General Market

Vital Marine Habitats Being Destroyed by Illegal Fishing Practices, Harmful Subsidies, Speakers Warn at United Nations Ocean Conference

Speakers in the United Nations Ocean Conference today tackled ways to combat illegal fishing practices that were destroying vital marine habitats, as well as eliminate the $35 billion in harmful subsidies that had led to overfishing, distorted markets and chronic mismanagement of the world’s fisheries.

In a morning partnership dialogue on “Making fisheries sustainable”, panellist Karl Brauner, Deputy Director-General of the World Trade Organization (WTO), said trade negotiations in the area of harmful fisheries subsidies were referenced in Sustainable Development Goal 14.6.  The World Trade Organization was in intense negotiations to come up with agreed language on the prohibition of subsidies at its December Ministerial Conference in Buenos Aires.

He said questions hinged on how to identify such behaviour without converting WTO into a fisheries-management organization, citing other challenges around providing “special flexibilities” to developing countries to support poor fishers without undercutting those disciplines.  Fisheries sometimes represented the only source of employment, which made forgoing the right to Government assistance a major challenge.

Panellist Arni Mathiesen, Assistant Director-General, United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), agreed that harmful subsides could be stopped through WTO.  Multi-stakeholder and targeted support to help coastal communities get their products to market would meanwhile encourage “blue growth”, he said, adding that FAO was prepared to help develop a plan to rebuild fisheries.

On the issue of illegal fishing, Oumar Guèye, Minister for Fisheries and Maritime Economy of Senegal, who co-chaired the meeting, said the problem should be addressed by a global coalition.  For its part, Senegal had toughened sanctions against vessels illegally fishing its waters, impounding and fining them $300 million and seizing repeat offenders.  It also had taken a biological inventory to ensure that species could regenerate, established marine protected areas and ratified the Port State Measures Agreement.

In the ensuing discussion, representatives of Government, industry and civil society exchanged ideas for addressing those problems, with Norway’s representative stressing that illegal fishing amounted to “stealing from dinner tables”.  Vanuatu’s delegate cited a lack of international cooperation to address subsidies that incentivized overfishing in regional waters, while the representative of the Republic of Korea, meanwhile, was one of several who pointed to the Port State Measures Agreement as a way to deter those practices.

A speaker from the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation said marine resources had declined mainly because of industrial fishing operations that used bottom-trolling and dredging techniques.  She recommended designating coastal areas for small-scale fishers and banning harmful fisheries subsidies.

In the afternoon, the Conference held a partnership dialogue on “Increasing economic benefits to small island developing States and least developed countries and providing access for small-scale artisanal fishers to marine resources and markets”.  Co-Chair Keith Mitchell, Prime Minister of Grenada, opened the discussion with a call for more investment in marine technology and an embrace of broad-based wealth creation.  Small island developing States could not wait for technology handouts.  “We need to build on our own institutions, our own scientists, our own intellectual properties and our own entrepreneurs,” he declared, pointing out that in Grenada, mobile apps now helped fishers sell their catch in international markets.

Along similar lines, Marko Pomerants, Minister for Environment of Estonia, who also co-chaired the meeting, said empowering local communities was essential.  Estonia had granted special status to island communities, where fishing was integral to traditional cultures and livelihoods.  Cooperative associations had helped to improve market access.  “There is strength in numbers,” he said, enabling small operators to pool resources and improve purchasing power.

The Conference will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Thursday, 8 June.

Partnership Dialogue I

In the morning, the Ocean Conference held a partnership dialogue on the topic “making fisheries sustainable”.  Moderated by Anthony Long, Director, Ending Illegal Fishing Project, The Pew Charitable Trusts, and co-chaired by Dominic LeBlanc, Minister for Fisheries, Oceans and the Coast Guard of Canada, and Oumar Guèye, Minister for Fisheries and Maritime Economy of Senegal, it featured a panel discussion by Arni Mathiesen, Assistant Director-General, United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO); Jennifer Dianto Kemmerly, Director of Global Fisheries and Aquaculture, Monterey Bay Aquarium, United States; Karl Brauner, Deputy Director-General, World Trade Organization (WTO); and Milton Haughton, Executive Director, Caribbean Regional Fisheries Mechanism Secretariat.

Mr. LEBLANC said Canada was a proud maritime nation, with fisheries and aquaculture contributing $9 billion to its economy each year, generating countless jobs in rural, coastal and indigenous communities.  The fisheries sector provided the backbone for many national and small-scale economies.  Noting that sustainable fisheries were key to achieving many of the Sustainable Development Goals, he said “we need to make a more concerted effort to tackle such things as illegal fishing, underreporting and harmful subsidies that result in over-capacity.”  With international action as the common goal, WTO provided the venue and means to achieve enforceable fisheries subsidies rules.  Fisheries management played an important role in conservation and had led to positive biodiversity outcomes, with a range of measures that protected to single stocks and the ecosystems upon which they relied.  Those conservation objectives must be incorporated into fisheries management plans.  Marine protected areas were an essential component of sustainable fisheries management.  Canada had adopted a milestone to conserve 5 per cent of its waters by the end of 2017, as a sign of its commitment to conserving 10 per cent by 2020.  Describing Canada’s commitment to the Paris Agreement on climate change as “unwavering”, he also underscored the importance of its partnerships with provincial and territorial governments, indigenous peoples, environmental groups and industry in advancing the marine conservation agenda.

Mr. GUÈYE said Senegal was a country of fisheries, with 6,000 actors working in that sector and 75 per cent of people’s animal protein needs coming from fish and marine life.  “Senegal is very interested in sustainable fisheries,” he said, pointing to a law that reserved space for artisanal fisheries, within which large industrial fisheries were prohibited.  In the south, all vessels were banned from approaching the coast.  Senegal also had revised its fisheries code, which now allowed for trout to be fished at 40 centimetres, rather than 20 centimetres, with the greater depths allowing more time for the fish to multiply.  Underscoring the need to combat large-scale fishing, he said another aspect was to combat illegal unreported and unregulated fishing, which should be addressed in the most appropriate manner by a global coalition.  Senegal had toughened sanctions against vessels illegally fishing its waters, impounding and fining them $300 million, and seizing repeat offenders.  The Government also had taken a biological inventory to ensure that species could regenerate, established marine protected areas, acceded to a forum that ensured transparency in the fisheries industry, and ratified the FAO Port State Measures Agreement.  “We have high hopes for this meeting,” he said, and for strong measures to be taken.

Mr. MATHIESEN said fisheries today faced many different problems.  Three, however, stood out, and if they were tackled and solved, other problems would be easier to resolve.  Those three problems included illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing; the difficulty of managing migrating fish stocks on the high seas and in sovereign coastal waters; and improving the status of coastal fishing communities in developing countries, including small island developing States.  Several factors drove those problems, including an estimated $35 billion in harmful subsidies, population growth, poverty, economic and forced migration, climate change and unprecedented levels of climate events.  Solutions would include improved science-based local, national and regional fisheries management, while illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing could be addressed through existing instruments.  Strong regional management models were in place, but they required political, scientific and financial support.  Harmful subsidies could be stopped through WTO.  A multi-stakeholder and targeted approach to support coastal communities and get their products to market would meanwhile encourage “blue growth”, he said, adding that the FAO was prepared to help develop a blueprint to rebuild fisheries.

