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Blue Oceans Conference: GoL, Partners Adopt Call For Action

-To Preserve The Coastal & Ocean Environment

The Government of Liberia and its Partners had called on all stakeholders – governments at all levels, civil society, scientific institutions, and the business community – to adopt the Call for Action, based on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the United Nations 2030 Agenda, the UN Ocean Decade, the 2015 Paris Agreement, and Africa’s Integrated Maritime Strategy (AIMS) to preserve the coastal and ocean environment.

This, according to them will strengthen partnerships for development, to help end poverty, and to enhance maritime viability for a prosperous Liberia and West Africa.

Blue Oceans Conference: Call for Action

  1. We recognize that water covers more than two-thirds of the earth’s surface and affects life everywhere. Our ocean supplies nearly half of the oxygen we need, absorbs one-fourth of the carbon dioxide we produce and plays a vital role in the climate system and water cycle.
  2. We recognize that a healthy ocean contributes to sustainable development as well as poverty reduction, food security and nutrition, climate resilience, maritime trade and transportation, and sustainable livelihoods. It is a source of the earth’s biodiversity and ecosystem services and forms a part of our natural and cultural heritage.
  3. We are especially concerned about the harmful impacts of climate change – particularly ocean warming, deoxygenation, acidification, extreme weather conditions and sea level rise, which results in coastal erosion. We recognize the need to address the serious impacts associated with climate change that interfere with the ability of the ocean to regulate climate, support its biodiversity, and providing an engine of economic growth. We recognize the importance of the Paris Agreement adopted under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). And we recognize the potential for mangrove, seagrass and salt marsh habitats to provide climate mitigation solutions through their ability to absorb and sequester carbon from the atmosphere.
  4. We understand that improving the health and productivity of our coast and ocean and protecting its functional integrity is key for Liberia’s future. We recognize that the Africa Maritime Domain (AMD) offers all African nations vast growth opportunities including several sea-lanes of enormous importance for their security and prosperity.
  5. We emphasize the need to integrate Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 14 and its associated targets into national development plans and agendas – to foster national ownership and to ensure success in its implementation by involving relevant stakeholders in the maritime domain, including national and local authorities, women, youth, as well as academic and scientific communities, business and industry. We underline the relevance of gender equality and the critical role of women and youth in the sustainable use of the coastal, ocean and marine resources for sustainable development.
  6. We note that there are thirty-eight (38) African countries that are either coastal or island states while fifty-two (52) of its over one hundred port facilities handle containers and various forms of cargo. African-owned ships, however, account for only 1.2% of worlds shipping and represent only 0.9% of the cargo by gross tonnage. The ports in Africa handle only 6% of worldwide waterborne cargo traffic and approximately 3% of the worldwide container traffic. This means there is a great opportunity for sustainable economic growth.
  7. We recognize that our actions to implement SDG 14 and adhere to Africa’s Integrated Maritime Strategy (AIMS) must be in accordance with existing legal instruments and administrative processes. We affirm the need to enhance the conservation and sustainable use of the coast, ocean and its resources, by implementing international law as stipulated in the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, which provides the overarching legal framework. And we acknowledge the benefits of the Port State Measures Agreement in tackling illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing.
  8. The Government of Liberia, high-level representatives, and key Stakeholders, who met in Monrovia, Liberia on 20-21 March 2019 at the Millennium Guest House (MGH), support the implementation of Sustainable Development Goal 14 of the 2030 Agenda, the Nairobi Statement of Intent on Advancing the Global Sustainable Blue Economy, and the 2050 Africa’s Integrated Strategy (AIMS). This requires the full participation of Governments, civil society groups, the private sector, and other relevant stakeholders in the maritime domain, to affirm our strong commitment to conserve and sustainably use our coasts, oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development.
