Co-creating an Ocean Governance Strategy for the Western Indian Ocean

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Participants of a session on the ROGS at the 2023 Marine Regions Forum
Marine Regions Forum

Regional ocean governance in the Western Indian Ocean requires active collaboration among institutions, countries, and stakeholders for a healthy and sustainable ocean. Regional leaders acknowledge the need for improved cross-sectoral cooperation to tackle the triple planetary crisis. Nairobi Convention and Partners support the co-development of a regional ocean governance strategy (ROGS), in response to the Africa Ministerial Conference on Environment and the Nairobi Convention Conference of Parties. Through Nairobi Convention Focal Points, a ROGS Task Force with representatives from Convention Parties, the African Union and other Regional Economic Communities, the Indian Ocean Commission, private sector, civil society, and regional experts leads the co-design of technical dialogues that shape the ROGS by fostering consensus on priority actions and proposing institutional and resourcing arrangements. A Support Team hosted by the Convention made up of experts from WIOMSA, GIZ, and CLI supports the Task Force.

Last update: 20 Feb 2024
Challenges addressed
Increasing temperatures
Land and Forest degradation
Loss of Biodiversity
Ocean warming and acidification
Sea level rise
Storm surges
Ecosystem loss
Invasive species
Pollution (incl. eutrophication and litter)
Unsustainable harvesting incl. Overfishing
Physical resource extraction
Changes in socio-cultural context
Lack of public and decision maker’s awareness
Lack of technical capacity
Poor monitoring and enforcement
Poor governance and participation
Unemployment / poverty

The primary challenge was uniting diverse sectors and stakeholders for collaborative regional governance, overcoming institutional fragmentation and sectoral silos. Bridging online and in-person interactions was crucial for widespread participation and collective intelligence in informing the Regional Ocean Governance Strategies (ROGS). Building consensus among regional economic communities (RECs) and the Indian Ocean Commission was essential. This effort resulted in innovative approaches addressing social, economic, and environmental challenges in ocean governance, such as maritime security, regional fisheries, pollution prevention, and effective resource management. Key outcomes include

  • Cost-effective maritime security.

  • Information sharing.

  • Policy alignment.

  • Collaborative fisheries management.

  • Habitat conservation.

  • Support for a sustainable blue economy through regional cooperation in marine science, capacity building, and public awareness.

Scale of implementation
Deep sea
Open sea
Rocky reef / Rocky shore
Salt marsh
Seamount / Ocean ridge
Coastal forest
Coral reef
Access and benefit sharing
Biodiversity mainstreaming
Genetic diversity
Habitat fragmentation and degradation
Species management
Poaching and environmental crime
Disaster risk reduction
Connectivity / transboundary conservation
Ecosystem services
Erosion prevention
Sustainable financing
Gender mainstreaming
Legal & policy frameworks
Protected and conserved areas governance
Food security
Sustainable livelihoods
Local actors
Traditional knowledge
Coastal and marine spatial management
Flood management
Protected and conserved areas management planning
Science and research
Forest Management
Fisheries and aquaculture
Marine litter
Waste management
Wastewater treatment
South Africa
East and South Africa
Summary of the process

In response to decisions by AMCEN and the Nairobi Convention Conference of the Parties, this initiative aimed to collaboratively develop a Regional Ocean Governance Strategy (ROGS) and an Information Management Strategy (IMS). The process involved engaging diverse Western Indian Ocean (WIO) stakeholders through a participatory approach.


Nairobi Convention Focal Points initiated the process as shown in the process architecture, below, establishing the Terms of Reference for the multi-actor ROGS Task Force, convened in mid-2022. The Task Force, trained in collective leadership by CLI, contributed to Technical Dialogues, both online and in-person, to co-develop ROGS content. These dialogues engaged key stakeholders, fostering consensus on actions, proposing institutional arrangements, and discussing resourcing approaches.


Ocean governence advisor Mr. Kieran Kelleher compiled the draft ROGS, shared with Nairobi Convention Focal Points, regional bodies, and AU representatives at events in Tanzania and Mozambique in November and December 2023. The inclusive co-development approach aimed to create ownership, enhance the quality, feasibility, and credibility of the ROGS.

Building Blocks
Political will and mandate to develop a Regional Ocean Governance Strategy

Political leaders of the WIO countries have recognised that cooperation among regional organisations and across sectors, including greater engagement of the private sector and civil society, is required to address growing regional challenges such as marine and coastal conservation, marine plastic pollution, climate change, response to disasters like oil spills or cyclones etc.

