Contributing to the EU-Africa Joint Ocean Governance Agenda

By Senia Febrica

The European Commission published their final report ‘Feasibility Study on establishing an EU-Africa Task Force for policy cooperation and dialogue on International Ocean Governance’ in January 2022. The purpose of the study is to further the EU’s cooperation with Africa in a joint ocean governance agenda. The One Ocean Hub Director, Professor Elisa Morgera, was interviewed as part of the development of this report by the European Commission, DG MARE (Maritime Affairs and Fisheries), in September 2020. This blog post assesses the extent to which the contributions of the One Ocean Hub have been taken into account in the final report, notably with regard to inter-disciplinarity, the science-policy interface, ocean-land connectivity, the relevance of human rights, as well as the need for a new task force to be inclusive and ensure value added.

The report published reflected Hub’s contribution to the report on:

  • The need for the inclusion of marine and social scientists, together with lawyers and economists, in the proposed task force. The report explicitly noted the need for the Task Force to engage expertise in ‘international law, including expertise on the UN Convention on the Law of the sea and other ocean-related international instruments, value chain expertise for maritime products and social sciences’ as part of the partnership (European Commission, 2022: 44).
  • For the task force to focus on science that can strengthen the science-policy interface for international ocean governance. Science-policy interface had been named as key strength of the Task force (European Commission 2022: 43). Given the emphasis on the science-policy interface, the report also outlined that stakeholder balance will be taken into consideration in the development of Task Force. At a minimum, the Task Force would include policy experts (e.g. European Commission services, African Union Agencies), academic and technical experts and civil society (e.g. non-governmental organisations, representatives of local communities, and private sector) (European Commission, 2022: 57).
  • The connectivity across various ocean challenges and land-based activities. The report mentioned land-ocean linkages as a possible thematic theme for the proposed work streams for the Task Force (European Commission, 2022: 119-120). It also underscored the need for mutually supportive collaborative framework across policy, science and market, and utilising governance tools such as Marine Spatial Planning (European Commission, 2022: 101).
  • The inter-dependency of ocean health and human rights, with a view to integrating relevant considerations in joint initiatives or coordination in international negotiations on the ocean, human rights and the environment. The European Commission report acknowledges that ‘promoting rules-based good governance at sea and tackling safety and security issues will also help to achieve other priorities of the EU, including enhance human rights, freedom and democracy, create a level playing field for business and improve working conditions worldwide’ (European Commission, 2022: 21).
  • The need for the task force to be “inclusive” in terms of connecting directly with local-level stakeholders and rights-holders in a meaningful way. The report adopted  ‘inclusiveness’ as one of the key principles for the Task Force to operate under. The term inclusiveness in the report is understood as ‘the engagement of a broad variety of relevant stakeholders, and … a partnership of equals between the EU and Africa’ (European Commission, 2022: 88).
  • Ensuring complementarity and value added of any new proposed EU-Africa initiatives with ongoing and planned initiatives on ocean governance in Africa. The point about value added is incorporated in the report as key principle guiding the operation of the Task Force. To quote the report, ‘Added value: The Task Force should add value to existing cooperation initiatives and mechanisms and be complementary to them rather than overlapping with them’ (European Commission, 2022: 55).