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Abidjan Convention Signs MoU with Regional Network of Marine Protected Areas in West Africa

By Olubusiyi Sarr
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ABIDJAN - 4 April - The Abidjan Convention and the Regional Network of Marine Protected Areas in West Africa (RAMPAO) signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) 21 March to, marking the start of cooperation in the conservation, protection and management of marine protected areas and biodiversity in West Africa.

The memorandum was signed on behalf of the Abidjan Convention Secretariat by the director of UNEP's Division of Environment Policy Implementation, Elizabeth Mrema, and RAMPAO President Aboubacar Oulare. The brief ceremony took place in Cape Town, South Africa, at the end of the 11 Conference of Contracting Parties to the Convention for Cooperation in the Protection, Management and Development of the Marine and Coastal Environment of the Atlantic Coast of the West, Central and Southern Africa Region (the Abidjan Convention).

By this memorandum the parties have a framework for understanding and cooperation to further their shared goals in regard to the conservation, protection of nature and natural resources, including biodiversity in West Africa.

Areas of Cooperation
Immediately, the parties will cooperate in
a) Updating the West African Regional Marine Protected Areas Strategy.

b) Provide sustained capacity-building in the assessment, data collection and communication and planning aspects of marine protected area management.

c) Assist in developing synergies with other international conventions and multilateral agreements including the conventions on Biological Diversity, Climate Change, International Trade in Endangered Species, Migratory Species, RAMSAR and International Strategy for Disaster Reduction.

This above list does not exclude cooperation on other issues of mutual interest.

This MoU is an important step forward for the Abidjan Convention and Protocol in the collaboration and coordination with partners involved in marine and coastal environmental activities in the region as requested by the COP9, decision CP. 9/12. This decision, on the Development of a Marine Protected Areas Protocol, urges Abidjan Convention Contracting Parties to , 'establish or expand or to reinforce Marine Protected Areas in areas under their jurisdiction with a view to safeguarding the natural resources of the region, and to take all appropriate measures to protect those areas.'

By this memorandum, collaboration will bring about adequate support for the welfare of the marine protected areas, their natural resources and for the people who depend on them in this part of the Abidjan Convention area.

The Abidjan Convention
The Convention for Cooperation in the Protection, Management and Development of the Marine and Coastal Environment of the Atlantic Coast of the West, Central and Southern Africa Region (also known as the Abidjan Convention) - and its protocol concerning cooperating in combating pollution in cases of emergency - came into force in 1984.

The area is endowed with abundant fish and petroleum resources. It covers the 22 states, with a combined coastline of just over 14,000 kilometres, on Africa Atlantic Ocean from Mauritania to South Africa.

The Convention is a comprehensive umbrella agreement for the protection and management of the marine and coastal area. It aims to tackle dumping of unwanted matter from ships; pollution from land-based sources, exploration and exploitation of the sea-bed, and from or through the atmosphere. The Convention also makes provision for liability and compensation in case of pollution.

The Convention is the basis for cooperative efforts to address other issues such as overfishing, control of the fish stocks, coastal-based tourism, coastal erosion, specially protected areas, and environmental impact assessment in the region.

The Regional Network of Marine Protected Areas in West Africa, RAMPAO, was officially created in April 2007, during its constitutive meeting held in Praia, capital of Cape Verde. RAMPAO's ultimate goal is 'to ensure, at the scale of the West African marine eco-region..., the preservation of a coherent set of critical habitats needed for the dynamic functioning of ecological processes necessary for the regeneration of natural resources and the conservation of biodiversity for the benefit of society'.

Specifically, RAMPAO aims at:
promoting mutual exchange and learning
creating synergies between MPAs in subjects of common interest

enhancing the functionality and operational readiness of MPAs in the region

Strengthening mutual capacities in matters of advocacy, defense of