A series of successive policy processes, including the 2015 call by African Union (AU) for the development of an African Regional Ocean Governance Strategy through the Cairo Declaration of the African Ministerial Conference on the Environment (AMCEN), the 2017 Libreville Declaration of AMCEN, and a baseline study on WIO Ocean Governance, led to the mandate for the development of WIO’s Regional Ocean Governance Strategy at the 2021 Conference of Parties to the Nairobi Convention (NC) (Decision CP.10/5). In response, the Nairobi Convention Secretariat convened a Support Team to help guide a participatory development of the WIO ROGS by working with representatives of the NC Contracting Parties, the AU, the WIO’s Regional Economic Communities (RECs), the Indian Ocean Commission, private sector and civil society actors in a Regional Ocean Governance Strategy Task Force.

Enabling factors
  • Having a high-level political mandate is an important success factor for engaging in a multi-stakeholder, participatory process for regional strategy development

  • Selection  of Task Force members by countries, the AU and the RECS, and thus country participation in the creation of the strategy

  • Financial support from regionally endorsed projects and partners

  • Coordinating and covening ability of the NCS

Lesson learned
  • Long process leading to the adoption of the decision in 2021 and protracted preparation period due to the wide scope and diversity of sectors and themes

  • Coordination of such a regional and political process requires continuous capacities on all sides and a strong will to participate actively

  • Continuity and a long-term process for developing and implementing strategy needs to exist before the start of the process

  • Ability to frame questions and issues in a form leading to consensus through technical dialogues

  • Effective feedback to the TF on consensus positions

Developing the Regional Ocean Governance Strategy through a co-creation process

The ROGS Support Team supported a diverse WIO ROGS Task Force, involving state and non-state representatives from various sectors and organisations. This inclusive forum facilitated stakeholder dialogue and collaboration, with members providing inputs directly to the ROGS and expanding regional contributions by inviting stakeholders from their networks. The Task Force, along with key stakeholders, contributed strategic and technical insights to the ROGS through Technical Dialogues and regional events.

The Collective Leadership Institute (CLI) supported the Task Force through in-person workshops and online sessions  to enhance collective leadership and collaboration. An experienced ocean governance advisor, Mr. Kieran Kelleher, played a key role in formulating strategy questions and compiling ROGS content.

The inclusive and participatory approach aimed to foster ownership, improving the quality, feasibility and credibility of the ROGS. If adopted at the next Nairobi Convention Conference of Parties, this ownership is expected to boost the strategy's implementation.


Enabling factors
  • Clear process and goal outlined in the process architecture for drafting the ROGS together

  • Participant interest and openness for individual and collective contribution

  • Capacity development and process stewardship prioritized by CLI, emphasizing authentic participation, trust-building, and co-creation

  • Technical dialogues led by the Task Force, engaging sector-specific stakeholders and experts for a shared understanding and optimal policy recommendations

  • Weekly online meetings of the ROGS Support Team, organized by CLI to ensure a high-quality process

Lesson learned
  • Need to assign clear roles within the process including someone who drives the process forwards according to set timelines

  • Both process leadership and technical leadership

  • Consideration of financing and resourcing as an integral part of the ROGS

  • March 2022: Nairobi Convention Secretariat drafted ToRs for ROGS and ROGS Task Force.
  • Endorsement by NC Focal Points prompted RECs and Focal Points to nominate representatives.
  • April 2022: Inception process of ROGS which included state and non-state actors forming a multi-stakeholder ROGS Task Force.
  • Task Force then created sectoral priorities, ROGS structure, and organized technical topics into four clusters: i) Maritime Security; ii) Blue Economy; iii) Environment and Natural Resources; and iv) Knowledge Management and Capacity Building.
  • In-person and online collective leadership capacity building sessions were held, including WIOMSA Symposium in October 2022 with a Special Session on "Progress towards a Regional Ocean Governance Strategy (ROGS) for the Western Indian Ocean."
  • Key Technical Dialogues were held online and at IORA Ocean Dialogues in Zanzibar in May 2023, involving Task Force members and stakeholders in WIO and the broader Indian Ocean.
  • ROGS will be reviewed by the Task Force, Nairobi Convention Focal Points and the public on the NCS Community of Practice portal.
  • Final ROGS will be reviewed by Contracting Parties, and presented to the NC COP in 2024 for a potential adoption decision.
  • Aim is to inspire action within Contracting Parties for enhanced ocean governance in the WIO benefiting coastal communities, businesses, and the environment.
  • People of the WIO dependent on healthy marine and coastal ecosystems (over 65 million people)

  • Contracting parties of the Nairobi Convention

  • Regional organisations such as RECs, business and civil society organisations

  • Participants in the co-creation process

Sustainable Development Goals
SDG 1 – No poverty
SDG 2 – Zero hunger
SDG 5 – Gender equality
SDG 8 – Decent work and economic growth
SDG 10 – Reduced inequalities
SDG 11 – Sustainable cities and communities
SDG 12 – Responsible consumption and production
SDG 13 – Climate action
SDG 14 – Life below water
SDG 17 – Partnerships for the goals
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