Between May 2-5, 2023, the African Union-InterAfrican Bureau for Animal Resources (AU-IBAR) organised a continental workshop in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania. The workshop's objectives were to enhance awareness of relevant global forums and to authenticate two consultancy reports on mechanisms that enhance the effective role and participation of African Union Member States in Continental and Global aquatic biodiversity conservation and environmental management-related Fora or Regimes. The meeting was attended by around 40 individuals, with the majority being member states of the African Union, relevant national departments and agencies, regional economic communities, specialised regional institutions like regional sea conventions, universities, representatives of women, and private sector representatives.
Leading to the workshop, AU-IBAR, as part of the Conserving Aquatic Biodiversity Project, conducted two studies in two regional clusters of Africa, namely the South-East and West-Central-North regions. The objective of these studies was to establish mechanisms that would enhance the effective participation of Africa in global fora, particularly in relation to the conservation of aquatic biodiversity and environmental management, including climate change mitigation.
The reports of the study have recognised significant international and worldwide mechanisms pertaining to the preservation of aquatic biodiversity, ecosystems, and environmental governance. The reports have generated concise summaries of the key forums, with the objective of increasing awareness and building the capacity of African stakeholders to participate effectively. Additionally, the reports aim to promote a coordinated African position and voice in these forums.
The insufficient involvement of AU MS in international forums concerning pertinent matters such as climate change adaptation and mitigation, ocean governance, and aquatic biodiversity has raised apprehension. It is imperative to articulate and reinforce cohesive African stances on biodiversity and environmentally-related global regimes fora. Several forums that hold significant importance for Africa include:
• Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES);
• Discussions on Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction (ABJN);
• International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL), 1973
• Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD)
• Ramsar Convention on Wetlands
• Climate change UNFCCC meetings (e.g. Conference of Parties (COP)and related Subsidiary Bodies (SBs) meetings;
• United Nations Ocean Conference (UNOC), SDGs and the Blue Economy;
• The International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT);
• The Basel, Rotterdam, and Stockholm Conventions (BRS); Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES); and,
• Committee of Fisheries (COFI), a subsidiary body of FAO
Frequently, decisions are made within these forums that carry legal weight, and failure by member states of the African Union to execute resolutions based on such decisions may result in penalties. The challenges of capacity, articulation, and coordination of African participation, common positions, and voice have been identified as significant obstacles for the continent to effectively engage in these forums.
The workshop was supported by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA) through the three-year "Conserving Aquatic Biodiversity in African Blue Economy" project. The project's overall objective is to improve the policy environment, regulatory frameworks, and institutional capacities of African Union (AU) Member States and regional economic communities in order to sustainably utilise and conserve aquatic biodiversity and ecosystems.