TMG Think Tank for Sustainability

What next for the Marine Regions Forum? Workshop report

Planning begins for the Marine Regions Forum conference, 2022 / 2023

Members of the Partnership for Regional Ocean Governance project joined around forty ocean governance experts, and representatives of intergovernmental organisations, national administrations, NGOs, private sector and research centres, for the first of a series of workshops on ocean governance in the Western Indian Ocean (WIO) region. Looking ahead to a conference to be held in the region in late 2022 or 2023, the workshop was intended to anchor the Marine Regions Forum (MRF) in the WIO, create trust and interest in the forum among key actors and initiatives in the region, identify key themes and priorities for the conference, and set out important next steps in the planning process.

In the introductory session, Sweden's Ambassador for the Ocean, Helen Ågren, and Denis Matatiken of the Ministry of Environment, Energy, Climate Change, Seychelles, outlined the emphasis their governments place on regional cooperation in governance, as well as its importance for the long term success of programmes such as restoration of coral reef ecosystems in the Seychelles. Laura Weiand of the Potsdam Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies outlined the rationale behind the MRF, as well as the conference planning and development process.

Slide presented by Laura Weiand, IASS, at Marine Regions Forum workshop, 29 November 2021

A panel discussion brought together Angelique Pouponneau, CEO of the Seychelles’ Conservation and Climate Adaptation Trust; Aboud Jumbe, Principal Secretary at the Ministry of Blue Economy and Fisheries in Zanzibar; and Yvonne Waweru, Senior Governance Advisor in the Western Indian Ocean Governance Project of the GIZ. Panelists outlined several important themes for the MRF conference to adress, including finance mechanisms, structures for information sharing, how ecosystem-based adaptation approaches can be scaled-up across regions, and how actors can escape constraining siloed governance structures.

In a breakout session workshop participants collectively discussed the achievements, challenges and opportunities of current projects and initiatives in the WIO region, taking an ecosystem perspective, a governance perspective and a science perspective. A second breakout session developed ideas towards the conceptualisation of the MRF in the WIO region, reflecting on how the conference could best support ocean action in the region and beyond, and asking what the next steps in the process should entail.

Plenary session remarks came from the European Commission's Aurore Maillet, Deputy Head of Unit, Ocean Governance, Law of the Sea, Arctic Policy. Maillet underlined the positive example offered by the European Commission's experience of regional cooperation, and noted the importance of ocean governance in its ocean policy as a whole. 'The European Commission is very glad to support the Marine Regions Forum,' she emphasised. Maillet also highlighted the commission's work to support regional ocean governance in the context of SDG 14 and the Nairobi Convention, and pointed to the importance of collaboration with stakeholders in the WIO, noting goals shared with the earlier speaker from the Government of the Seychelles.

Concluding the workshop, and reminding attendees of the planning side event during UNEA5.2, TMG Managing Director Alexander Müller outlined four messages that should inform the continuing work of the MRF. Firstly, that communities should remain at the centre of the forum's work, which is concerned not only with technical matters but social questions too. Secondly, that the forum should provide a platform for the collaborative and accessible generation and dissemination of knowledege, both within the WIO region and beyond. Thirdly, that by building an enabling environment for sustainable regional ocean governance, the WIO could be a model for other regions and so a lever for upscaling of successful approaches. Finally, that cooperation between actors at all scales and with all kinds of interests will be vital to the MRF's success.

The Marine Regions Forum was established in a collaboration between the European Commission and the Government of Germany as a platform for collaborative regional ocean governance that would develop new approaches and partnerships for achieving SDG 14. The first conference was held in Berlin in 2019. The next Marine Regions Forum conference, focusing on the Western Indian Ocean region, will take place in 2022 or 2023, with the support of the Government of Sweden. The Marine Regions Forum is hosted and supported by the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies, Potsdam; IDDRI; TMG; the Swedish Ministry of the Environment; the European Commission Directorate of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries; the German Federal Ministry of the Environment; and Umwelt Bundesamt. More resources and information can be found here.

Written by Harry Stopes


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