…...As COP12 ends in Abidjan, ABC enters New Dawn
Report: Mohammed Abu, Abidjan
As one of the major outputs of the 12th Meeting of contracting Parties to the Abidjan Convention (ABC), that ended in the Ivorian commercial capital of Abidjan over the weekend, with the issuance of the Abidjan Declaration, the South African Environment Minister, Hon. Madam B.E.E Molewa, outgoing Chair of the Bureau, handed over the baton to her Ivorian counterpart,Hon. Madam Desiree Ouluto.
Twenty-two(22) African countries including Ghana, constitute, the Contracting Parties to 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),abbreviated as ABC.
Ghana went home with the first Vice Chair position while the second Vice Chair went to neigbouring Sierra Leone. The West African region is to be represented by Ghana and Senegal, Central Africa region by Congo and DRC, and Southern Africa region, by Namibia.
This heralds a new dawn for ABC which began on a humble note some ten years ago courtesy the sacrifice, commitment and tenacity of purpose of Abou Bamba, Executive Secretary of the ABC Secretariat who had to leave Kenya for Abidjan to brave the odds in order to sow the seed. Today ABC now has a Secretariat in Abidjan with member countries expressing satisfaction and optimism for brighter days ahead moving forward. Mr.Bamba and his team were heartily congratulated for the quality of work done.
Ghana’s Science and Environment Minister, Hon.Professor Kwabena Frimpong Boateng, during the opening of the Ministerial segment in his submission relating to a request to the secretariat to collaborate with relevant international institutions to develop an integrated coastal and ocean management policy for Abidjan Convention area, dropped the hint that the government of Ghana was planning to establish a Coastal Development Authority.
ADM got Carl Fiati, Head of National Resource, at the Ghana Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) also in charge of the Ghana National Focal Point of ABC in Ghana on the sidelines for his expert views.
Mr.Fiati was of the view that even though government has the right to take such a political decision but was quick to add that, the major challenge is that, government doesn’t own the Ghana’s costal lands which still in the hands of the traditional authorities. He said another option available to government would be to strengthen the already existing Land Use & Special Planning Authority with the mandate to acquire coastal lands for strategic development projects as done elsewhere.
Citing South Africa which has a Coastal Development Authority, the government of the country unlike its Ghanaian counterpart, owns the costal lands and decides what it wants to do with the land for the national good.
For what was his take on one of the major decisions at COP12 as it relates to the extension of the jurisdiction area of the Abidjan Convention to cover inland waters, comprising rivers, lakes, wetlands, deltas and islands, he again had some concerns.
The eventual implementation of such a decision could play to the advantage of Ghana in particular, as she currently takes a tough decision to clamp down on illegal miners. Their activities has since become a major and worrisome source of land-based pollution taking its toll on the country’s river systems, that eventually empties their contents into the country’s marine environment.Nonetheless,Mr.Fiati again sounds a cautionary note.
His position is that, those water bodies are already governed by international laws. And what is more, he contends, they are also already under the local jurisdiction of institutions such as the Water Resources Commission. This corroborated with similar earlier concerns expressed by one of the Ghanaian delegates during the experts segment of the event.
He further added that there is also an already existing Volta Basin Development Authority with oversight responsibility over the Volta Basin the resources of which are commonly shared by Burkina Faso, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Togo and Benin.
To this end, granted that, there hasn’t been any initial consultation between them and ABC nor were they even part of COP12, those institutions could possibly say they are not legally bounded by any such decisions that were taken therefrom.
On what was a much safer approach, he said he would rather advice a collaborative partnership between the ABC and those institutions to ensure the harmonization of programmes of the various partners or stakeholders aimed at the protection, management and development of those fresh water bodies that is vitally linked to the survival and socio-economic well-being of dwellers of the adjourning communities.
COP12 attracted twenty-one delegates out of the 22 members’ countries of the ABC area with only one absenting country, Cameroun that was also originally billed to host COP13 thus, prompting the shelving of the announcement of the host country for COP13 until a later date.
All Ministers of environment from twelve ABC member countries participated namely Ivory Coast, South Africa,Ghana,Congo,Togo,Guinea Bissau,Senegal,Namibia,Gambia,Benin and Sierra Leone, safe Guinea whose environment Minister, Madam Aissatu Balde, who was represented by M.Hawa Moussa Keita,Director of Cabinet.
