STRONG HIGH SEAS – Capacity Building Workshop in Africa

Participants from the western coast of Africa met at the Lagoon Beach Hotel, Cape Town, for a two-day capacity building workshop on Biodiversity Beyond National Jurisdiction (BBNJ) on the 27th and 28th November 2019. The workshop was the first of two sessions planned for the Southeast Atlantic region, organized under the STRONG High Seas Project, by the International Ocean Institute – African Region, in collaboration with BirdLife International.

The workshop aimed to bring together representatives from the Abidjan Convention countries, with an interest in the BBNJ negotiations that are taking place in New York. It focused on providing an understanding of the structure and contents of the negotiations, as well as the relevance for African States, and how they can contribute to the negotiations at a national and regional level. There were participants representing South Africa, Namibia, Angola, Democratic Republic of Congo, Guinea, Gabon, Benin, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Sierra Leone, Cameroon and Liberia.

The first day of the workshop focused on the importance of Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction and how ocean resources and ecosystem health are inherently connected across borders. The participants were brought up to speed on the history of the BBNJ negotiations and encouraged to realise the importance of Africa’s role in the negotiations. It was lucky happenstance that the new draft of the negotiation text was released at the end of the first day. This allowed for discussion on the text on day 2, and room for questions on how to engage effectively in the process given that there are still many points requiring resolution in the text.

The work plan of the STRONG High Seas project is closely aligned with the Abidjan Convention ABNJ working group in order to help support it’s role within the framework of the Convention. The participants were asked how the project can contribute to their understanding and engagement in the BBNJ negotiations, and they worked in groups to develop recommendations for increased activity around this issue in the region. It is clear that there is enthusiasm to engage in the negotiations and a realisation of the importance of Biodiversity Beyond National Jurisdiction to coastal countries. However, it is thought that increased awareness of the issue, at a political level, will strengthen the position of negotiators in New York and provide scope for national delegations to be broadened and to more effectively represent national and regional priorities.

The presentations from the workshop are available here:

  1. Introduction to the High Seas
  2. The STRONG Project – an introduction
  3. Introduction to the BBNJ Negotiations
  4. South Africa and the African Group’s perspective
  5. ABNJ and the Southeast Atlantic Region
  6. Abidjan Convention and BBNJ