The celebration presented an opportunity to reflect on Africa’s contribution to the UNCLOS four decades since the adoption of UNCLOS in 1982, and an opportunity for briefing on the ongoing discussions and negotiations of the International Legally Binding Instrument (ILBI) by the African Group in New York.
Speaking on behalf of H.E. Moussa Faki Mahamat, the Chairperson of the African Union Commission, Mr. Alex Tordeta Ratebaye, Deputy Chief of Staff of the Commission, said that the African maritime domain offers all African nations great opportunities for growth and a network of very important sea lanes, both for their security and for their prosperity.
He added that the AU has taken up the maritime issue, in its entirety under the term of the blue economy, and developed a holistic approach for this area to ensure that the sea can be an element of well-being for African populations, in the safety and through the sustainable production of wealth.
“The celebration of 40 years of Africa’s contributions to the UNCLOS is a privileged moment to take stock of our contribution as Africans to the consideration of African concerns in the implementation of this convention” he said, urging for continuing the work to make the continent’s contribution to safeguarding future generations more visible, as the geopolitical and strategic issues are known and revolve around this scarce resource of water.
Speaking earlier, Dr. Guy Fleury-Ntwari, the Legal Counsel of the African Union and Director of Legal Affairs, presented the legal and policy framework in place within the African Union, to implement and give effect to the provisions of the UNCLOS within the African context by Member States.
He highlighted that measures have been taken at the continental level, and within the African Union to ensure a well-coordinated, enhanced and effective implementation of the UNCLOS in the African context and in the manner that speaks to the realities of Africans. Some of the legal instruments include:
The African Charter on Maritime Security and Safety and Development in Africa (the Lomé Charter), the African Maritime Transport Charter; the 2050 Africa’s Integrated Maritime Strategy (2050 AIM Strategy), and the adoption of AU Agenda 2063, accompanied by its 10-year implementation plan which includes the African Blue/Ocean Economy.
He emphasized the importance of the African Union’s effective participation in the global discourse relating to the formation of norms and standards concerning the seas and oceans and their impact on the blue economy, in light of the need to project and protect the interests of Africa in contemporary international law in those fields, by putting an African touch to the norms and standards being set.
The sessions of the event discussed the contribution of the AU and its Member States to the development of UNCLOS and assessed the benefits and challenges for the Continent over the last 40 years.
In addition, the discussions also addressed the enhancement of the impact of the UNCLOS on the realization of the principles reflected in the AU Agenda 2063 and 2050 AIM Strategy, and how Africa can strategically position itself at the global level to maximize the gains envisioned under UNCLOS, the roles of key stakeholders, and the promotion of the signing, ratification and implementation of the African Charter on Maritime Security and Safety and Development in Africa (the Lomé Charter); and explored the new era of UNCLOS.
The event was attended by a wide range of stakeholders with mandates relating to the law of the sea, including: representatives of government departments and legal experts from the AU Member States, AUC, regional and International organizations, non-governmental organizations, educational and research Institutions.