Minister Edna Molewa’s statement on the occasion of the 6th Ministerial Conference of the Benguela Current Convention

Windhoek, Namibia, 09 November 2017


Honourable Chair of the Conference;
Fellow Ministers and Deputy Ministers;
Distinguished Development/dialogue Partners;
Executive Secretary of the Benguela Current Commission;
Members of the Commission;
Senior Officials, Ladies and Gentlemen;

It is a privilege for me to be here today at this the 6th Ministerial Conference of the BCC, being held four years since the entry into force of the Benguela Current Convention.

This ministerial meeting demonstrates our collective commitment to implementing the Convention. It is a as the legal framework that directs our functions to thelong-term conservation and sustainable use of the Benguela Current Large Marine Ecosystem (BCLME) – all the while providing economic, environmental and social benefits for our people.

In 2014 in Angola we signed the BCC Strategic Action Programme (2015 – 2019) as the implementation tool of our Convention. The progress report on its implementation (SAP) that we reviewed last year showed that we are certainly on the right path.

It would be opportune to commend our Development Partners for their continued support across a wide range of sectors: ranging from fish stock management to Marine Spatial Planning to addressing vulnerability of coastal fishing communities to climate change; to oceans governance and law reform.

In particular the support from the government of Norway, the European Union (EU), the Global Environment Facility (GEF), the UN Development Programme (UNDP), the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and our academic institutions; to name but a few.

At last year’s Ministerial Conference, we committed to strengthening collaboration in the management of transboundary resources, skills capacity and training of our professionals as well as research scientists on key areas falling within the scope of the work of the BCC.

We committed to work together in the following fields:

  • Combating illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing (IUU fishing) within the existing frameworks;
  • Ensuring maximum sustainable utilization of the resources for the benefit of the region; 
  • Bringing in, empowering and encouraging participation of youth and women in the BCLME;
  • Collaborating in the handling of oil spill emergencies;
  • Addressing new developmental demands;
  • The Oceans Economy
  • Mobilising resources to ensure that the SAP is implemented to its fullest.

These are important issues which our organisation is about, to improve the life in the BCLME and its community.

Honourable Chair,

On the 25th of September 2015, the United Nations (UN) adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and with it, 17 universal, comprehensive, far-reaching and people-centred Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s).

As member states we have committed to work tirelessly for the realization of the SDG’s and Agenda 2030.

Of the 17 SDG’s, the BCC has full responsibility for the implementation of Sustainable Development Goal 14.

This is the “Oceans goal”, which aims to “conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development”.

SDG 14 includes 10 targets relating to marine pollution, protecting marine and coastal ecosystems, minimizing ocean acidification, the sustainable management of fisheries and ending harmful fisheries subsidies, conserving costal and marine areas, increasing the economic benefits to SIDs and LDCs, as well as the means of implementation.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

These are all matters that our SAP covers. It’s full implementation will enable the achievement of the targets set by Agenda 2030. These targets are further aligned to Agenda 2063 of the African Union (AU) as well as the 2050 African Integrated Maritime Strategy (AIMS).

The BCC Business Plan that we will review today should stipulate the details of how we will achieve these ambitious targets.

The BCC is the first intergovernmental partnership based in the large marine ecosystem in the world.

As such we have thrust ourselves into the spotlight; and this requires us to put every effort to maintain the integrity inherent to this status and set a good example for those who are learning from us.

On the 4th of December 2017 the United Nations Environmental Assembly will take place in Nairobi under the theme: “Towards a Pollution-free Planet”.

Ministers of the Environment from around the world will make commitments to address the collective environmental challenges we face, particularly with regards to pollution.

Pollution has a direct link to climate change, biodiversity loss and ecosystem degradation, which are great enemies to the sustainable development and health of our ecosystem and of our community.

Whilst we believe it is important that to tackle the challenge from all sources, whether it be from land, shipping, offshore exploration and development, and so forth, I take special note that roughly 80% of all marine pollution stems from activities we carry out on land.

Surely if more effort can be focused on tackling land-derived pollution, especially sewage, nutrients and litter, we are more likely to succeed in significantly reducing marine pollution by 2025 as set in Agenda 2030 targets.