Ms. KEMMERLY said that, about 20 years ago, non-governmental organizations launched a movement that sought to create market demand for sustainable seafood which involved, among other things, encouraging businesses to use their market leverage to improve policy, traceability and social responsibility.  For the non-governmental organization community, sustainability was not just an environmental matter, but also a question of social responsibility.  While mainly focused so far in the United States and the European Union, the sustainable seafood movement was growing in other places, such as Brazil, Japan and South-East Asia.  She went on to describe efforts being made with regard to tuna, with the International Seafood Sustainability Foundation engaged in reporting, conservation and traceability measures, and with shrimp, a sector that would require making sustainability profitable for hundreds of thousands of smallholders in South-East Asia.

Mr. BRAUNER said trade negotiations in the area of harmful subsidies were referenced in target 14.6.  It was natural that WTO, the only organization with binding rules and subsidies, and a conceptual approach, was the venue for subsidies negotiations.  WTO fisheries subsidies work had been reenergized by target 14.6, with proposals coming in to fulfil WTO’s part of that target.  WTO was in a period of intense negotiations with proposals from least developed countries, the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group, European Union, a group of Latin American countries, New Zealand and Indonesia, all pushing hard for a binding decision to be made at the December ministerial conference.  There was emerging convergence on the prohibition of subsidies for illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, referred to in target 14.6, and on the prohibition of subsidies for overfished stocks.  Questions hinged on how to identify such behavior, without converting WTO into a fisheries-management organization.  Some developing countries did not want fisheries-management references in the treaty, whereas others said that without such points, subsidies discipline would be impossible.

Another challenge, he continued, was how to provide “special flexibilities” to developing countries to support poor fishers and develop their own fisheries, without undercutting those disciplines.  WTO’s business was about trade flows and products produced on land.  Those taking place under water involved internationally shared resources or those outside national jurisdiction.  For such reasons, the effect of subsidies was not on trade in fish products, but rather on access to resources, with an indirect effect on trade.  Fisheries sometimes represented the only source of employment, which made forgoing the right to Government assistance a major challenge.  Target 14.6 represented a commitment by all Governments — individually — to eliminate harmful fishery subsidies.  In parallel, there was a WTO process under way to achieve a multilateral agreement prohibiting illegal fishing.  There was a possibility for that outcome this year, representing WTO’s contribution to meeting the 2020 date for eliminating the most harmful fishing subsidies.  Such an agreement could undergird individual Government fisheries subsidies reform, which in turn, should facilitate multilateral agreement.

Mr. HAUGHTON said the benefits of creating sustainable fisheries depended on how States implemented governance and management reforms to conserve and protect the marine environment.  “This is undoubtedly the single most important challenge for fisheries in this generation,” he said, noting that the Caribbean Sea was semi-enclosed, representing one interconnected marine ecosystem.  Stocks were shared between two or more States, and in some cases, extended into the high seas.  Cooperation was fundamental for fisheries management.  Caribbean Governments in 2002 had established a regional fisheries body to facilitate cooperation and conservation of fisheries resources.  It was comprised of a ministerial council, a fisheries forum, a permanent secretariat and a number of technical and scientific working groups.  There were three other fisheries bodies that were in the region.

He said small island developing States had multispecies fisheries served by small, open vessels, noting that most commercially important stocks in the region had been over-exploited, while others had not significantly contributed to economic development.  Despite that catches over the last decade were 30 per cent lower than the 30-year average, the overall production trend had been positive.  The regional fisheries management bodies were investing more of their own resources to harmonize their practices.  Partnerships had grown among small-scale operators.  Partnership between and among the three main fisheries bodies had taken the form of formal cooperation agreements to strengthen fisheries management.  More broadly, such partnerships had helped “enormously” in transitioning the region towards sustainable fisheries management.

In the ensuing discussion, Heads of Government, ministers, other senior officials and representatives of Member States, international organizations and civil society covered a wide range of fisheries-related issues, from illegal, unreported and unregulated fisheries to zone-based fisheries management and the little-mentioned place of Caribbean sport fishing.

SEREMAIAH MATAI NAWALU, Minister for Agriculture, Livestock, Forestry, Fisheries and Bio-security of Vanuatu, said managing Pacific fisheries through monitoring, control and surveillance efforts, particularly against illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, remained a big battle for the Pacific region.  There was also a lack of international cooperation to address subsidies that incentivized overfishing in regional waters.  Tackling those problems and others required a multilateral and integrated approach.

ENELE SOPOAGA, Prime Minister of Tuvalu, underscored an urgent need for capacity-building, legislation and enforcement measures.  Expressing concern over the weak management of high-seas fisheries, he called on partner nations to adhere to zone-based fisheries management approaches.  He added that an ongoing process under United Nations auspices was required to ensure a commitment to healthy oceans.

TONE SKOGEN, State Secretary of Norway, said illegal fishing amounted to stealing from dinner tables.  The Agreement on Port State Measures to Prevent, Deter and Eliminate Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing, which recently came into force, would make illegal fishing less attractive.  Due to continuous research, annually revised regulations and enforcement, Norway’s commercial fish stocks were in good condition.

The representative of the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency recommended zone-based management as a way to empower States to better manage their marine resources while promoting sustainable development.  Noting that Pacific Island countries had a long history of cooperation and investment, he said data-sharing, collaborative asset deployment and other forms of partnership had made a difference in the level of illegal tuna fishing in the region.

The representative of the British Virgin Islands said not much was said about sport fishing, but that activity involved valuable species that were important to marine ecological systems.  He outlined a number of measures being taken in that regard by the territory, including a strengthened licensing regime, assessing the impact of the number of vessels on the water, and controlling the number and duration of fishing tournaments.  He went on to reiterate the British Virgin Island’s commitment to protect reefs and sharks.

Mr. BRAUER, on that point, replied that it was a matter of choosing the most appropriate format for the region.

The representative of the Republic of Korea stressed that the Port State Measures Agreement would help deter illegal fishing.

The representative of Saint Kitts and Nevis said his country comprised some 50,000 people, living on 104 square miles of land surrounded by the Caribbean Sea.  He described a strategic plan for the Government, working with various stakeholders, to chart the course for making fisheries sustainable, by underscoring the need for greater participation among all stakeholders, and more attention to disaster risk management.

The representative of the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation said 90 per cent of fishers were in the small-scale sector, which provided half of the world’s catches and more than 60 per cent of fish for human consumption.  Marine resources had declined mainly because of industrial-scale fishing operations.  Underscoring the importance of the Voluntary Guidelines for Securing Sustainable Small-Scale Fisheries, she said large-scale, non-selective fishing was the greatest negative impact on the marine habitat, much of it conducted through bottom-trolling and dredging, which destroyed fish habitats.  Those practices must be tackled by designating coastal areas for small-scale fishers, and banning harmful fisheries subsidies, including for fuel.

The representative of Iceland said the Government was marking the ocean floor in its exclusive economic zone using multibeam techniques, efforts that were vital to the sustainable use of marine life.  She highlighted Iceland’s commitment on the adoption of formal fisheries management plans, stressing that in the international context, the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea was the main framework for sustainable management, as long as States met their obligations and worked together.

The representative of the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL) said its cooperation with law enforcement in the Caribbean had led to the arrest in July 2016 of a vessel carrying out illegal fishing.  Through “Project Scale”, INTERPOL agents in Lyon, with experience in fisheries crime, carried out criminal analysis of illegal fishing activities, which were often linked to human trafficking.  INTERPOL offered a holistic approach, providing and reading notices, and sharing information on the modalities of fisheries crime.  There was also a secure network that linked States and provided investigative support to certain cases.

The representative of Spain underscored the need to tackle illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, which he called a “blight” on the seas that destroyed the profitability of companies that complied with rules and regulations.

The representative of Friends of Marine Life said coastal communities in India had been pursuing sustainable fishing practices for centuries, employing traditional knowledge.  However, mega-projects were threatening their livelihoods, he said, identifying — among other challenges — the problems posed by bottom trawling, breakwater construction and overfishing by large vessels supported by large business lobbies.