  9. With a strong conviction, we are mobilized as governments and partners to address current and emerging challenges and build on the experience of regional partnerships, such as WIOMSA, to find solutions to issues pertinent to the sustainability of the ocean and associated ecosystems for a positive shared future and for the next generations. As leaders, decision-makers, experts, representatives of the private sector, non-governmental organizations, youth and women groups, we are convinced that our collective action and determination to act urgently and assertively will make a meaningful difference for the people of Liberia – and West Africa more broadly.
  10. We stress the need for an integrated and cross-sectoral approach, as well as national stakeholder participation and transboundary cooperation, and policy coherence at all governance levels. We emphasize the critical importance of effective partnerships.
  11. We call on all stakeholders to conserve and sustainably use the coast, ocean and its marine resources for sustainable development by taking, among other things, actions on an urgent basis, as well as by building on existing institutions and partnerships:
  • Adherence to the 2050 Africa’s Integrated Maritime Strategy (AIMS) and contribution to the success of the UN 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
  • Strengthen cooperation and policy coherence amongst relevant stakeholders in the maritime domain at all level of governance.
  • Strengthen governance mechanisms for a sustainable coast and ocean, including those for sustainable fisheries, climate change, marine pollution, and blue economy, and ensuring stakeholder participation in policy and decision-making.
  • Develop all-inclusive strategies to raise awareness by decisionmakers of the natural and cultural significance of the ocean, as well as opportunities and challenges, and the need to further improve our collective knowledge of the ocean.
  • Support plans to develop ocean-related education, inter ilia, including courses at various levels in universities and colleges across Liberia, to promote ocean literacy and a culture of conservation and sustainable use of our ocean.
  • Promote the role of women in the blue economy and identify challenges and opportunities to further empower women and encourage their role in positions of leadership and recognize that gender equality and empowerment of women will improve the social and economic well-being of society.
  • Enhance sustainable fisheries management through science-based management measures, an ecosystem-based approach, monitoring, control, and surveillance, as well as strengthening cooperation through regional fisheries management organizations and regional fisheries bodies.
  • End and mitigate destructive and unsustainable fishing practices by stopping illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, effectively implementing the port state measures agreement and increasing the number of countries who have ratified the agreement.
  • Better recognize and measure the role of small-scale fisheries (SSF) in Liberia and the region’s sustainable development, through increased collection of data, implementation of the principles in the Voluntary Guidelines for Securing Sustainable Small-Scale (VGSSF) Fisheries into national laws and regulations, and enhanced monitoring and enforcement.
  • Improve and promote work to strengthen cooperation on the development of catch documentation schemes and traceability of fish and fish-related products.
  • Strengthen capacity building and technical assistance provided to small-scale fishers, to improve their access to marine resources and markets to improve the socio-economic situation of fisher folks, their families and communities.
  • Ensure that any future fishing agreements with external countries or other parties are grounded in science-based approaches which secure the sustainability of fish stocks and prioritize the equitable distribution of benefits between countries and stakeholder groups.
  • Address social responsibility issues within the seafood sector, including protecting human rights and dignity and respecting access to resources, ensuring equality and equitable opportunities to benefit, and improving food and livelihood security.
  • Contribute to national and global climate mitigation targets by conserving and restoring coastal blue carbon habitats such as mangroves, salt marshes, and seagrasses, and include these solutions within nationally determined contributions wherever appropriate.
  • Develop and implement effective climate adaptation strategies that increase the ability of communities, economies and ecosystems to adapt and thrive when faced with anticipated changes including increases in ocean temperatures, ocean acidification, sea-level rise, coastal erosion, and extreme weather events. Include ‘green’ infrastructure solutions such as mangroves, which reduce the impacts of storms on coastlines, alongside ‘grey’ built infrastructure solutions.

