Implementing the MEAs - a challenge for Gabon's Parliamentarians
The Ramsar Convention and UNEP sensitize Gabon's Parliamentarians on the implementation of MEAs
Libreville, Gabon, was the venue for a one-day workshop on April 3rd 2006 that brought together 50 Parliamentarians and Senators in Gabon to discuss their role in the implementation of the Convention on Wetlands (Ramsar, Iran, 1971) and other biodiversity-related Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEAs). Formally entitled the Rôle des parlementaires gabonais dans la mise en uvre et le suivi Des accords multilatéraux sur l'environnement, the workshop was jointly organised by the Ramsar Convention Secretariat and the Division of Environmental Conventions (DEC) of UNEP and jointly funded through a Ramsar Swiss Grant for Africa project and UNEP.
The objectives of the workshop were to:
i) inform and develop the capacities of the Parliamentarians on the commitments and challenges of the MEAs that Gabon has signed by giving an overview of the role of UNEP and other MEAs managed by the UN system, as well as the Ramsar Convention;
ii) explain the importance of these agreements for the country with illustrations from case studies;
iii) discuss the role of Parliamentarians in implementing and monitoring these MEAs at the national level;
iv) elaborate an action plan following the meeting; and
v) produce a final Parliamentarian's declaration on their role(s) in implementing the Meas.
The meeting brought the Parliamentarians and Senators together with key officers from governmental departments interested in MEA issues. Ramsar and UNEP were represented by Mr Abou Bamba, Ramsar's Senior Advisor for Africa, and Mr Martin Krebs, UNEP-DEC's Legal Officer. The workshop was opened and closed by Maître Louis-Gaston Mayila, Vice Prime Minister in charge of social affairs and poverty reduction representing Ms Georgette Koko, Vice Prime Minister in charge of Environment.
The workshop was the first meeting between the Department of Environment and MPs in the history of Gabon, its success reflecting the need to engage Parliamentarians in finding solutions to the emerging environmental issues in the country.
The meeting lasted one day and was organized in the form of lectures given by the national focal points of UNCCD, UNCBD, CITES and Ramsar. Each focal point presented the objectives of his Convention, explained why it was important for the country, and identified the stumbling blocks for implementation. Each presentation was illustrated by a case study. The conclusion on the presentations included a series of recommendations on the role of Parliamentarians in implementing the MEAs in the country.
The Parliamentarians reacted very well to the workshop as the majority were not familiar with MEAs and their socio-economic challenges for the country. They observed, however, that the constraints imposed by some of the MEAs should be balanced with suitable alternatives for local communities dependent on the exploitation of environmental resources for their survival. This remark was made following the CITES presentation.
The meeting was Ramsar-centered as participants agreed that the Convention covered most of the environmental issues included in the other MEAs. In his presentation, the Ramsar National Focal Point for STRP, Dr Magloire Mounganga, demonstrated that the main resources of the country (woods, oil, fish, etc ) were collected from wetlands. This really assisted in focusing the attention of the Parliamentarians on the need to implement the Convention and helped dispel their earlier notions that Gabon has too many wetlands, presenting significant problems for construction activities, and that wetlands are undesirable since they cause some diseases.
In a final declaration, the Parliamentarians agreed on the need to establish a formal channel of communication with the Minister of Environment and urged the government to pay its arrears to the Convention secretariats. The final declaration is available below. They also promised that they will now carefully look at the environment line when the national budget is debated in parliament as they were not previously aware of the strong correlations that exist between the well-being of their people and sustainable management of environmental resources.
One of the major outputs of this meeting was the creation of a National Committee which will coordinate the implementation of MEAs in Gabon. It will bring together the focal points of the MEAs, two representatives of the Senate and the National Assembly, and key stakeholders from other relevant government departments and civil society.
The Geneva-based Inter-Parliamentarians Union and CITES Secretariat provided materials that were distributed during the workshop.
Reported by Ramsar's Senior Advisor for Africa, Mr Abou Bamba
Some photos from the meeting:
From left: Mr Abou Bamba, Ramsar's Senior Advisor for Africa, Maître Louis-Gaston Mayila, Vice Prime Minister in charge of social affairs and poverty reduction, and Mr Martin Krebs, Legal Officer for UNEP-DEC
UNCCD National Focal Point, Mr. Martial Agondogo
A few of the participants
Conscients de la nécessité d'assurer une gestion durable de l'environnement;
Conscients du fait que notre pays a pris des engagements internationaux en signant tous les Accords Multilatéraux sur l'Environnement;
Eu égard à l'importance que revêt l'application de ces accords sur le plan national;
Considérant que la mise en uvre de ces accords est fondamentale au développement durable du pays et au bien-être des populations;
Prenons l'engagement de soutenir l'action gouvernementale en ce qui concerne le respect des accords multilatéraux dans le domaine de l'environnement;
Et de manière générale de nous impliquer dans toutes les actions visant à la mise en uvre des accords multilatéraux sur l'environnement au niveau national pour le bien-être des populations gabonaises.
Lue Par la Vénérable Sénateur