On 16-17 November 2021, the Secretariat of the Abidjan Convention and the STRONG High Seas project organised the fourth Dialogue Workshop in the Southeast Atlantic region. The workshop brought together more than 50 participants from national governments as well as global and regional organisations, regional scientific institutions, academia, the private sector and NGOs. Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the workshop was held online.
Under the title ‘The Role of Regional Cooperation Efforts for the High Seas of the Southeast Atlantic’, workshop participants discussed various topics relevant to marine areas beyond national jurisdiction (ABNJ), presented the outputs and outcomes of the STRONG High Seas project and spoke about future work. The workshop provided a setting for States and stakeholders to exchange regarding lessons learnt and best practices as well as challenges and potential points for increased collaboration in ocean governance, particularly with regard to the conservation of marine biodiversity in ABNJ.
- The Dialogue Workshop offered a space for Abidjan Convention member States, the Abidjan Convention Secretariat, sectoral organisations, academia, and civil society to present their work and discuss critical aspects relevant to marine areas beyond national jurisdiction (ABNJ), particularly to the conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity in these areas. Workshop participants highlighted the importance of organising these Dialogue Workshops in the Southeast Atlantic region.
- Many of the key provisions in the draft agreement currently being negotiated under the United Nations for the conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity in ABNJ (BBNJ Agreement) are still in brackets and further negotiations are needed to finalise the agreement and to ensure that it is ambitious and robust. While COVID-19 has caused a delay in the BBNJ negotiations, there remains significant opportunities for States and stakeholders, including in the Southeast Atlantic region, to be involved in the BBNJ negotiations. The next intergovernmental conference (IGC4) is tentatively planned for 7-18 March 2022.
- Workshop participants highlighted that there is a strong need for African States and stakeholders of the Southeast Atlantic region to enhance efforts regarding the ongoing BBNJ negotiations and issues related to ABNJ, including considerations for the future implementation of the BBNJ Agreement. To support this, awareness raising, and political engagement are essential through all areas of society.
- Participants emphasised the current and potential future role of the Abidjan Convention and its Secretariat as a key convener of States and for coordinating efforts in the Southeast Atlantic region.
- There is also an important need for initiatives, such as the STRONG High Seas project, to continue to support capacity building efforts in the Southeast Atlantic region and help to enhance Abidjan Convention member States’ participation and role in the BBNJ negotiations and in ABNJ issues more broadly.
- Conservation measures, such as area-based management tools (ABMTs), are appropriate for use in ABNJ and could be underpinned by other tools, such as Marine Spatial Planning (MSP). However, capacity building, political will and stakeholder interest to ensure compliance with legal regulations, through for instance the use of Monitoring, Control and Surveillance (MCS) tools, must be enhanced to ensure their full implementation and contribute towards the conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity in ABNJ.
- Participants also highlighted that there is an important role for regional cooperation to support and underpin conservation efforts in ABNJ – through e.g., establishing shared regional goals and strategies, ensuring the exchange of knowledge and information, creating regional platforms for negotiation and conflict resolution, and addressing transboundary challenges, such as fishing or pollution.
- Workshop participants recognised the progress of the STRONG High Seas project and stressed the important opportunity for States and stakeholders in the Southeast Atlantic region to participate in the project and its planned activities beyond this Dialogue Workshop.
The workshop was part of a series of Dialogue Workshops organised under the STRONG High Seas project in the Southeast Atlantic region with the aim to bring together stakeholders to discuss the status and challenges of global and regional ocean governance, as well as foster exchange of knowledge and information, and build new networks. The first Dialogue Workshop took place in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, in June 2018, the second Dialogue Workshop took place in Cape Town, South Africa, in June 2019, and the third Dialogue Workshop took place online in February 2021. A fifth workshop is planned for the first half of 2022.
About the STRONG High Seas Project
The STRONG High Seas project (‘Strengthening Regional Ocean Governance for the High Seas’) is a five-year project that aims to strengthen regional ocean governance for the conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction. Collaborating with the Secretariat of the Abidjan Convention, the project aims to develop and propose targeted measures to support the coordinated development of integrated and ecosystem-based management approaches for ocean governance in the Southeast Atlantic. The project also works with the Comisión Permanente del Pacífico Sur (CPPS; Permanent Commission for the South Pacific).
The workshop presentations can be found here in English and here in French.