Invest in significantly reducing marine pollution, particularly from land-based activities, including plastics and microplastics, solid waste discharges, untreated wastewater, as well as abandoned, lost or discarded fishing gear. Support waste management strategies that reduce waste and prevent waste from entering the environment, including mechanisms that promote environmentally-sound waste management, disposal, and recycling. Develop and implement long-term and robust strategies to limit the use of plastics and microplastics – particularly plastic bags and single-use plastics, including by partnering with stakeholders at relevant governance levels to address plastics production, marketing, and use.

  • Take tangible and ambitious steps towards creating and effectively managing a robust network of marine protected areas and other area-based management measures, designed to deliver livelihoods, food and climate resilience benefits, with an ultimate vision of effectively protecting and managing at least 30% of all ocean territory.
  • Develop and implement integrated management regimes that mainstream natural capital across large coastal and marine areas which balance the needs of different stakeholder groups and ocean users, actively engage these different coastal and ocean interests and coordinate between them, decrease user conflict, improve planning and regulatory efficiencies, and preserve critical ecosystem functions and services including biodiversity.
  • Develop sustainable aquaculture based on global best practice to provide an affordable source of protein and jobs, without compromising ocean and coastal ecosystem health. Conduct spatial mapping and planning to ensure aquaculture zones are based on carrying capacity and maximum sustainable yields as well as infrastructure availability. Ensure the availability of locally-sourced, sustainable, accessible and affordable seed and feed. Advance entrepreneurship opportunities for women and youth in the aquaculture sector.

Actively engage in discussions towards the establishment of a coordinating committee in Liberia to track the progress of this call for action and conference commitments – complementing the role of the Abidjan Convention and relevant Regional Seas Program.

  1. We proudly call upon all Stakeholders including, the Economic Community of West Africa States (ECOWAS), the African Union (AU), the European Union (EU) as well as regional governments, to continue their efforts to support the implementation of SDG 14, in the context of the 2050 Africa’s Integrated Maritime Strategy (AIMS) and UN 2030 Agenda; and contribute to achieving the 2050 Africa’s Integrated Maritime Strategy (AIMS) and reviewing the progress of the 2030 UN Agenda to successfully implement SDG 14.

In Acknowledgement of the above Call to Action, we the Participants of the Blue Oceans Conference urge governments, regional bodies and other relevant stakeholders to commit to the following actions:

  • Liberia and other West African Countries tackle illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, by acceding to and implementing the Port State Measures Agreement and implementing monitoring control surveillance (MCS) activities.
  • Liberia and other West African Countries to openly publish vessel registries, ownership, licenses, and permits through a public forum such as Global Fish Watch or others.
  • Liberia to improve its capacity to responding to maritime emergencies within its waters by increasing its capacity in maritime surveillance, towage, salvage, rescue and oil spill preparedness, prevention and response.
  • To a ban on single-use plastics bags and straws by 2022 and commits to recovering and responsibly managing all plastic packaging by 2025 by partnering with government, private sector and communities to address plastics production, marketing, and use.
  • To raise needed funds and securing the necessary commitment from all relevant stakeholders to create and effectively manage a robust network of marine protected areas and other area-based management measures covering 30% of Liberia’s EEZ, designed to conserve biodiversity and deliver livelihoods, food security, climate resilience, and other ecosystem services to the coastal communities of Liberia and its neighbors.
  • To prevent any net loss of Liberia’s mangroves post 2020 by developing a robust set of projects and programs to conserve and restore Liberia’s mangrove ecosystems.
  • To ensure 100% of Liberia’s commercial fisheries are compliant with sustainable fisheries management standards such as the Marine Stewardship Council and Aquaculture Stewardship Council.
  • Liberia to develop environment and social assessments for sound ports including; ensuring new port infrastructure complete environmental impact assessments and actively commit to environmental management plans, maintain oil spill plans and have funding for emergency response measures.
  • Mainstream natural capital (such as mangroves) into national development (SDGs) and climate change (NDC) agendas.
  • Enhance inter-agency collaboration among the government, private sector, and civil society in Libera to improve stakeholder’s participation in ocean governance and stewardship. We will further improve integrated management across coastal and marine areas by sharing data and information, identifying roles and responsibilities of stakeholder groups and ocean users, actively engage these different coastal and ocean interests and coordinate between them, decrease user conflict, improve planning and regulatory efficiencies, and preserve critical ecosystem functions and services including biodiversity, to deliver on the sustainable development goals and the Paris Agreement.

Through the above we will scale up of our marine conservation and biodiversity efforts in West Africa.  We aim to protect coastal communities from the impact of climate change, improve environmental waste management practices in coastal areas, and strengthen the monitoring, control and surveillance of the marine activities. In addition, we will promote sustainable fishing practices with the goal of sustainable ocean governance and development for the benefit of the people of Liberia and West A.

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