Promoting Cooperation in Management of Africa’s Oceans

The Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO was established in 1960, through Resolution 2.31 of the UNESCO General Conference as a body with functional autonomy within UNESCO to “…. promote international cooperation and coordinate programmes in research, services and capacity building, in order to learn more about the nature and resources of the ocean and coastal areas; and to apply that knowledge for the improvement of management, sustainable development, the protection of the marine environment, and the decision-making processes of its Member States”. Within the first year of IOC’s existence six Africa countries (including Congo, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Mauritania, Morocco and Tunisia) became member states of the Commission. The numbers increased as more African countries gained their independence, reaching the current total of 37 member states . This is almost one-quarter of the Commission’s current membership.

The IOC’s Regional Committee for the Central and Eastern Atlantic (IOCEA), was established in 1984 by the Executive Council at its Seventeenth Session through Resolution EC-XVII.7. The IOC Project Office for IOCEA operated from NIOMR, Lagos, Nigeria, from 2002 to 2004. The IOC’s Regional Committee for the Western Indian Ocean (IOCWIO), was established in 1979 by the Assembly at its Eleventh Session through Resolution XI-9 as the IOC’s Regional Committee for the Cooperative Investigations in the North and Central Western Indian Ocean (IOCINCWIO). The name was later changed at the request of IOCINWIO-V. The IOC Project Office for IOCWIO established at KMFRI, Mombasa, Kenya from 2000 to 2004; was moved to the UNESCO Regional Office, Nairobi, Kenya, from 2004 to 2009).

The Regional Committees coordinated and facilitated the development and implementation of IOC activities in their respective regions. Through them, IOC has been an active participant in the implementation of programmes in the region, contributing to the development of scientific and technical capabilities, the strengthening of institutions, the installation and deployment of observing systems (e.g. sea level monitoring stations installed in Africa’s coastal and island states), and the development of programmes and structures for addressing the regions priorities. The closure of the two project offices in 2004 (Lagos, Nigeria) and 2009 (Nairobi, Kenya) limited the ability of the Commission to link with national institutions and regional organizations/programmes, thus impacting negatively on the implementation of IOC activities in the region.