At the end of a five-day meeting on 4 December in Cape Town, South Africa, African ministers adopted the "Cape Town Declaration on an African Process for the Development and Protection of the Coastal and Marine Environment." The document reflects the fact that the coastal and marine environment is as an essential resource for long-term sustainable development in Africa, and that African countries must work together in order to tackle regional issues like marine pollution.
Seen as part of a wider process to prevent fragmentation of Africa's environment and development efforts, the Declaration requests the Organization of African Unity to consult with appropriate regional institutions, (like AMCEN, the African Ministerial Conference on the Environment), on how best to harmonize relevant current initiatives on the continent.
The Declaration also builds on the achievements of the Pan-African Conference on Sustainable Integrated Coastal Management (PACSICOM), held in Maputo, Mozambique from 18 to 24 July 1998. In this regard, the scene has been set for a "Partnership Conference" in the year 2000. This proposed conference will represent a new form of donor/recipient cooperation based on common concerns and shared responsibilities for the management of the coastal and marine environment in Africa. A detailed list of common African priorities, actions and costed project proposals will be submitted to donors, UN agencies, non-governmental organizations, the private sector and others, in a coordinated manner.
The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), as it did here and in Maputo, will play an active role in the preparations for this conference. Furthermore, UNEP, which now lists support to Africa as one of its five areas of concentration, will incorporate the concerns of Cape Town into relevant existing regional conventions on the marine environment, namely: Nairobi (East and Southern Africa) and Abidjan (West and Central Africa).
The Cape Town Declaration specifically calls upon UNEP, as the secretariat of the two conventions, to develop an action plan for their revitalization and co-ordination.
A recent study by UNEP revealed that payments to the established trust funds for the conventions have been inadequate and unpredictable, and political support for institutional and programmatic issues have to be matched to earlier expectations.
Delegates did hear some welcome news last Thursday, however, when Deputy President, Thabo Mbeki, addressed the conference and said that the South African Parliament would be asked to finalize accession to the Nairobi and Abidjan conventions next year.
In another positive development, the British Minister, George Foulkes, announced on Friday at the conference 20 million pounds (around R200 million or $US 33 million) in support of a Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries in Africa.
The Cape Town conference, "Cooperation for the Development and Protection of the Coastal and Marine Environment in sub-Saharan Africa", was jointly sponsored by UNEP, the Government of South Africa and the Advisory Committee on Protection of the Sea. The event, which started with a three-day technical meeting on 30 November, was attended by ministers, deputy ministers and senior officials from Africa, as well as representatives from the OAU, donor countries, sub-regional economic groups and NGOs.
The UNEP Executive Director, Klaus Toepfer, addressed the ministerial segment on Thursday 3 December and also delivered a message on behalf of the UN Secretary-General.
For more information:
UNEP Senior Programme Officer
Tel: (254-2) 624278, Fax: (254-2) 622788,
UNEP Press Officer
Tel: (254-2) 623084, Fax: (254-2) 623692,
UNEP News Release 1998/128