The representative of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) said the elimination of harmful subsidies was central to the multilateral trade agenda.  Fish subsidies contributed to distorting market prices, encouraged unfair competition and expanded inequality between developed and developing countries.  With attention to the issue gaining momentum, he said Member States should work towards a common text for the upcoming WTO Ministerial Conference in Buenos Aires.

The representative of Indonesia said there should be a designated body to ensure that the right of oceans to be protected was not bothered by political change or agendas.  The high seas meanwhile needed to be better managed so that distant-country fishing did not harm resource sustainability, she said, adding that the General Assembly should, in its resolutions, acknowledge transnational fisheries crimes.

MARCELO MENA, Minister for Environment of Chile, said his country was specifically combatting illegal fishing and working actively to eliminate harmful subsidies.  In its opinion, stronger international cooperation and regulation — within the framework of existing multilateral agreements and regional fisheries management associations — was needed.  It was vital, he added, to know more about the effects of climate change on fisheries and aquaculture and to set out plans accordingly.

The representative of the Marine Stewardship Council said its certification and labelling programmes for seafood caught in the wild provided an incentive for other fisheries to improve their performance.  Putting the size of the market for certified and traceable seafood products at $5 billion, he said credible certification had an important contribution to make to address the problem of overfishing.

Also speaking today were ministers and representatives of Thailand, Gabon, Marshall Islands and Sweden.

Representatives of the International Labour Organization (ILO), World Bank, Paul G. Allen Family Foundation and Vulcan, Inc., International Council for the Exploration of the Sea, Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity, United Nations Economic Commission for Europe, Comunidad y Biodiversidad and World Economic Forum also spoke.

Partnership Dialogue II

The afternoon featured a dialogue partnership titled “increasing economic benefits to small island developing States and least developed countries, and providing access for small-scale artisanal fishers to marine resources and markets”.  Moderated by Meg Taylor, Pacific Ocean Commissioner, it featured presentations by Mohamed Shainee, Minister for Fisheries and Agriculture, Maldives; Fekitamoeloa Katoa ‘Utoikamanu, High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States, United Nations; Laura Tuck, Vice-President for Sustainable Development, World Bank Group; and Mitchell Lay, Coordinator of Caribbean Network Fisherfolk Organization.  The dialogue was co-chaired by Keith Mitchell, Prime Minister of Grenada, and Marko Pomerants, Minister for Environment, Estonia.

Mr. MITCHELL said the issue of jobs and livelihoods that allowed economies to capture more economic value was a common thread for today’s discussion.  “I feel strongly that we need more investment in marine technology,” he said, applicable to small island developing States and least developed countries alike.  On one hand, States must ensure that artisanal fishers were custodians of their marine resources and sustainably reaping the economic benefits.  On the other hand, they must reduce pressures on the resources by providing alternatives and more rewarding livelihoods for coastal communities.  In Africa, for example, mobile phones allowed fishers to check market prices while at sea, leading to better prices for fish, less wastage and more environmental conservation.

Similarly in Grenada, he said mobile apps now helped fishers sell their catch in international markets.  “To lift our people, we must embrace broad-based wealth creation through innovation and technology,” he said, underscoring Grenada’s commitment to the Blue Innovation Institute, which would be a hub for innovation in coastal planning, natural capital enhancement, aquaculture and biotechnology.  Indeed, the size of small islands should be seen as a distinct advantage.  Those countries should be viewed as large ocean States.  He urged embracing the optimism around blue growth, and the idea that, by 2030, such economies had the potential to outpace global economic growth.  Small island developing States could not wait for technology-transfer handouts.  “We need to build on our own institutions, our own scientists, our own intellectual properties and our own entrepreneurs,” he declared.

Mr. POMERANTS said Estonia, a small eastern European country, was roughly the size of the Dominican Republic, with 1.3 million people.  It boasted a maritime area almost as large as its mainland, with one of the world’s longest coastlines per capita and some 1,200 islands.  Small-scale coastal fisheries were an important part of its cultural heritage, and as a sea-faring people, “you can find an Estonian in every port in the world”.  Estonia was sharing its best practices through technology transfer and capacity-building.  The key to sustainability lay in a holistic and integrated framework.

Given the transboundary nature of ecosystems, he said the best results had been achieved by regional marine governance frameworks that facilitated cooperation.  His region’s organization — HELCOM — facilitated marine research, with policies based on the best scientific data.  To improve access for small-scale artisanal fisheries, empowering local communities was essential, he said, stressing that Estonia had granted special status to island communities, where fishing was integral to traditional cultures and livelihoods.  To improve market access, his country had achieved success through cooperative associations.  “There is strength in numbers,” he said, enabling small operators to pool resources and improve purchasing power in terms of price setting.  Community involvement was instrumental to achieving Goal 14, he said, noting that Estonia’s reputation as a digital pioneer could help other countries redefine governance through its e-governance platform.  To ensure sustainable fisheries management, an online fishing permit system had been set up, which today issued 90 per cent of recreational licenses.

Ms. TAYLOR said that, as a Pacific Islander, she hailed from a region dominated — depending on one’s point of view — by small island developing States or big ocean-stewardship States, where the importance of coastal fisheries could not be overstated.  Fishing was a primary source of protein, fish consumption was among the highest in the world and inshore fisheries provided income for 50 per cent of all households.  The interactive discussion could be informed not only by Goal 14, but by other Goals, such as eradicating poverty, ending hunger, gender equality and combating climate change.

Mr. SHAINEE said “we don’t talk about issues facing oceans nearly enough”, yet few places depended on oceans more than small island developing States.  Today’s partnership dialogue theme thus addressed what those States could do in their own backyards.  Discussing the situation in Maldives, he attributed the success of its tourism industry — which accounted for 28 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) — to the recognition of its natural heritage as its biggest asset.  Resort development was regulated with a view to protecting the environment, with architecture blending into the natural surroundings.  Upon determining that shark tourism produced more revenue than shark fishing, Maldives declared its entire exclusive economic zone as a shark sanctuary.  Turning to tuna, he said that by catching them on a one-by-one basis, Maldives had created one of the world’s leanest and greenest fisheries which recognized that consumers would pay more for sustainably harvested products.  More tuna meant more sharks and healthier reefs, which attracted tourism, with the benefits multiplying accordingly, he said.

Ms. ‘UTOIKAMANU said Goal 14 was important for nations in special situations such as least developed countries and small island developing States where millions of people depended on marine resources for nutrition and livelihood.  Noting that the national fishing capacity of small island developing States was limited, she emphasized the importance of ongoing cooperation with distant water fishing nations and the international community at large.  Countries in special situations were meanwhile vulnerable to external shocks, as well as rapid population growth, urban congestion, climate change and imported food and energy.  Long-term efforts could be undone in a matter of hours, she said.  Turning to the tourism sector, she said it was critical for small island developing States and least developed countries, having lifted some of the latter into middle-income status.  Tourism could help States meet several Sustainable Development Goals, but if not properly managed, it could degrade the environment.  Water scarcity was another concern, as peak tourist seasons often coincided with dry seasons.  Managing water resources would require a package of relevant measures, but with the right set of incentives and regulations, water management could be improved for all.

