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Abidjan Convention Sets to Improve Reporting on Marine, Coastal Environment

By United Nations
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ABIDJAN 16 Dec - Journalists within the Abidjan Convention area began on Monday a three-day training session during which they will be introduce to current and emerging issues on the marine and coastal environment, as they affect the lives of millions of people along Africa's Atlantic seaboard.

“Our hope is that this workshop will lead to the creation of a core of journalist willing to report authoritatively and frequently on the pressing marine and coastal environmental trends, concerns and solutions in the region,” Abou Bamba, the Convention's coordinator, told the participants.

The journalists come from the print and broadcast media within the 22 countries which make up the Abidjan Convention area, spanning Mauritania to South Africa. Reporting on the pressing marine and coastal environmental trends in the region will require focus on issues such as the sources and activities causing pollution, some of which are the uncontrolled dumping of urban solid waste in coastal areas and waters; industrial effluent and other land-based activities.

Some other issues of major concern to the Abidjan Convention, a regional seas activity of the United Nations Environment Programme, are overfishing; ocean governance; marine and coastal-based tourism; trends in anti-pollution policy and laws.

This workshop, funded by the Swedish International Development Agency, is the first of its kind for the Abidjan Convention region, whose coastline stretches for some 14,000 kilometres. The training is the result of a decision of the Conference of Parties to the Abidjan Convention in 2012 to raise public awareness of the Convention and of marine and coastal environmental issues. In general, in the Atlantic façade of Africa, media reporting on the environment is a gradual and growing practice. However, the focus is usually on inland concerns such as deforestation, land degradation and desertification, pollution of soils and water systems, waste water management, as well as endangered terrestrial flora and fauna. Rarely does reporting focus on marine and coastal environmental problems.

Greater media coverage on these topics is, therefore, one of the reasons for and expected outcomes of this workshop. The awaited spin-off from this is increased public awareness, debate as well as legislative action to curtail marine and coastal environmental problems. Bringing the issue closer to the hundreds of millions of coastal Africans is designed to help change behavior and attitudes to marine and coastal pollution and destruction and spur greater community action to protect these environments. The anticipated result is greater well-being and economic benefits to coastal communities, whose livelihood are often determined by the health of the marine and coastal ecosystems.