The BCC is the right platform for collaboration in this area, and we must utilise our partnership to enhance our national efforts and regional approach to deal with pollution.

We must respond to the complex nature of the challenges facing our oceans by further increasing marine scientific knowledge that can inform decision-making, as well as enhancing the sharing of scientific data and best practice.

At our last meeting we announced that South Africa would soon be embarking on the first cruise of the Second Indian Ocean Expedition (IIOE2) programme of the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) of UNESCO.

The SA vessel the SA Agulhas II left Cape Town late last month.

On board were over 200 research scientists from the continent and internationally, including students to collect data on the Indian Ocean.

Their respective specialities include physics, chemistry, plankton, biodiversity, biology, whales, seals & seabirds and geology.

The data they collect will provide much-needed information that will aid in our understanding of the ocean environment and its links to its sustainable development.

This expedition provides an open opportunity for all of us regardless of the boundaries set by the scope of this Convention. Capacity development and information on ocean dynamics knows no boundaries. What happens in the Indian Ocean is also of our concern.

I wish to remind ourselves of the importance of the Blue Economy or Oceans Economy and its significance in our national and international discourse.

The SDG’s highlight the sustainable development and use of the Blue Economy and the sustainable use of ocean resources as a key element of future development.

As a continent, Africa has largely been focusing on the terrestrial environment to enhance our economic prosperity and neglected the significant resources that are available off our shores.

However, this is beginning to change, especially with the adoption of the African Union’s Agenda 2063 and the 2050 African Integrated Maritime Strategy (AIMS). These two strategies include an emphasis on growing and developing our respective marine economies. Our BCC SAP has also picked on this (Ocean/ blue economy).

We must act speedily in this important aspect, which addresses the major developmental hurdles and challenges we have in common - such as poverty, inequality and unemployment. 

Sustainable development requires that we develop and empower our people, especially the poor, the unemployed and the vulnerable.

South Africa stands ready to share experiences on what has been achieved thus far under our National Oceans economy Programme, “Operation Phakisa”, to unlock the economic potential that our oceans provide.

Indeed, our ocean resources are vast. A number of studies put the region’s proven oil and gas reserves and current installed energy capacity at high figures; yet poverty levels remain high.

Operation Phakisa commenced in 2014 in South Africa, but we have already unlocked investments totalling R24.6bn, with a government contribution of R15bn. Over 6 500 jobs have been created through this Oceans Economy segment of Operation Phakisa.

The largest contribution to the total investment in the oceans economy was from infrastructure development, mainly in our ports, manufacturing, mainly in boat building, aquaculture and scientific surveys in the oil and gas sector, having been facilitated through Government incentives.

This has been achieved through a concerted effort and support of all our partners, especially with our civil society and private sector partnerships.

We are finalising the Marine Spatial Planning legislation in which we harnessed regional/BCC support.

We believe that the Marine Spatial Planning legislation will ensure that sectorial decision-makers plan in a more comprehensive, integrated and complementary manner to enable sustainable ocean economy.

Honourable chair,

Diplomacy, and in particular advocacy, is all vital if we really want to be credible, impactful and effective in all that we do.

We believe that the Secretariat, together with its Communications and Corporate services, must have a clear roadmap of where we are going.

Let us use scientific evidence to support our Communications Teams. Furthermore, we have to find a way of balancing our respective countries’ developmental needs with our responsibility to conserve the environment; all the while ensuring that our people benefit.

To ensure we reach our goals, we have to work with our partners in civil society, in business,  and within the region and abroad. We cannot achieve all these things on our own. We also need to ensure that we work out a strategy towards financial sustainability and self-reliance: for as we all know, without the necessary financial resources we will fall short of the goals we have set ourselves.

In conclusion, we as South Africa would like to congratulate the Ministers and their teams, the Commissioners, the Management Committee and all those who continue to work tirelessly behind the scenes. It has been through your collective efforts that we have attained the status as the BCC that we currently occupy. We are proud of ourselves and what we have achieved.

Honourable Chair,

I wish to thank the government of Namibia for having formally accepted to Host the administration engine of our organisation and now finalised the Headquarters Agreement which we will sign today. We submit our support in implementing the Agreement.

I thank you!