Ms. TUCK discussed the Bank’s “Sunken Billions” report which found that, because of overfishing, global fisheries forego more than $80 billion a year, compared to an optimal scenario.  It examined what would happen if fishing was reduced by 44 per cent over an unspecific period of time.  It found that the biomass of fish would almost triple.  Fish would be larger and have a higher value.  If fishing was reduced by 5 per cent annually for 10 years from its 2012 level, the optimal level would be achieved by 2030.  “Sunken billions” referred to the mismatch between increasing fishing efforts and the declining catch.  Giving the oceans a break would lead to increased catch and increased income at the local level.  “We need good governance and capable institutions to ensure that changes are sustainable,” she said.  For example, after decades of being prices takers, the parties to Nauru Agreement gathered in 2008 to use their huge tuna resources as leverage in the Vessel Day Scheme to reduce the fishing effort.  Through a $40 million Pacific region ocean project, the Bank was working to strengthen their capacity and ensure those gains were sustained.  In Kiribati, the financial institution’s technical assistance was helping the Government collect revenue from access fees paid by vessels into an $800 million sovereign wealth fund.  In all such cases, the Bank was supporting measures to enforce tenure rights, and ensure that fishing communities and operators were involved in decisions on fisheries management.

Mr. LAY recommended that States recognize and enhance the contributions of small-scale fisheries to their economies, as well as promote and ensure the security of tenure, in line with the Voluntary Guidelines for Securing Sustainable Small-Scale Fisheries.  To enhance productivity, he recommended looking at how to sustainably use the significant — but either un- or under-utilized — ocean resources of many small island developing States, which could supply local populations with adequate food.  Addressing marketing and value-added aspects, he said the entire fish often was not used, which translated to suboptimal food and economic benefit.  Energy production and related activities should be carefully considered so as not to negatively impact small-scale fisheries.  Further, Governments should consider expanding local market access, as small island developing States often produced less than they consumed and lacked effective local marketing mechanisms.  Access and governance issues must be grounded in local realities, especially when considering marine protected areas, which limited small-scale fisheries access.  Similarly, tourism should not negatively impact small-scale fisheries, and conversely, the linkages between fisheries and tourism should be deepened in the context of food and recreational activities, while promoting local livelihoods.  He also advocated support for the development of small-scale fisheries organizations.  “This is the precondition for meaningful participation in the decision making process,” he said.  “If we create spaces for participation, States should carve out support for small-scale fisheries to fill those spaces.”

In the ensuing discussion, participants explored ways to support small island developing countries and, more specifically, access of their small-scale artisanal fishers to marine resources and markets.

BARON WAQA, President of Nauru, said countries that benefited from the exploitation of his nation’s tuna stocks must do more to share the burden that such fishing entailed.  Artisanal fishers could be supported through enhanced access to resources and markets, he said, adding that Nauru sought to establish long-term and productive partnerships that would unlock the full potential of sustainable ocean development.

The representative of Seychelles said his country had pioneered a financial instrument to raise $15 million in capital from private investors interested in putting money into sustainable development, including marine conservation, fisheries governance and the diversification of value chains.

The representative of Australia discussed her country’s official development assistance (ODA) in the Indo-Pacific region, including a programme that would support Pacific Island countries to delineate their maritime boundaries.  Another initiative would provide support to prevent and deter illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing.

The representative of Rare said the next 10 years must focus on community-led solutions and small-scale fishers, many of whom were women.  His non-governmental organization was committed to mobilizing $100 million to support the sustainability of small-scale fisheries.

GALE RIGOBERT, Minister for Education, Innovation, Gender Relations and Sustainable Development of Saint Lucia, said international quota management mechanisms must act in a way that did not disadvantage small island developing States.  Noting that only so much could be achieved without appropriate assistance, she said genuine, mutually beneficial and durable partnerships were needed to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.

The representative of the International Renewable Energy Agency described the “SIDS [small island developing States] Lighthouse” initiative to transform energy systems and help those States integrate renewables into their energy mix.  The agency saw big opportunities in ocean energy technology and had recently updated its patent study.

The representative of New Zealand said 60 per cent of the global tuna catch was harvested in the Pacific region.  Yet, Pacific nations received only a small proportion of the market value of that resource.  New Zealand had invested $54 million to improve sustainable fish management and address illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, notably working with the Cook Islands to set up a catch quota system.  She urged countries to cooperate in the establishment of effective WTO disciplines on harmful subsidies.

The representative of Denmark said there were 406 islands in her country, and its marine resources were an integral part of the economy.  Since 2007, Denmark had allocated more fish stocks to coastal fishermen.  More broadly, small island developing States’ dependence on fossil fuels was unsustainable.  As such, Denmark had helped create the SIDS DOCK Support Program, establishing stations to connect small islands’ energy centres — notably in the Seychelles, Mauritius, and Sao Tome and Principe — with global markets.

The representative of the Commonwealth Secretariat said 45 of its 52 members were island States, where fish constituted more than 50 per cent of exports.  She called for addressing harmful subsidies that distorted markets, stressing that national maritime resources had been extracted by third parties without sufficient financial capture on behalf of the State and its citizens.  She proposed the creation of a Blue Commonwealth Charter, which would apply to sustainable oceans economic development, stressing that truly blue economic development must be done in a way that preserved ocean health.

The representative of Conservation International announced a voluntary commitment on social responsibility in global fisheries and aquaculture, as well as a financing commitment for community-managed conservation mosaics along Colombia’s Pacific coast.  Called La Minga — or “Everyone Together” — it would combine community, national and regional budget allocations and a $5 million endowment.

The representative of Papua New Guinea said the ocean and its resources offered food security and jobs for 15,000 people in his country, 80 per cent of whom were women.  Papua New Guinea was engaged domestically, regionally and globally, particularly as a party to the Nauru Agreement.

The representative of FAO drew attention to the Voluntary Guidelines for Securing Sustainable Small-Scale Fisheries in the Context of Food Security and Poverty Eradication, adopted in 2014.

The representative of India said his country’s assistance to small island developing States and littoral least-developed countries included capacity-building, such as the provision of satellite-based information that promoted more efficient fishing.  He added that, to ensure better market access for artisanal fishers, sanitary trade barriers should be addressed under the aegis of WTO.

The representative of Trinidad and Tobago said her country had adopted globally recognized approaches and tools to alleviate conflicts between artisanal fishers and offshore oil and gas activities.  She also discussed efforts to exploit lion fish for economic benefit by training and incentivizing fishers to target that invasive species and to encourage its consumption by the general public.

The representative of the International Whaling Commission said her organization was studying the impact of whale-watching on individual whales, their population and habitats.  It had also developed a web-based whale-watching handbook to provide relevant information to operators, regulators and the public that included maps, information on species and case studies to assist decision-making.

Also speaking today were ministers and representatives of the Solomon Islands, Madagascar and Kiribati.

Representatives of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), Indigenous peoples’ and community conserved territories and areas Consortium, Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), CORDIO East Africa, The Nature Conservancy, French Polynesia, Pacific Island Association of Non-Governmental Organizations and the International Seabed Authority also spoke.

General Market

Ocean Conference

Note:  A complete summary of today’s Ocean Conference meeting will be available after its conclusion.

Partnership Dialogue I

In the morning, the Ocean Conference held a partnership dialogue on the topic “making fisheries sustainable”.  Moderated by Anthony Long, Director, Ending Illegal Fishing Project, The Pew Charitable Trusts, and co-chaired by Dominic LeBlanc, Minister for Fisheries, Oceans and the Coast Guard of Canada, and Oumar Guèye, Minister for Fisheries and Maritime Economy of Senegal, it featured a panel discussion by Arni Mathiesen, Assistant Director-General, United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO); Jennifer Dianto Kemmerly, Director of Global Fisheries and Aquaculture, Monterey Bay Aquarium, United States; Karl Brauner, Deputy Director-General, World Trade Organization (WTO); and Milton Haughton, Executive Director, Caribbean Regional Fisheries Mechanism Secretariat.

