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Minister Bomo Edna Molewa's opening address during Ministerial Meeting of Abidjan Convention - COP 11

The Ministerial Meeting of the 11th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Cooperation for the Protection, Management and Development of the Marine and Coastal Environment of the Atlantic Coast of the West, Central and Southern African Region (Abidjan Convention);
20 March 2014, Cape Town Convention Centre, Cape Town, Western Cape Province, South Africa
Chairperson of the Bureau of the Abidjan Convention,
Honourable Ministers,
Mr Ibrahim Thiaw, Deputy Executive Director, United Nations Environment Programme,
Members of the Diplomatic corps,
Director-General of the Department of Environmental Affairs,
Mr Abou Bamba, Coordinator of the Abidjan Convention,
Heads of International Organisations and our Partners,
Distinguished Delegates,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Minister Edna Molewa during her opening address at the Ministerial Meeting of the 11th Conference of the Parties.

Let me begin by extending a warm South African welcome to you all.  It is indeed a pleasure to be hosting the 11th Conference of Parties under the Abidjan Convention. The full name of this Convention has so much meaning as it really defines this Convention as being focused on the Cooperation in the Protection and Development of the Marine and Coastal Environment of the West and Central African Region. It is also fitting that we welcome you all here in Cape Town, which lies on South Africa’s West Coast. The combined oceans and coasts jurisdiction of our countries is huge, and represents a development node or area that is potentially very significant to all our people and economies.

It is therefore very relevant that this COP is dedicated to exploring further the idea of the Blue Economy under the theme “Promoting Blue Growth in Africa: Towards Sustainable Management of Marine Resources”. We as the Parties to the Convention, as well as our partners, need to examine how we should embrace the concept of the “Blue Economy”. Our oceans and coasts must be seen for the potential it has to grow the prosperity of our nations and well-being of our people.

To provide further context to this, there have also been significant recent developments at the African Union. There is a realisation and acknowledgement of the invaluable contribution of oceans and coasts to the development of the Continent. At the AU Summit held in Addis Ababa in January 2014, the Heads of State formally acknowledged that Africa’s oceans are essential to the sustainable development of the Continent and that they should play a critical role in shaping Africa’s Common Position on the Post-2015 Development Agenda and the formulation of the Sustainable Development Goals. This should be seen in the context of Africa’s own long-term sustainable development aspirations, as encapsulated in the Agenda 2063. Furthermore, the recent AU Assemblymeeting of Heads of Statetook a decision declaring 2015-2025 as the “Decade of African Seas and Oceans” and adopted the African Integrated Maritime Strategy (AIM-2050). They also called for increased cooperation amongst AU Member States to manage the maritime domain and enhance trans-border and sub-regional cooperation of the marine environment.

Honourable Chair and colleagues,

It is clear that the strategic importance and relevance of the Abidjan and Nairobi Conventions have become even more relevant in the context of Africa’s development than ever before. The Abidjan and Nairobi Conventions represent ideal structures or vehicles to implement these AU decisions for the West and East Coasts of Africa, respectively. Being a member of both Conventions, South Africa recognises the importance of coordinating the work and programmes under these two Conventions to promote synergies and enhance collaboration amongst coastal nations of Africa.

Coming back to the work of this particular Conference of the Parties, we look forward to the review of activities and decisions which were undertaken during the 2012/2013 period. Yes, there must also be careful deliberations on the budget in these trying times and we must identify what are the most efficient ways to implement the Convention and its Action Plan.

The last decade has seen significant increases in offshore oil and minerals exploration and extraction. As global and regional demands for energy are ever-increasing, it is imperative that we respond to this and ensure that we deliver the benefits to our people in a way that does not put them at risk. In achieving this, we must be realistic about the risks associated with exploiting ocean resources and we must be well prepared. In working together we can achieve much higher levels of implementation preparedness. In achieving this there is a role that our partners in business must play. Ocean business ventures often take place at a large scale, deriving high levels of economic and social return, but when things go wrong, these can be catastrophic. It is in all our interests to ensure that sustainability is attained. The establishment of a well-resourced Regional Coordination Centre for marine pollution is indeed the next important step in this regard. If we achieve setting up the Regional Coordination Centre, this will be a real tangible outcome of our work.

Furthermore, it is appreciated that under the auspices of the Convention, pioneering work is being undertaken to develop environmental standards for off-shore exploration and exploitation activities of mining and mineral resourcesin the region. This is indeed a first for Africa!

We also look forward to the report of the Committee on Science & Technology which is serving the Convention. We must encourage our science-based and technology institutions in the region and partner countries to meet our knowledge requirements. Meetings likes these must grow the profile of our regional knowledge-base and capacity. I urge us to focus on the impact on our people in our deliberations.

Not only for the social impact of our policies but also how our interventions provides opportunities for us to grow our technical competencies and capacities. The ocean economy in many ways relies on technology, science, information and knowledge. This must be home grown.

Regarding the Large Marine Ecosystem (LME) institutions and programmes which fall within the geographical range of the Convention, we have all recognised that there is need to strengthen the partnerships between the Convention, its Secretariat and the three Large Marine Ecosystem institutions in the region. It is heartening to note that we have made strides in improving the cooperation between the Convention and the LME institutions and/or programmes to mutually support and harmonise their respective work programmes and activities. This is truly a reflection of African Ocean Governance in action!

Distinguished colleagues,

It is clear that the decisions we will be adopting during this COP are indeed wide-ranging, with significant implications for the Contracting Parties, the Secretariat, UNEP and our partners. I wish to underscore that the implementation of these decisions is critical to the full revitalisation of the Convention. As a member of the Bureau, however, we recognise that much work still needs to be done for us to enjoy the benefits of a fully functional and adequately resourced Convention. Such a Convention will be able to serve the Contracting Parties in the manner envisaged.

With respect to the underlying theme of the Blue Economy, and as South Africa is bordered by oceans on three sides of the country, it is natural that we are taking a keen interest in this particular issue. We recognise the enormous contribution made historically by the marine sectors. We also see the significant potential of the marine and coastal environment to the national economy of our country. In order to further sustainably harness the abundant resources of the ocean and coastal domain, we are in the process of developing a strategy for our Blue Economy.  Relevant departments and Public Entities within South Africa have been actively engaged in identifying the current potential and future value of the ocean economy for South Africa and the region. This is being undertaken in the context of other strategic processes such as the National Development Plan, which has identified the need for the reassessment of our ocean economy. We have identified that there are real ways in which the ocean economy can positively contribute to livelihoods and revenue.

Hence we welcome and pledge our full support to the work of the Abidjan Convention in elucidating and promoting the realisation of the contribution of the Blue Economy to countries of the West Coast of Africa. This could not have come at a better time!

As I conclude, I wish to take this opportunity to acknowledge the ongoing support of UNEP to the work of the Convention. As the founding organisation of the Regional Seas Programme of which this Convention is one, UNEP has played an invaluable role in revitalising and reinvigorating the Convention and its activities. Indeed, significant strides have been made in the past three years, despite a number of challenges which the Convention faced and I wish to thank the Regional Coordinator, Secretariat, the Chair, the Bureau and all Officials/Experts for their role as well.

We look forward to very fruitful deliberations over the two days, building on the work of our experts and senior officials earlier in the week. I do hope that we will have constructive and meaningful discussions and chart a definitive path forward for the work of the Convention, which has now become more important than ever!

I wish you an enjoyable stay here in Cape Town and trust that you will find time to take in some of the natural and cultural attractions that the country has to offer.

I thank you.