By: James Mbugua
Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) through the Sustainable Ocean Initiative (SOI) held a five day workshop in Madagascar from the 18th -22nd Jan 2016. The SOI aims at providing support towards the utilization of Marine Spatial Planning (MSP) as a tool or an integrated approach that will enhance national implementation of the Aichi Biodiversity Targets In marine and coastal areas. Different presentation were made on Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA), Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), Integrated Coastal Management (ICM) and Ecologically or Biologically Sensitive Areas (EBSAs) in an effort to evaluate regional progress on sustainable development, sharing of national and regional experiences in the implementation of the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020 and on achieving Aichi Biodiversity Targets in marine and coastal areas. This highlighted the major achievements that have been realized within the different countries and the challenges that have been encountered thereby serving as pitfalls to avoid.
Issues and challenges
Meeting discussions emphasized that the Western Indian Ocean region is faced with numerous challenges with regards to implementation of marine spatial planning (MSP) among those include:
- Data collection and availability – As much as projects are data hungry entities, its acquisition should not be over prioritized as it may result in the exhaustion of the very funds meant for project actualization. Taking an example for the Mozambique coastal planning, where funds were exhausted on data collection leaving no resources for the actualization of the project. Likewise, the availability or lack of it (data), should not be a limiting factor but one should always commence with the little that is available and build on it as the process continues.
- Population policy – With a growing population of approximately 65 million people, the WIO region is under real threat from population pressure and its negative impacts on fragile ecosystems. This were the very concerns that raised the questions as to the existence of any population policy within the WIO countries.
- Inadequate infrastructure and technical skills on MSP – MSP processes requires input of spatial information in form of maps regarding the numerous and often complex uses of the ocean. Though a new concept in the WIO that is still at its infancy stage, lessons from Seychelles indicates that this can be overcome by outsourcing of a skilled technical assistance. Other than that, the success of the establishment of the MASPAWIO platform will be a solution in terms of infrastructure that will enable data, information and knowledge sharing.
- Politics, corruption and National security – The political environment of the WIO is often characterized by political instability and chaos, this has often resulted into re-alignments of government structures either resulting into the merging or splitting of ministries in order to reward political allegiance. Often this has resulted into confusion, loss of synergy, conflicts of interest and serves as recipe for corruption.
Action points relevant to projects
To holistically address some of the challenges identified and ensure a positive outcome, various actions were identified. This are:
- The will to promote the wise use of environmental/natural resources through application of SEA, EIA, ICM and MSP. This will boost the relevance and existence of MSP and other tools in the region.
- The need to speed up the establishment of an online data and knowledge sharing platform. This will see the development of a MASPAWIO geoportal platform that will benefit not only the NMC but the whole region as a whole.
- Promotion of public private partnership and joint initiatives with lead agencies. This will result in creation of synergy that is very vital for the NMC.
- Learning by doing, this provided a personal measure through which I was able to identify and focus on my knowledge gap with regards to MSP process. Furthermore, it raised self-awareness regarding professional development and the need for developing new priorities in an appropriate manner.
- As technical person, the presentation and demonstration from experienced coastal managers provided the necessary mentorship specifically during the MSP simulation exercise that carried a serious message relevant to the MSP process. This was also a demonstration that sanity in the marine environment can be realized through compromise, negotiation and tradeoffs that are characteristic to MSP.
- Group discussions and breakout sessions provided an effective way for building regional connections, networks and relationships that will help foster regional awareness on MSP.
To understand more on the Sustainable Oceans Initiative and an upcoming event “Regional Forum on Solutions for Oceans, Coasts and Human Wellbeing in Africa – 31st May -3rd June 2016”