Abidjan Convention Secretariat background
The coastal waters of West African countries from Mauritania in the north to South Africa at the other extreme contain highly productive ecosystems that support rich fisheries. The coastal area also supports coastal tourism, industries and numerous busy ports. These ecosystems provide an important livelihood for many coastal communities.
The region, however, has seen serious conflicts resulting in immense human suffering and poverty. In the last three decades or so, the rapid development, improper use of resources and extensive pollution has impacted negatively on the coastal ecosystems. Coastal erosion and floods are key problems, likely to be exacerbated by climate change. Destruction of critical habitats is widespread in the convention area, and coastal communities are both the perpetrators and victims of this destruction.
The West and Central African region is among the oldest Regional Seas programmes forged in the early 1980s through an Action Plan and later a Convention for Co-operation in the Protection and Development of the Marine and Coastal Environment of the West and Central African Region (otherwise known as the Abidjan Convention) and an associated Protocol concerning pollution. After the Abidjan Convention came into force in 1984, projects on contingency planning, pollution control, coastal erosion, environmental impact assessment and environmental legislation followed.
A number of difficulties, including competing priorities and lack of resources, resulted in slow progress in activities of the Abidjan Convention between 1990 and 2002. Today the Abidjan Convention is back on track. Activities planned to re-energise the Convention, include establishing a network of focal points. The focal points will meet regularly in a Focal Points Forum each year. The focal points will prepare a new work programme. The Seventh Conference of Parties (COP 7), that was held in 2005, provided a turning point by establishing a new ecosystem-based coordination structure. Countries within each of the Benguela, Guinea and Canary current ecosystems were coordinated as autonomous units/nodes of the Abidjan Convention.
The activities of the Abidjan Convention that are coordinated directly by the Nairobi-based Joint Implementation Unit of the Nairobi and Abidjan Conventions and the Abidjan-based Regional Coordination Unit will increasingly be coordinated at the regional level through collaborations and partnership between the Convention and the GEF-sponsored Large Marine Ecosystem projects under implementation in the Convention area. The Convention designated Cote d'Ivoire as the Depository, and UNEP as the Secretariat. The Regional Coordinating Unit is based in Abidjan. There have been 8 Conference of Parties meetings, the most recent in Johannesburg, in November, 2007.
Armed with renewed goodwill from the Contracting Parties, together with the opportunities presented through other initiatives such as the African Process for the Development and Management of the Coastal and Marine Resources and the New Partnership for Africa Development (NEPAD), we can finally begin to fulfil the promise of our potentially rich and prosperous region and its natural splendours. The Abidjan Convention also hopes to learn and benefit from the family of Regional Seas programmes such as the North-East Atlantic (OSPAR) region.