By: Sheikh Alkinky Sanyang
The Abidjan Convention and the National Environment Agency (NEA) is jointly organizing a two day national capacity building workshop on environmental norms and standards for oil and gas exploration in the Convention area for consultation and information sharing between actors on national environmental issues, and building a permanent and functional framework for consultation and exchange of national actors (e.g. institutions, civil societies, parliamentarians, academia, etc.) on coastal and marine environmental management.
This capacity building cross learning forum will provide opportunity to discuss current and emerging issues that we are facing in managing coastal and marine environments specifically in our region. It is against this background that the Secretariat of the Abidjan Convention has for over six years hastened the process of developing regional cooperation instruments, and these cooperation agreements include the additional protocols to the Abidjan Convention on Environmental norms and standards related to offshore oil and gas activities.
Momodou J. Suwareh Gambia`s Focal point for the Abidjan Convention make these revelation during the opening ceremony at a local hotel. He noted that the establishment of a regulatory framework for monitoring and surveillance of offshore oil and gas activities followed COP 9, held from 28 March to 1 April 2010 in Accra, Ghana during which the Contracting Parties to the Abidjan Convention adopted important decisions to prevent and control pollution from offshore activities.
Furthermore, he revealed that during COP10 held from 12th to 16th November 2012 in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Contracting Parties adopted Decision CP.10/8 on “Environmental standards for exploration and exploitation of mineral and mineral resources undertaken off the coasts of the State Parties”. This decision calls upon Countries to “share information, experience and expertise under the Abidjan Convention, in the field of maritime safety and security standards that take into account not only the ecological and oceanographic specificities of the three major marine currents (Gulf of Guinea, Canary Islands and Benguela) but also universally recommended procedures and practices”.
The decision also calls for the “develop initiatives involving relevant international organizations, such as IMO, UNEP, regional and sub-regional organizations and extractive industries to develop regional environmental standards to be met in the exploration and exploitation of mineral and mineral resources undertaken off the coasts of States Parties”.
According to Focal person, the Convention area straddles with three distinct ecosystems: Canary Current Large marine Eco-system (stretching from Morocco to Guinea), Guinea Current Large marine Ecosystem (stretching from Guinea Bissau to DRC), and Benguela Current Large Marine Ecosystem (from Angola in the north southwards to the east of the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa). These Ecosystems include deltas, mangroves, seagrass, meadows, wetlands, barriers and lagoons.
Suwareh, who doubles as the Executive Director of the National Environment Agency further disclosed that oil and gas extraction create most of the energy and resources needed to run our society, but observed that it result to a range of present and future environmental and social costs, both direct and indirect which need to be balanced against the benefit they bring. The oil and gas industry impacts on people and the environment through Climate Change, operations on land and at sea, through positive and negative impacts on national economies, and unregulated actions by the oil industry destroy habitats and damage biodiversity. “Oil spills at sea have damaged mangrove forests, coral reefs and fisheries”. Suwareh hammered home.
He revealed that transportation of oil is also implicated in ecological damage, while extractive industries also often failed to make contribution to sustainable development and to protect the environment. The industry, he said is considered by many civil society organisations to have contributed to corruption, pollution and civil disturbance including wars in a number of countries, notably Africa.
“Without good governance, the oil and gas industry generally results to the above mentioned. Furthermore, there is usually the over dependence on oil and gas revenue to the detriment of other economic sector, this scenario is referred to by Economists and Development Experts as the “Dutch Disease”.
NEA boss quoted Dr. Emil Salim, one time Chairman of the World Bank funded independent Extractive Industry Review (EIR) who said that “not only have the oil, gas and mining industries not helped the poorest people in developing countries, they have often made them worst off. Countries which rely primarily on extractive industries tend to have higher levels of poverty, child morbidity and mortality, civil war, corruption and totalitarianism than those with more diversified economies”.
According to the focal person, the Extractive Industry Review (EIR) suggested the following three broad policy requirements for the extractive sector; Poverty alleviation, effective social and environmental policies and respect for human rights. In conclusion, he thanked the Secretariat of Abidjan Convention, UNEP and MAVA Foundation for their continuous support on behalf of the Gambia Government.
Delivering a statement on behalf of the Abidjan Convention, Jean Auguste Barthelemy Batieno, partnership and Operations Coordinator of PRCM