Mr. LEBLANC said Canada was a proud maritime nation, with fisheries and aquaculture contributing $9 billion to its economy each year, generating countless jobs in rural, coastal and indigenous communities.  The fisheries sector provided the backbone for many national and small-scale economies.  Noting that sustainable fisheries were key to achieving many of the Sustainable Development Goals, he said “we need to make a more concerted effort to tackle such things as illegal fishing, underreporting and harmful subsidies that result in over-capacity.”  With international action as the common goal, the WTO provided the venue and means to achieve enforceable fisheries subsidies rules.  Fisheries management played an important role in conservation and had led to positive biodiversity outcomes, with a range of measures that protected to single stocks and the ecosystems upon which they relied.  Those conservation objectives must be incorporated into fisheries management plans.  Marine protected areas were an essential component of sustainable fisheries management.  Canada had adopted a milestone to conserve 5 per cent of its waters by the end of 2017, as a sign of its commitment to conserving 10 per cent by 2020.  Describing Canada’s commitment to the Paris Agreement on climate change as “unwavering”, he also underscored the importance of its partnerships with provincial and territorial governments, indigenous peoples, environmental groups and industry in advancing the marine conservation agenda.

Mr. GUÈYE said Senegal was a country of fisheries, with 6,000 actors working in that sector and 75 per cent of people’s animal protein needs coming from fish and marine life.  “Senegal is very interested in sustainable fisheries,” he said, pointing to a law that reserved space for artisanal fisheries, within which large industrial fisheries were prohibited.  In the south, all vessels were banned from approaching the coast.  Senegal also had revised its fisheries code, which now allowed for trout to be fished at 40 centimetres, rather than 20 centimetres, with the greater depths allowing more time for the fish to multiply.  Underscoring the need to combat large-scale fishing, he said another aspect was to combat illegal unreported and unregulated fishing, which should be addressed in the most appropriate manner by a global coalition.  Senegal had toughened sanctions against vessels illegally fishing its waters, impounding and fining them $300 million, and seizing repeat offenders.  The Government also had taken a biological inventory to ensure that species could regenerate, established marine protected areas, acceded to a forum that ensured transparency in the fisheries industry, and ratified the FAO Port State Measures Agreement.  “We have high hopes for this meeting,” he said, and for strong measures to be taken.

Mr. MATHIESEN said fisheries today faced many different problems.  Three, however, stood out, and if they were tackled and solved, other problems would be easier to resolve.  Those three problems included illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing; the difficulty of managing migrating fish stocks on the high seas and in sovereign coastal waters; and improving the status of coastal fishing communities in developing countries, including small island developing States.  Several factors drove those problems, including an estimated $35 billion in harmful subsidies, population growth, poverty, economic and forced migration, climate change and unprecedented levels of climate events.  Solutions would include improved science-based local, national and regional fisheries management, while illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing could be addressed through existing instruments.  Strong regional management models were in place, but they required political, scientific and financial support.  Harmful subsidies could be stopped through the WTO.  A multi-stakeholder and targeted approach to support coastal communities and get their products to market would meanwhile encourage “blue growth”, he said, adding that the FAO was prepared to help develop a blueprint to rebuild fisheries.

Ms. KEMMERLY said that, about 20 years ago, non-governmental organizations launched a movement that sought to create market demand for sustainable seafood which involved, among other things, encouraging businesses to use their market leverage to improve policy, traceability and social responsibility.  For the non-governmental organization community, sustainability was not just an environmental matter, but also a question of social responsibility.  While mainly focused so far in the United States and the European Union, the sustainable seafood movement was growing in other places, such as Brazil, Japan and South-East Asia.  She went on to describe efforts being made with regard to tuna, with the International Seafood Sustainability Foundation engaged in reporting, conservation and traceability measures, and with shrimp, a sector that would require making sustainability profitable for hundreds of thousands of smallholders in South-East Asia.

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Revised European Neighbourhood Policy: supporting stabilisation, resilience, security

Today, the European Commission and the High Representative has published the report on the implementation of the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP). The Report shows that the new policy approach ensures stronger joint ownership and more flexibility by recognising different aspirations and diversity of each partner. The revised ENP reinvigorated the relations between the European Union and its neighbours to the East and South, with a greater focus on stabilisation, resilience and security. The High Representative/Vice-President Federica Mogherini said: “The European Union has been investing a lot in economic development, resilience, security, democracy and the rule of law in our Eastern and Southern neighbours. One year and a half after the review of the European Neighbourhood Policy, we have managed to build – in cooperation and full partnership – a tailor made approach with each and every country, to ensure it addresses the real needs and interests, for the sake of all our citizens”. Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations, Johannes Hahn commented:”We consulted widely before updating the Neighbourhood Policy – and this report shows how we are really putting into action the results of that consultation: a stronger focus on mutual interests, greater differentiation to reflect the diversity of our partners, a greater sense of shared ownership of the policy and more flexibility in how it is implemented “. Available online are the full press release, a Q&A and the joint communication. (For more information: Maja Kocijancic – Tel.: +32 229 86570; Catherine Ray – Tel.: + 32 229 69921; Alceo Smerilli – Tel.: + 32 229 64887; Lauranne Devillé – Tél.: +32 229 80833; Adam Kaznowski – Tel: +32 229 89359)

Juncker Plan set to trigger more than EUR 194 billion in investments across all 28 Member States

Following this week’s meeting of the European Investment Bank’s Board of Directors, the Juncker Plan is now expected to trigger EUR 194 billion in investments across all 28 Member States. This represents well over half of the EUR 315 billion target of total investments to be mobilised by the European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI), the heart of the Juncker Plan, that was originally earmarked. The operations approved under the EFSI represent a total financing volume of just under EUR 37 billion. The EIB has now approved 224 EFSI-backed projects under the EFSI’s Infrastructure and Innovation Window, worth just under EUR 28 billion in EFSI financing. The European Investment Fund (EIF) has now approved 275 SME financing agreements, with total financing under the EFSI of almost EUR 9 billion. Given its success so far, President Juncker has made it clear that the proposal to extend and reinforce the EFSI (the so-called “EFSI 2.0”) is among the Commission’s top legislative priorities. The proposal has already made good progress. The Commission welcomed this week’s European Parliament vote on the EFSI 2.0 and now calls on the Parliament and Member States to continue working towards the final adoption of the EFSI 2.0 proposal as quickly as possible. (For more information: Annika Breidthardt – Tel.: +32 229 56153; Enda McNamara – Tel.: +32 229 64976)

 

Commission welcomes the signature of EU technical support programme

The European Commission welcomes today’s signature of the new EUR 142.8 million Structural Reform Support Programme (SRSP). The programme will allow to address new requests for reform support from the Member States and tailor the support specifically to the needs of each Member State and each situation. Already now there is a widespread interest from Member States as regards the support for design and implementation of reforms. Preliminary expressions of interest cover various reform areas, ranging from public administration reforms, public financial management reviews, building capital markets and better targeting of social welfare systems. Valdis Dombrovskis, Vice-President for the Euro and Social Dialogue said: “This new EU programme will allow the Commission to expand the reform support it provides to help Member States, upon their demand, to carry out essential reforms that can help modernise economies, strengthen competitiveness and encourage investment. We will shortly present our policy guidance under the European Semester – reform priorities for each Member State. With the new EU programme, countries have a possibility to benefit from best expertise and know-how to shape and implement reforms.” (For more information: Annika Breidthardt – Tel.: +32 229 56153; Juliana Dahl – Tel.: +32 229 59914)

European Commission reports on the application of the Charter of fundamental rights in the EU in 2016

