Abidjan Convention Parties Agree to Take Action on Oil Spills and Marine Protected Areas

20 April 2011: Delegates at the ninth meeting of Contracting Parties (COP 9) to the Convention for Co-operation in the Protection and Development of the Marine and Coastal Environment of the West and Central African Region (Abidjan Convention), which convened from 28 March-1 April 2011, in Accra, Ghana, agreed to create an Oil Spill Contingency Plan and establish a regional centre for cooperation in case of oil spills and other emergencies, as well as to develop a Marine Protected Areas Protocol.

The Abidjan Convention is a regional convention, administered by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), that addresses pollution, overfishing, dumping at sea, exploration of the sea bed, and other activities that can affect the health of marine and coastal ecosystems in Africa. According to UNEP, the agreement on oil spills was driven by increased off-shore oil exploration in Africa, and the need to prevent incidents similar to that experienced in the Gulf of Mexico. The Oil Spill Contingency Plan aims to complement existing national plans and to allow countries to promptly report to each other about oil spills or other pollution incidents occurring in their area of responsibility or that of another Party.

Parties also agreed to work more closely on coastal erosion and marine protected areas, including through the development of a Marine Protected Areas Protocol to assist in implementing Articles 10 and 11 of the Convention. Articles 10 and 11 require Parties to take all appropriate measures to prevent, reduce, combat and control coastal erosion and to endeavour to establish marine parks and reserves to protect fragile ecosystems. [UNEP Press Release] [COP 9 Meeting Website]