Steering Africa's blue economy: the role of international law and lessons for other maritime regions.

Author:Kraska, James
Position:Proceedings of the 110th Annual Meeting of the American Society of International Law: Charting New Frontiers in International Law

This panel was convened at 11:00 a.m., on Friday, April 1, 2016, by its moderator, Tafadzwa Pasipanodya of Foley Hoag LLP, who introduced the panelists: James Kraska of the U.S. Naval War College; Vincent Nmehielle of the African Union Commission; Nilufer Oral of the Istanbul Bilgi University Law Faculty; and John Virdin of the Duke University Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions.


Good morning, everyone. I think we will get started now. Thank you for joining us on this session of the role of international law and steering Africa's blue economy. My name is Tafadzwa Pasipanodya, and I am an attorney at Foley Hoag in their International Litigation and Arbitration Department here in Washington, D.C., and we primarily represent states against other states in disputes and also represent states against investors in investor arbitration disputes.

Turning to the substance of our session, our objectives today is to share some of the thinking on Africa's blue economy and, in particular, what has been the role of international law and what should be the role of international law empowering blue growth. When we talk about blue economy here, we mean the economic use of marine resources in a way that sustains the environment and also is socially equitable. With the world's renewed focus on the oceans as the new frontier, there is a danger that there will be the pillaging and the inequity that has been associated with exploitation of resources, and the blue economy tries to prevent that.

We are lucky to have a fantastic set of speakers this morning to discuss this issue with us. All the way from Addis Ababa, we have Vincent Nmehielle, who is the general counsel of the African Union Commission and also a professor at the University of Witwatersrand. The African Union under Vincent's leadership has been really at the forefront of Africa's efforts on fostering a blue economy, and so we are glad he can be here.

All the way from Turkey, we have Nilufer Oral. She is a professor at the Istanbul Bilgi University, and she is also legal advisor for the Turkish government on international Law of the Sea issues. She is also their candidate for the International Law Commission and an expert in environmental issues. She will talk about the efforts that she has made in the advisory opinion that the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) recently issued on West African fisheries and flag states.

And from closer afield, we have James Kraska, who joins us from Rhode Island, the U.S. Naval War College. He is also the chair of the Center for Maritime Law and Security Africa, which is based in Accra. James has served for more than twenty years at the Pentagon and in the U.S. Navy as a lawyer and as a commissioned officer, and he has helped negotiate many of the Law of the Sea issues and treaties on behalf of the United States

We also have John Virdin, who spent many years in Washington at the World Bank. He managed the global partnership for oceans there, which is a coalition of more than 150 governments, NGOs, foundations, and multilateral agencies. While he was with the World Bank, he helped the World Bank increase its lending on fisheries and sustainable oceans to a billion dollars. So, this is a great wealth of resources here.

Vincent, let me start with you. As I mentioned, the African Union (AU) has really taken a lead in developing Africa's blue economy. Could you tell us a little bit about how the AU took up this mantle and some of the initiatives that you have taken in this regard.


Thank you very much, Tafadzwa. Just before I answer your question, just a few of the protocol issues. When you come from international organizations, you do a bit of protocol.

I just want to thank the organizers and particularly your firm and you for trying to put this together and to have central an African initiative being discussed. The topic tends to paint that Africa has achieved a lot in the blue economy, such that other regions should learn a lot. Not really the case. We are just trying to possibly highlight the initiatives that have a reason.

Within the context of the nature of the UN Convention on the Law of Treaties, which you know is a primary norm in this area, Africa has observed that despite the so-called achievement of the world articulated in that legal instrument, a lot still had not happened in terms of the benefits that ought to accrue from the exploitation of the oceans and seas, mostly from the perspective of the developing countries. It came to be that in 2013, when the African Union was celebrating fifty years of the Organisation of the African Unity to the African Union (OAUAU) existence, there was this whole new focus on what is referred to as the African Union Agenda 2063; in other words, the Africa we want for the next fifty years. And it was discovered that one of the areas of emphasis is the so-called blue ocean economy, which, as you know, Africa has three of the world's oceans. In other words, sitting around Africa, you have just all the oceans you can think about, and the fact that Africa has not really benefitted, rather has suffered from illegal plundering of the resources of the oceans, there was then the shift as to how do we go about benefit in ensuring that in terms of sustainable development of the continent over the years to come, say, for the next fifty years of the life of the OAUAU initiative that Africa can begin to focus on exploiting the oceans and seas for the benefit of its population and peoples.

So that resulted in the adoption of some kind of initiative towards the blue economy, in this particular case, what is referred to the African Integrated Maritime Strategy 2050, but focuses on how Africa can begin to zero in into the issues around the blue economy. That is how it came about, and hopefully, as we progress and as we shoot more questions, we will be able to emphasize and expand in terms of what initiatives are. Thank you.


Thank you. What have been some of the key initiatives that have come out of the AU strategy?


Now, the AU strategy is a strategy, of course, and it is going to take a long while to fully implement it. Now, it had the strategies that are adopted by the assembly in 2014, after a series of ministerial meetings, and there is a plan of action towards implementing the strategy. But...

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