Overall, COP12 drew over 200 delegates and participants from the Abidjan Convention member countries, the US, Europe among others who comprised experts, government offcials, members of the academia including research institutions, representatives of UN agencies, CEOs of private corporate bodies involved in provision of environmental protection and management solution services,etc.
Various side events were actively held by institutions such as the USAID, World Bank, Ocean Care among others, concurrently with both the Expert and Ministerial segments of the event.
Part of the text of the Declarations reads:
We, the participating ministers,
Having met in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, on the occasion of the twelfth meeting of the Contracting Parties to 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),
Recalling the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, which provides the legal framework regulating all activities to be carried out in the oceans and seas, and drawing attention more particularly to part XII of the Convention, which relates to the protection of the marine environment,
Recalling paragraphs 162 and 177 of the outcome document of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20), “The future we want”, on the importance of creating protected marine areas and the urgent need to take a decision on launching international negotiations on a legal instrument allowing for the conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity in areas located beyond national jurisdiction,
Recalling the Marrakech Partnership for Global Climate Action resulting from the twenty-second Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in 2016 and relating, inter alia, tothe implementation of the Paris Agreement on climate change of December 2015,
Taking note of General Assembly resolution 70/1 on “Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development”, whose paragraph 33 refers, inter alia, to the conservation and sustainable use of oceans and seas,
Recalling the thirteenth meeting of the Conference of Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity, held in Cancun, Mexico, in December 2016,……….
To approve the renewal of the Abidjan Convention work programme for 2015–2017for the period 2017–2020;
To support the process of developing the Convention’s monitoring and evaluation system, and to request the secretariat to present the final version at the thirteenth meeting of the Contracting Parties;
To request the Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP – UN Environment)to extend the life of the Trust Fundthrough31 December 2020;
To approve the revision of the 2017 budget of the Trust Fund
;To approve the Convention budget for 2017–2020;
To authorize the opening of a bank account in Abidjan to facilitate the work of the secretariat and its cooperation with financial partners;
To validate the amended Convention and its new protocols, and to request the secretariat to organize, as soon as possible, a meeting of plenipotentiaries for their adoption;
To request the secretariat to collaborate with relevant international institutions to develop an integrated coastal and ocean management policy for the Abidjan Convention area, and to organize broad regional consultations to agree on a final version of the policy, to be presented for review and adoption at the thirteenth meeting of the Contracting Parties;
To request the secretariat to prepare the draft protocol as soon as possible so as to create the Guinea Current Commission during the 2017-2020 period;.
To request the secretariat, in collaboration with the Committee on Science and Technology, to finalize the updating of the action plan, and to request the Contracting Parties to contribute thereto;
To urge the secretariat to present the updated version of the Action Plan at the thirteenth meeting of the Contracting Parties;
To request the secretariat to work with the States Parties to ensure that issues related to oceans and coastal zones are taken into account in the implementation of Sustainable Development Goals 13 and 14 on climate change and the conservation and sustainable use of oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development, respectively, among others.
The presence during COP12 of the King of Ivorian Nzemas as the Guest of Honour, for the opening of the Ministerial segment, who also decided to sit throughout the event, Ghana’s Environment Minister Hon.Professor K.F. Boateng craved the indulgence of the out-going Chairperson to consider adding an expression of gratitude to the king to be embodied in the text of the Declaration and it was finally granted. It reads:
“To express our gratitude to His Majesty, the King Nanan Désiré Amon Tanoe, Chairman of the Association of Kings and Traditional Chiefs of Côte d’Ivoire, for his presence and support during COP12”
This could set the tone for crafting and executing awareness creation programmes aimed at bringing traditional rulers who still own coastal lands with particular reference to Ghana on board within the context of the integrated coastal and ocean management policy.
The concluding part of the Declaration read, “To express their gratitude and thanks to the Government and people of the Republic of Côte d’Ivoire for their cordial hospitality and their active involvement in the successful organization of the twelfth meeting of the Contracting Parties, with special thanks to the Head of the State, His Excellency Mr. Alassane Ouattara, for his personal involvement in the success of this event”.