect, Conserve and Develop the Abidjan Convention Area and its Resources for the Benefit and Well-being of its People.” This is a task that the secretariat is determined to fulfil.

Acknowledging the uniqueness of the coastal and marine environment of the region, as well as its economic and technical limitations decades ago, the countries recognized the need for a regional approach to meet transboundary marine environmental challenges. Thus, after an exploratory environmental assessment mission to 14 regional states in 1976, United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) recommended the development of an Action Plan. The Plan is designed to link assessment of the quality of the marine environment and the causes of its deterioration with activities for the management and development of the marine and coastal environment of West, Central and, later, Southern Africa. The Plan was adopted by 11 countries at a conference in Abidjan, March 1981 and came into force on 5 August 1984, after the sixth country deposited its instrument of ratification.

Adoption of the West and Central African regional legal agreements was facilitated by numerous technical surveys, studies and reviews prepared by UNEP with cooperation of the United Nations Organization; the United Nations Industrial Development Organization; the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations; the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization; the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission; the World Health Organization; the Inter-Governmental Maritime Consultative Organization; and other organizations.

For years, particularly from 1985 to 1999, the Abidjan Convention was bedeviled by many difficulties and, as a result, made slow progress. Today, however, the Convention is revitalized, gaining an increasing number of ratified countries, greater payments to its Trust Fund, holding regular meetings and implementing a number of planned activities.

Revitalization has led to the following:

1.Adoption of a Regional Contingency Plans and other Means of Preventing and Combatting Pollution Incidents (2011)

2.Additional Protocol to the Abidjan Convention Concerning Cooperation in the Protection and Development of Marine and Coastal Environment from Land-based Sources and Activities in the Western, Central and Southern African Region (the LSBA Protocol - 2012)

3.TheAd HocCommittee on Science and Technology (created 2014)

4. Regional Coordination Centre for Marine Pollution Emergency of the Abidjan Convention.

Countries in the Abidjan Convention area: are Angola, Benin, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Congo (Democratic Republic of), Congo (Republic of), Côte d’Ivoire, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Mauritania, Namibia, Nigeria, Sao Tome e Principe, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Africa and Togo. Of these, 17 are currently parties to the Convention.