Today, the European Commission has published its annual Report on the application of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights. The report outlines the initiatives taken in 2016 by the EU to strengthen fundamental rights. It also looks at how these rights were applied across a range of EU policies and in the Member States in 2016. First Vice-President Frans Timmermans said: “The European Union is not just a market or a currency, it is first and foremost a Union of values.  As guardian of the Treaties the European Commission has a special duty to uphold the fundamental rights and the rule of law throughout this Union, a responsibility which we share with all the EU’s institutions and Member States.” Věra Jourová, Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender equality added: “The European Commission has been working in all areas of EU law to safeguard fundamental rights across Europe. (…) We must continue to make sure that rights are a reality for everyone across Europe. Fundamental rights are for all.” This year’s Report concludes that recent developments pose serious threats to fundamental rights. The Commission will ensure that all EU legislative proposals and all bodies bound by the Charter will continue to respect it. We will pay particular attention to the important system of checks and balances, in particular the key role of supreme courts and constitutional courts in upholding the EU’s common values. The report also announces that the 2017 Fundamental Rights Colloquium will focus on the promotion and protection of women’s rights and gender equality next November. A press release and the full report are available online. (For more information: Christian Wigand – Tel.: +32 229 62253;Mélanie Voin – Tel.: +32 229 58659; Tim McPhie – Tel.: +32 229 58602)

Positive trade balance for EU agri-food products after record value in monthly exports

According to the latest figures published today by the European Commission, the monthly value of EU agri-food exports in March 2017 reached a value of almost €12.7 billion, which is €1.31 billion (+11.3%) higher than in March 2016. This is the highest monthly export value seen over the last 5 years. Highest increases in monthly export values (March 2017 compared to March 2016) were recorded for the USA, Japan, Russia and Switzerland. Following the strong increase in exports, the trade balance in March 2017 reached €1.8 billion. When looking at the last 12 months, from April 2016 to March 2017, EU agri-food exports reached a value of €133.5 billion, corresponding to an increase by 3.6% in value terms compared to the same period one year ago. Focusing on the EU export performance per product category over the last twelve months, it confirms the trend of pig meat exports’ recovery. Main origins for EU agri-food imports over the past 12 months were Brazil, USA, Argentina and China, followed by Switzerland, Turkey, Indonesia, Ukraine and Ivory Coast. The full report is online. (For more information: Daniel Rosario – Tel.: +32 229 56185; Clémence Robin – Tel: +32 229 52509)

 

Education: new report shows positive trends in the teaching and learning of foreign languages

Pupils in primary education have started learning their first foreign language at an earlier age and are continuing with it throughout the years of compulsory education. The numbers of lower secondary students learning two foreign languages is up compared with ten years ago. And most countries now have provisions in place to support migrant children who need to learn the language of their host country. These are some of the main results of a report on ‘Key Data on Teaching Languages at School in Europe‘ published today by the European Commission’s Eurydice network. Less positive is the fact that the level of ambition for learning a second foreign language is still remarkably low. It is also worth noting that more than half of language teachers in Europe have travelled abroad for professional reasons, many of them with the support of funding from EU programmes such as Erasmus+, the EU Programme for education, training, youth and sport. Tibor Navracsics, EU Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport, said: “Speaking several languages is becoming an essential skill in Europe, not only for finding a job but also for participating in society. We need to make better use of innovative teaching methods and new technology to improve young people’s language learning experience.” The Eurydice report, which covers EU Member States and some other European countries, combines evidence from various sources with in-depth analysis on language learning and teaching.  (For more information: Nathalie Vandystadt – Tel.: +32 229 67083; Inga Höglund – Tel.: +32 229 50698)

Mergers: Commission fines Facebook €110 million for providing misleading information about WhatsApp takeover

The European Commission has fined Facebook €110 million for providing incorrect or misleading information during the Commission’s 2014 investigation under the EU Merger Regulation of Facebook’s acquisition of WhatsApp. The EU Merger Regulation obliges companies in a merger investigation to provide correct information that is not misleading as this is essential for the Commission to review mergers and takeovers in a timely and effective manner. This obligation applies, regardless of whether the information has an impact on the ultimate outcome of the merger assessment. When Facebook notified the acquisition of WhatsApp in 2014, it informed the Commission that it would be unable to establish reliable automated matching between Facebook users’ accounts and WhatsApp users’ accounts. However, in August 2016, WhatsApp announced updates to its terms of service and privacy policy, including the possibility of linking WhatsApp users’ phone numbers with Facebook users’ identities.On 20 December 2016, the Commission addressed a Statement of Objections to Facebook detailing its concerns. The Commission has found that, contrary to Facebook’s statements in the 2014 merger review process, the technical possibility of automatically matching Facebook and WhatsApp users’ identities already existed in 2014, and that Facebook staff were aware of such a possibility. Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy, said: “Today’s decision sends a clear signal to companies that they must comply with all aspects of EU merger rules, including the obligation to provide correct information. And it imposes a proportionate and deterrent fine on Facebook. The Commission must be able to take decisions about mergers’ effects on competition in full knowledge of accurate facts.” A full press release is available online in EN, DE and FR. (For more information: Ricardo Cardoso – Tel.: +32 229 80100; Maria Tsoni – Tel.: +32 229 90526)

 

Mergers: Commission alleges Altice breached EU rules by early implementation of PT Portugal acquisition

The European Commission has sent a Statement of Objections alleging that multinational telecommunications company Altice (the Netherlands), breached the EU Merger Regulation by implementing its acquisition of telecommunications operator PT Portugal before notification or approval by the Commission. The EU’s Merger Regulation requires that merging companies notify transactions prior to their implementation (“the notification requirement”), and do not implement transactions unless and until they have been notified and cleared by the Commission (“the standstill obligation”). Compliance with these obligations is essential for legal certainty, enables the Commission to conduct a correct analysis of the impact of mergers in the market and prevents the potentially detrimental impact of transactions on the competitive structure of the market. In this way, market forces work for the benefit of consumers. In today’s Statement of Objections, the Commission takes the preliminary view that Altice actually implemented the acquisition prior to the adoption of the Commission’s clearance decision, and in some instances, prior to its notification. Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy, said: “If companies jump the gun by implementing mergers prior to notification or clearance, they undermine the effective functioning of the EU merger control system. The Statement of Objections sent to Altice shows how seriously the Commission takes breaches of the rules designed to protect the merger control system “. A full press release is available online in EN, DE, FR, NL and PT. (For more information: Ricardo Cardoso – Tel.: +32 229 80100; Maria Tsoni – Tel.: +32 229 90526; Yizhou Ren – Tel.: +32 229 94889)

EU and 79 African, Caribbean, Pacific countries in joint push to implement global climate deal

The European Union and 79 African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) developing countries, who together make up more than half of the signatories to the Paris Agreement on climate change, today reaffirmed their strong and steadfast commitment to full implementation of the agreement, urging all partners to keep up the momentum created in 2015. The EU and the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States made the call at a UN climate change conference taking place in Bonn, ahead of the upcoming G7 and G20 leaders’ summits and the next annual UN climate negotiations COP23 in November. Commissioner for Climate Action and Energy Miguel Arias Cañete said: “Today more than ever, Europe stands by its long-term partners most vulnerable to climate change. We, developed and developing countries together, will defend the Paris Agreement. We are all in, and our joint commitment to this Agreement today is as in Paris: irreversible and non-negotiable.” The ACP Group and EU have agreed common positions on the next steps to implement the Paris Agreement and strengthened cooperation to promote low-emission, climate-resilient development. As an example of this increased cooperation, the EU has announced support of EUR 800 million for the Pacific Region up to 2020, with around half earmarked for climate action. The EU will also provide EUR 3 million to support Fiji’s COP23 Presidency. The UN climate conference is currently taking place from 8-18 May to prepare the ground for the next Conference of the Parties COP23, to be held on 6-17 November 2017 in Bonn. For more information consult the Commission’s website. (For more information: Anna-Kaisa Itkonen – Tel.: +32 229 56186; Nicole Bockstaller – Tel.: +32 229 52589)


