Youth of Africa: We urge you to not neglect the ocean

By Youth4MPAs | November 5, 2021

In August this year, the Youth4MPAs in partnership with WILDOCEANS held a virtual African Youth Summit (AYS) which aimed to build ownership and stewardship amongst African Youth on several themes related to Ocean Protection.

One of the key goals of the summit was to help craft coherent messages from youth across Africa on challenges that the African continent faces, particularly in the space of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs). The submitted letter contains the key messages drawn from the AYS Youth Statement,

The countries represented by the attendees included South Africa, Nigeria, Kenya, Gabon, Tanzania, Malawi, Liberia, Mauritius, Gambia, Mozambique, Ghana, Namibia, Madagascar, Morocco, Somalia and Zimbabwe.

This letter was submitted as part of the Our World in Your Hands series.

Dear leaders,

As you all gather in November, each of you will be tasked with making vital decisions about protecting our planet and develop coordinated action against the climate crisis that we all face. As you take these decisions, we would like to remind you that you not only represent the existing human population, but also the generations to come. There is great responsibility that sits with you in the coming days, and as youth we hope that you will take the necessary steps to address the urgent issues we face today.

We urge you to not neglect the ocean, because without the ocean our fight against the climate crisis would be incomplete and ineffective. We need to come together to protect both land and sea, in a collective manner that will help sustain our planet for the generations to come.

In August this year, youth from across Africa came together at the African Youth Summit: Our Africa, Our Ocean, Our Future with the aim of unpacking ocean protection from an African perspective. Throughout the summit, young people led and engaged in sessions with experts and other youth leaders in marine conservation, policy, campaigning, and creative arts professions in a concerted effort to identify and develop tailor-made solutions for Africa’s marine space, its people, and future  generations.

The youth networks from the African Youth Summit have together developed this unified statement from the two-day discussions, to echo the voices of Africa’s youth, calling our African and global leaders to take urgent action to secure a healthy future for our planet.

We are all facing a rapidly changing climate and alarming loss of biodiversity. Support is urgently required for ambitious global targets and tailor-made, action-orientated solutions that improve ocean protection for the African continent.

It is now well-recognised that the global 30×30 target of protecting our oceans is not only important for the long-term health of our oceans, but also a target that needs to be implemented immediately to prevent further degradation and collapse of these ecosystems.

To achieve this vision as quickly as possible, we, the Youth of Africa believe there are some critical considerations for leaders and policymakers to acknowledge and act decisively on, as listed below:

The achievement of ambitious targets for ocean protection is imperative and urgent, and  30% by 2030 is a vital target that must be fast-tracked along with other critical targets  such as sustainable use of natural resources outside MPAs, restoration of degraded ecosystems and equitable benefit-sharing. A suite of synergistic ambitious targets needs to be met to heal our oceans.

  1. We must meet the urgency for ocean protection in a just, and equitable way. We have  less than a decade to reverse biodiversity loss for the people and the planet. Planning and implementation of the 30×30 target must be approached from a global perspective, and within Africa, from a continental perspective so that we can aim to protect as much critical marine biodiversity as possible, with the least impact on people’s livelihoods, particularly vulnerable communities who depend on coastal resources for their livelihoods.
  2. Effective protection and conservation ultimately begins at a local level, and it is imperative that our leaders acknowledge the local socio-economic factors, prior to the establishment and implementation of MPAs. For effective implementation of MPAs, all stakeholders, especially our leaders need to ensure inclusive and effective stakeholder engagement and consultation processes, means to improve leadership at the local level, actions required for legal compliance and enforcement, greater transparency when reporting on MPAs, and the diversity of needs of individual local communities.
  3. We believe that efforts to effectively increase ocean protection with people in mind, can be greatly supported through locally managed marine areas (LMMAs). The knowledge and management systems of coastal communities, who since time immemorial have used and valued the marine environment, should receive greater acknowledgement, and equipped with scientific research for the effective management of marine ecosystems. Our leaders need to listen deeply to the concerns, ideas and aspirations of all community members and should increase their efforts to empower local communities to get more involved. As we strive forward, we also need to acknowledge the need for, and importance of, upskilling all stakeholders, and especially custodian communities1.
  4. A powerful tool to ensure the longevity of MPAs and to increase their effectiveness is be the development of sustainable financing mechanisms for MPAs, from which benefits are justly and equitably shared among all stakeholders. The African continent is a developing one, with a limited availability of financial support for conservation efforts. However, we believe that this should not be seen as a limiting factor to our progress in urgently increasing ocean protection. Rather it should serve as a catalyst for us to engage in multi-sector collaboration to develop novel and effective financial mechanisms for MPAs.
  5. Recognition of and inclusion of the needs and constraints of individual countries into global policies and legislation, and realisation of global financial plans to support target achievement, such that effective implementation of marine protection on the ground is ensured.

We thank you for listening to our voices,

The Youth of Africa



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