Abidjan Convention Secretariat Receives Vow From Journalist To Set Up Network Of Marine And Coastal Environmental Reporters

By Olubusiyi Sarr

ABIDJAN 19 DEC – A core of journalists from the Abidjan Convention committed themselves Wednesday to creating a network of marine and coastal marine environmental reporters, having now realized the complexity and magnitude of the ecological problem in the sub-region.

“I want to see how I can use community radio along the coast to sensitize people and small industries of the need to protect the marine environment,” Thierry Wako, a communications officer at Radio Environnement in Yaounde, said Wednesday in Abidjan at the end of the training workshop.

He said coastal community radios, once established, could be instrumental to marine and coastal environmental advocacy and in the war against pollution in these biospheres.

Although the Convention has been in force since 1984, it had been dormant until 2009 when contracting parties sought its revival, with encouraging results. “I was surprised recently when in one village [in Cameroon] I was asked the Abidjan Convention,” Wako, a workshop participant, said.

One of the activities to revitalize the Convention calls for greater public awareness of the pact and the activities of its Secretariat. Therefore, the workshop 16-18 December was organized to expose journalists, who will carry out this task, to report on past, present and emerging marine and coastal topics. He was among another 17 print and broadcast journalists from countries in the Convention area – spanning Mauritania to South Africa - who attended the training designed to provide them a sound grounding on coastal and marine environmental issues and techniques of reporting the subject. Training topics included elements of an environmental story, environmental terminology and opinion writing. Workshop attendees visited nine pollution sites in the Ebrie Lagoon. The field visit was designed to expose them to the reality of some the topics they discussed.

In the Abidjan Convention area marine and coastal environmental challenges include uncontrolled dumping of urban solid waste; industrial effluent and other land-based activities, coastline erosion, and the impacts of climate change.

Another workshop objective was to create this pool of journalist. Environmental reporting is still in its infancy in the Abidjan Convention area and where it exists tends to focus on inland threats such as deforestation and desertification. In their draft declaration participants vowed to extend this scope.

“Professional journalists need to know there is a great appetite to learn more on these challenges and that people look to journalists and expertise to tell these important stories,” David Israelson, one of the two workshop facilitators, said.

Funds for the workshop, the first of its kind in the Abidjan Convention area, were provided by the Swedish International Development Agency. The event was as a 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. The next training workshop will take place in 2014 in another country of the Abidjan Convention.

The Abidjan Convention is a legal tool for Cooperation in the Protection and Development of the Marine and Coastal Region of West, Central and Southern Africa. It has an emergency protocol on oil spills and entered into force in 1984. An additional Protocol for the Protection of Coastal and Marine Environment from Land-based Sources and Activities in Eastern and Southern Africa (LBSA Protocol) is yet to enter into force. For more details refer to www.unep.org/abidjanconvention

The Abidjan Convention is one of six regional seas programmes administered by UNEP.

For more information, please contact Abou Bamba, Regional Coordinator, Abidjan Convention/UNEP. Email: [email protected] - Tel: +225 02 718 781 (Côte d'Ivoire).

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