ANNOUNCEMENTS

 

Commissioner Stylianides participates in Citizens’ Dialogue in Ioannina, Greece

Today, EU humanitarian aid and crisis management Commissioner Christos Stylianides will participate in a Citizens’ Dialogue in Ioannina, Greece. During the event, Commissioner Stylianides will engage in an open discussion withcitizens about the future of Europe, focusing on the challenges and priorities for Europe in the coming years. The title of the dialogue is: “What kind of Europe do we want? Forming together the path to the future” and it can be followed live on Facebook at 18:00 CET. (For more information: Carlos Martin Ruiz De Gordejuela – Tel.: +32 229 65322; Daniel Puglisi – Tel.: +32 229 69140)

Upcoming events of the European Commission (ex-Top News)

General Information

Motion for a resolution on Dadaab refugee camp – B8-2017-0336

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,

–  having regard to the UN Covenant on Civil and Political Rights of 1966,

–  having regard to the Charter of the United Nations,

–  having regard to the African Charter of Human and Peoples’ Rights of 1981,

–  having regard to the UN Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees of 1951, to which Kenya is a party,

–  having regard to the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment,

–  having regard to the Nairobi Declaration of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) of 25 March 2017 on Durable Solutions for Somali Refugees and Reintegration of Returnees in Somalia,

–  having regard to the UN New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants adopted on 19 September 2016,

–  having regard to the joint communiqué issued by the Tripartite Ministerial Commission for the voluntary repatriation of Somali refugees in Kenya on 25 June 2016,

–  having regard to the outcome of the Valetta summit of 15 November 2015 on migration,

–  having regard to the declaration of 28 November 2014 of the Ministerial Conference of the Khartoum Process,

–  having regard to the Tripartite Agreement between the Governments of Somalia and Kenya and the UNHCR on voluntary repatriations signed in November 2013,

–  having regard to the EU’s emergency Africa Trust Fund,

–  having regard to the UN Global Compact on Responsibility Sharing for Refugees,

–  having regard to the EU’s humanitarian financing of the response to refugees in Kenya,

–  having regard to its previous resolutions on Kenya, in particular that of 30 April 2015,

–  having regard to Rule 123(2) of its Rules of Procedure,

A.  whereas, despite its vast natural resources, the Horn of Africa is one of the poorest regions in the world; whereas food security is extremely precarious there, and whereas millions of people living in the region suffer from malnutrition and are at risk of famine;

B.  whereas the countries in the region are currently facing the worst drought in 60 years, which has worsened the food crisis in Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia and Yemen and which could cause a region-wide famine; whereas Kenya suffers recurrent droughts, particularly in the arid and semi-arid northern parts of the country, where 5.5 million people live, most of them small livestock farmers who are in a particularly vulnerable position and experience chronic poverty; whereas climate change is having a devastating impact on pastoralism, the nomadic way of life of many people in the region;

C.  whereas Kenya has the largest economy in East Africa, but, despite its considerable resources, has one of the lowest rankings in the human development index; whereas the majority of Kenya’s population live below the poverty threshold; whereas Kenya’s economy suffers endemic problems as a result of the monopolisation of resources by a minority of individuals; whereas 94.8% of all farms in Kenya are small farms, but they have access to only 11.7% of the country’s farmland; whereas Africa has recently suffered a wave of land grabs, which have left millions of hectares of fertile farmland in the hands of large undertakings, thereby depriving tens of thousands of farming communities of their means of subsistence; whereas Kenya’s main agricultural and fisheries exports to the European Union are tea, coffee, roses and carnations, green beans, peas, avocados, Nile perch and tuna; whereas in Kenya 500 000 hectares of land are being used to produce biofuels by undertakings from Canada, Japan and Belgium, with major repercussions for the environment and local communities;

D.  whereas since the US intervention in 1992 – Operation ‘Restore Hope’ – Somalia has been a war zone; whereas one major factor in the conflict between Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya is the colonial-era borders, as the bulk of the Somali population was split between these three countries, a situation which has led to a number of disputes and, in particular, the massacre of several thousand Kenyans of Somali origin by the Kenyan army in the 1980s;

E.  whereas the Nairobi global plan of action adopted at the summit of the IGAD (Intergovernmental Authority on Development) on 26 March 2017 stressed that drought and the armed conflicts were the two reasons for the displacement of persons in the region;

F.  whereas the multitude of parties involved in the civil war, the lack of a government in Somalia, the loss by Somali fishermen of their means of subsistence, the acts of piracy off the coast of Somalia, the tensions between Sudan and South Sudan, between Ethiopia, Eritrea and Somalia and between Eritrea and Djibouti, the participation of Kenya and other neighbouring countries in the African Union force deployed in Somalia, the interference and intervention by outside parties and the economic and geostrategic interests of the European Union and other western parties are all factors which are helping to make the Horn of Africa one of the most conflict-stricken regions in the world; whereas the UN arms embargo has repeatedly been breached;

G.  whereas, with a rapidly growing population of nearly 250 million, the Horn of Africa region has more internally displaced persons and refugees than any other region in Africa and one of the largest numbers in the world; whereas on 31 March 2017 the number of refugees and asylum seekers registered by the UNHCR in Kenya was 486 037;

H.  whereas the refugee complex at Dadaab was set up in 1991 for around 90 000 people as a temporary solution for those seeking refuge and fleeing persecution, violence and instability in East Africa and particularly the civil war in Somalia; whereas in 2011 the resurgence of conflicts and local famines forced millions of people to leave Somalia, leading to the mass arrival of refugees at Dadaab, where more than 308 000 registered Somalis are currently living in a refugee camp; whereas, according to UN estimates, Dadaab currently has a population of around 260 000 people, 95% of who come from Somalia and 60% of whom are aged under 18; whereas the complex currently comprises five different zones, housing different peoples, which extend over an area of 50 square kilometres; whereas the oldest camps, and those with the largest populations, are Hagadera, Dagahaley and Ifo;

I.  whereas the plight of the Somali refugees has persisted for more than three decades, and a third generation of refugees have been born in exile; whereas nearly a million Somalis are displaced within the region, and a further 1.1 million are displaced inside Somalia itself; whereas Somalia is one of the five countries from which the most refugees have come in the past 15 years, a figure currently put at 1.1 million, more than 80% of whom are living in the Horn of Africa and the Yemen region;

J.  whereas, after the terrorist attack on Garissa university in April 2015, Kenya’s Vice-President, William Ruto, issued an ultimatum to the United Nations, urging the Human Rights Council to close Dadaab refugee camp within three months, failing which Kenya would close it itself; whereas the Human Rights Council has warned that the closure of the camp would have disastrous humanitarian and practical consequences; whereas the UN Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees prohibits refoulement of refugees to regions where their lives or liberty are threatened; whereas the construction of a wall separating Somalia and Kenya has also been suggested;

K.  whereas in May 2016 Kenya shut down its department of refugee affairs, which was responsible for conducting censuses, with the result that tens of thousands of people have not been registered; whereas on 6 May 2016 the Kenyan Government announced its decision to close Dadaab soon, invoking security reasons and the need to put an end to the long-term refugee problem in the region;

