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Nairobi Convention Background

Coastal tourism is an important industry in Mauritius, Seychelles, Kenya, Tanzania and the Republic of South Africa. The tourism industry is rapidly growing in Mozambique, Madagascar and Comoros. In Mauritius for instance, the contribution of tourism to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) increased from 3% in 1995 to 13% in 2001. The total direct employment in the tourism industry has more than doubled, increasing from about 9,000 to 20,000 between 1990 and 2001.

In Kenya, tourism generates an average of 18% of the foreign exchange earnings and contributes 9.2% to GDP. It also provides 270,000 jobs both directly and indirectly. Coastal tourism contributes over 60% of Kenya’s tourism earnings and accounts for 45% of the coastal economy. However, in the last two decades, increased population pressure, urban development and poverty have contributed to physical alteration and the destruction of coastal habitats, resource over-exploitation and water quality degradation. Unregulated land use patterns and poor regulatory regimes reduce the aesthetic, cultural and tourism value of the coasts and also reduce the protection of the coasts thus increasing coastal erosion rates.

Some coastal urban hotspots are densely populated and rapidly industrializing. Those hotspots are facing a multitude of problems stemming from unplanned and unregulated land use patterns worsened by poor regulatory regimes. At the same time, there is an interest in exploring and exploiting potential oil and gas reserves, which could further exacerbate the destruction of critical habitats such as coral reefs, mangroves, beaches and sea grass meadows.

Eastern African Action Plan

The Eastern African Action Plan, also referred to as the Nairobi Convention, and its related Protocols, was adopted in 1985. It was designed to address the following issues:

  • To promote environmentally sound sustainable development and management of marine and coastal systems in the region
  • To establish objectives, policies and legislation for the protection of the marine and coastal environment on a national and regional level
  • To prevent pollution of the coastal environment from activities within the States of the region or from operations primarily subjet to jurisdiction of non-coastal States, to monitor pollutants, their sources, levels and effects,
  • To provide for protection and rational development of coastal and marine resources,
  • To strengthen and encourage regional collaboration among institutions involved in the study of marine and coastal resources
  • To improve training and technical assistance in the development and management of marine and coastal system, to stimulate growth of public awareness of the value and fragility of the coastal systems, and
  • To assist countries respond to maritime emergencies or marine pollution incidents which threaten the environment or local people.

A meeting of experts selected by their Governments (Seychelles, September 1982) prepared the first draft of an action plan, identified problems to be tackled as priorities, and invited UNEP to help in solving them without waiting for the formal adoption of the action plan. The workshop participants named 10 first priority regional projects which UNEP and United Nations agencies were asked to initiate during 1983. They included work on developing a network of environmental pollution laboratories, on providing training facilities for environmental control technicians, and on developing a network of oil pollution monitoring centres. Two other priority projects were concerned with assessment of the environmental impact of economic and social developments and a regional environmental education programme.

In 1985 the Conference of Plenipotentiaries on the Protection, Management and Development of the Marine and Coastal Environment of the Eastern African Region was held in Nairobi, to adopt the Action Plan, Convention and the associated protocols.

The Nairobi Convention is part of the Regional Seas Programme. The programme aims to strengthen the role of the Regional Seas conventions and Action plans as platforms for promoting synergies and coordinated implementation of global and regional initiatives for the protection of the marine and coastal environment.

Today all ten Eastern African countries have ratified the Convention: Comoros, France, Kenya, Madagascar, Mauritius, Mozambique, Seychelles, Somalia and Tanzania and South Africa. Following a regional workshop in Zanzibar (6-9 October 1997) the GPA has produced a regional overview and action plan on land-based pollution. Among its activities: to assess pollution loads affecting the marine environment, and their harmful effects; to set up monitoring programmes and development strategies; prepare and implement a regional action plan; and strengthen capacity of coastal States to intervene in case of accidents and emergencies.