Good day. I am Elizabeth Maruma Mrema, Officer-in-Charge of the Division of Environmental Policy Implementation of the United Nations Environment Programme, or UNEP.

Welcome to the 11th Conference of Parties of the Convention for Cooperation in the Protection, Management and Development of the Marine and Coastal Environment of the Atlantic Coast of the West, Central and Southern Africa Region, also known as the Abidjan Convention

Promoting Blue Growth in Africa: Toward Sustainable Management of Marine Resources is the theme for this gathering. The theme that targets the coastal countries – from Mauritania down to South Africa - under the Abidjan Convention area --- one of the vast and diverse ecosystems that support fisheries, coastal tourism, industries and oil extraction. Yet in the drive for expansion all these activities bring with them potential marine and coastal environmental degradation.

Blue Growth is the sustainable development that stems from the prudent use of oceans, seas and coasts. African governments are now practically aware of this and the potential that their marine resources have to the growth of their national economies but only if well managed. Governments to be represented at this COP will be mostly by their ministers responsible for environmental management as well as marine experts all of whom will learn more on this and exchange ideas and experiences on the same. There will be other items also high on the agenda.

Some far-reaching decisions are expected to emerge from this COP. One, tied to the Blue Growth, will be on economic valuation of the coastal and marine environment in the Abidjan Convention area. Others include ensuring ocean governance in Africa; and the identification of Ecologically or Biologically Significant Marine Areas. The decisions, which spring from the experts segment of the meeting, will be reviewed and hopefully endorsed by their ministers and implemented by them with the support of the Convention secretariat over the next biennium.

COP 11 marks a milestone in the revitalization of this once moribund secretariat that supports 22 coastal countries. It is our fervent hope that its reawakening will fulfill the aspirations of tens of millions of coastal Africans who, no doubt, yearn for the “Sustainable Management of Marine Resources” and Blue Growth in the region.

Spearheading this drive for Blue Growth is the Abidjan Convention, a regional seas programme of UNEP. UNEP established in 1972 is the voice on the environment within the United Nations system and further strengthened at Rio in 2012 as the global environmental authority. UNEP acts as a catalyst, advocate, educator and facilitator to promote the wise use and sustainable development of the global environment.

UNEP’s work includes: assessing global, regional and national environmental conditions and trends; support the development and implementation of international and national environmental instruments and strengthening relevant institutions for the wise management of the environment. Thus, its commitment to the successful holding of this conference is unequivocal. So too is that of our host, the Government of South Africa, represented by the Department of Environmental Affairs in this CoP. Therefore, allow me to thank the Government of South Africa and its personnel supporting us in this conference for their dedication and the financial resources availed for the successful organization of this CoP. By its engagement, South Africa bordering both the Atlantic and Indian oceans, has once again demonstrated its unyielding support to the Abidjan Convention and its Secretariat as well as UNEP which administers it.

On behalf of the leadership of UNEP, I look forward to your presence at this very important gathering on marine and coastal issues concerning the West, Central and Southern Africa seaboard.

WELCOME TO YOU ALL!

UNEP Regional Seas Programme Coordinator Alberto Pacheco Capella explains why African and South American states are compiling an inventory of assessment of the South Atlantic Ocean