L.  whereas the Kenyan authorities, with the support of UNHCR officials, then speeded up the implementation of a ‘voluntary’ repatriation programme dating from 2013; whereas many NGOs and international actors have condemned the fact that the repatriation programme established by Kenya for Somali refugees, in a climate of fear and disinformation, did not meet international criteria for the voluntary return of refugees; whereas in August 2016 the Somali authorities in Jubaland were forced to deal with a wave of returnees to the regional capital, Kismayo; whereas, according to the UNHCR, 70% of them were children;

M.  whereas in November 2016 the Kenyan Government announced that the closure would be delayed by six months, i.e. until May 2017, for ‘humanitarian reasons’, at the urging of the international community; whereas on 9 February 2017, in response to a petition by two Kenyan human rights organisations (the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights and Kituo Cha Sheria), the High Court in Nairobi ruled that the Kenyan Government’s decision to close Dadaab refugee camp was discriminatory and amounted to an arbitrary and disproportionate collective punishment;

N.  whereas the closure of Dadaab would have repercussions for all neighbouring countries, particularly Ethiopia, which currently has some 245 000 Somali refugees on its territory;

O.  whereas the ever more serious shortage of resources and the decline in the number of international donors are having a direct impact on the situation of refugees in Dadaab, in particular in the form of reductions in food rations and a lack of access to medical care and services or to training and education;

P.  whereas in March 2017 the UNHCR estimated that it needed USD 215 200 000 to ‘manage’ the 486 037 displaced persons in Kenya in an acceptable manner; whereas only 15% of the funds required have so far been secured; whereas in the light of the geopolitical situation in the region the UNHCR is anticipating 27 598 new arrivals;

Q.  whereas education, literacy, women’s rights, social justice and the fair distribution of state revenues, reducing inequality and the fight against corruption are central to good governance and to combating fundamentalism, violence and intolerance;

R.  whereas between 2014 and 2020 the European Union will provide EUR 435 million in aid to Kenya; whereas the Union is the party that provides the most financial aid to the African Union mission in Somalia (AMISOM), through the Africa Aid Fund; whereas the Union is conducting a number of civil and military operations in the region, such as the European Union Maritime Capacity Building Mission to Somalia (EUCAP Nestor), conducted within the framework of the CSDP (since 2012), the European Union military operation to contribute to the deterrence, prevention and repression of acts of piracy and armed robbery off the Somali coast (EU NAVFOR) (since 2008) and the European Union Training Mission Somalia (EUTM Somalia) (since 2010); whereas the USA is occupying the Manda Bay naval base in Kenya; having regard to the destabilising actions of NATO and the United States in the region;

1.  Expresses grave concern at the situation of refugees in the Horn of Africa, in particular in Kenya and the Dadaab camp; welcomes the Nairobi High Court’s judgment declaring the decision by the Government of the Republic of Kenya to close the Dadaab refugee camp null and void; calls on the country’s authorities to comply with that ruling;

2.  Stresses that, so long as instability persists in the region as a whole, refugees will be unable to return home; stresses, similarly, that a regional response is needed to ensure continuing protection of the Dadaab camp and, more generally, of all refugees in the country;

3.  Expresses serious disquiet at the ‘voluntary return’ strategy in force since 2013; calls for full light to be shed on the intimidation, scare tactics and disinformation that have allegedly been employed, including the UNHCR’s role in implementing these policies;

4.  Notes the adoption in Nairobi of the worldwide and regional plan of action, which provides for the gradual closure of the camps so that refugees have access to employment and services in their host country and can to move around freely; stresses that it is important that these closures should be carried out in a manner fully consistent with human rights which does not further undermine the living conditions of the persons concerned;

5.  Stresses that growing poverty, deteriorating economic prospects, widening inequalities and the limited availability of education have swelled the ranks of the unemployed, thus creating a socioeconomic environment conducive to the development of terrorism; notes with concern that, in many parts of their countries, the Somali and Kenyan States do not provide essential public services, such as water supply, waste water treatment, health care or education; urges the Kenyan and Somali authorities, therefore, to address socioeconomic problems and combat deteriorating living standards in order to ensure social justice;

6.  Calls on the EU to release the emergency humanitarian aid needed to cope with the refugee problem and the famine in the region; calls on the EU to increase the proportion of official development aid (ODA) earmarked for agriculture and increase ODA to fund investment in sustainable small farming and pastoralism, thereby guaranteeing access to land for small farmers and thus strengthening the local market, enhancing food sovereignty in the Horn of Africa and helping to regenerate the waters off the Horn of Africa, in order to safeguard the livelihoods of fishermen and their families;

7.  Urges that the provision of development aid should not be used as a pretext for insisting that borders be closed or controlled or that migrants be readmitted; calls for the aid provided by the EU and the Member States in the Horn of Africa to be used, as a matter of priority, to address problems linked to severe inequalities, poverty, chronic malnutrition, access to health and public services, particularly reproductive healthcare, and the achievement of sustainable development goals; calls, similarly, for food aid to be increased and to be used, as a matter of priority, to buy food from local small farmers; strongly opposes the use of the EDF to fund the training of law-enforcement or military forces;

8.  Opposes any attempt to outsource the EU’s migration policies to third countries; condemns the fact that the Khartoum process, in which Kenya and Somalia are stakeholders, does absolutely nothing to tackle the underlying causes of migration; believes those policies to be at odds with the right to freedom of movement, the right of asylum and, more broadly, the rights of migrants laid down in international conventions;

9.  Calls for aid from the EU and its Member States to be provided in the form of grants rather than loans, so as not to add to the debt burden; deplores the fact that many EU Member States have not met the target of earmarking 0.7% of GNI for development aid and that some have reduced the percentage that they spend on such aid; deplores the fact that Member States are cutting back their involvement in food aid programmes;

10.  Strongly criticises the role played by the various Western interventions in recent years, which have fostered the radicalisation of some inhabitants of the Horn of Africa; stresses that such policies promote terrorism rather than combating it; is concerned at the focus on military ‘solutions’ in European counter-terrorism policies, as a result of which numerous programmes involving the provision of military assistance to the countries of the Horn of Africa are being carried out; emphasises that there can be no military solution to the conflicts in the region;

11.  Calls on the EU and the international community to cooperate with African countries and regional and international actors to resolve the conflicts by strictly peaceful means, in particular by tackling their underlying causes; calls on the EU to establish a new framework for relations with Kenya and all African countries, which is based on non-intervention in their internal affairs and respect for their sovereignty and which seeks to support the development of neighbouring regions and promote employment and education, rather than on ‘association agreements’ which serve mainly to establish free trade areas that benefit Western corporate interests;

12.  Reiterates that the activities of European companies present in third countries must be entirely consistent with international human rights standards; calls, therefore, on the Member States to ensure that companies which are subject to their national law do not disregard human rights or the social, health and environmental standards to which they are subject when they set up subsidiaries, or do business, in a third country; calls on the Commission and the Member States to take the requisite action against European companies which do not comply with those standards or which do not adequately compensate victims of human rights violations for which they are directly or indirectly responsible;

13.  Calls on the Kenyan Government and the governments of the countries of origin of mining companies to require those companies to adopt good practices with regard to transparency, responsibility and public consultation, and to combat corruption in the mining industry;

14.  Considers that measures to combat land grabs by multinational and in particular European undertakings are vital as a means of safeguarding decent living conditions for local people and of promoting food sovereignty in the countries in the Horn of Africa; calls, therefore, for this question to be the subject of a specific, key dialogue between the EU and the countries in the Horn of Africa;

15.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the European External Action Service, the Commission, the Council, the European Union Member States, the countries in the Horn of Africa, the Pan-African Parliament and the members of the United Nations General Assembly.