Norway sets up new fund to combat marine litter : Asia and Africa among likely early beneficiaries

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File photo: A figurine made of plastic waste collected in South Africa’s marine environment on display at this year’s Africa Marine Waste conference held at the Feathermarket Centre in Port Elizabeth, Eastern Cape province in July.

Pretoria: 23 October 2017

The battle against global marine pollution has been given a massive boost following an announcement by the Norwegian government of the setup of a fund totaling NOK150-million (or R258-million) for use in efforts to combat marine waste.

In a statement, Norwegian Minister of Foreign Affairs Mr Børge Brende said marine litter globally had become a huge environmental hazard, with some areas of the world far worse than others. The fund budgeted for 2018 would initially target these areas, he said.

‘Norway intends to take the lead in ocean affairs internationally. Marine litter, including plastics, has become one of the most serious environmental problems of our time. That is why the Government is launching a concerted effort to combat marine litter and microplastics and is establishing a development programme in this field,’ said Mr Brende.

He added that: “The new development programme will use effective and environmentally sound approaches to combating marine litter. To start with, the programme will focus on Southeast Asia, which is the region where the problem is most acute. We will also look at ways of using the programme to support other countries and regions where marine litter is a growing problem, for example in Africa.”

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File photo: Delegates to this year’s Africa Marine Waste conference in Port Elizabeth, Eastern Cape in July

For Africa, this is expected to come as a boost particularly given that this comes only three months after the region held a five day conference in Port Elizabeth, South Africa to focus specifically on the progressively impending marine waste pollution disaster along the continent’s coastlines.

At that conference in July, it was revealed that with more than 150 million tons of plastic material floating across the world’s oceans – and likely to rise to 950mt in 30 years – and with very little being done about it, the world was facing an imminent ecological disaster.

However, it was also confirmed that the problem was especially acute in Africa.

Among more than a dozen scientists attending and sharing views on the problem, Dr Linda Godfrey, a manager of the Waste RDI Roadmap Implementation Unit at the Centre for Science and Industrial Research (CSRI) in South Africa, painted a disturbing picture of particularly the African continent with regards both its current status on waste management as well as imminent future challenges that could make the task of eliminating plastic waste more difficult if not arrested effectively, soon.

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File photo: More plastic waste ends up in the world’s waters inland and oceans than is collected and properly disposed of.

She said the continent was largely characterized by poor landfill practices, general poor waste management, uncontrolled dumping compounded by a rapidly growing population of middle income people who were increasingly migrating to predominantly coastal cities.

“Africa is at a watershed, in that if we do not stop and take action now, we are going to be faced with a massive marine waste problem locally, regionally and the potential impact globally. And there are essentially seven reasons that I see for why we should take action now,” she said.

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File photo: Delegates to a one day conference held in Cape Town in July 2017 also discussing the growing threat of marine waste globally.

Days later at  a mini conference hosted jointly by the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA), the United States Consulate, the International Ocean Institute and the V&A Waterfront held at the Two Oceans Acquarium at Cape Town’s Waterfront, it emerged that South Africa was among top contributors to marine waste generation.

It was revealed that the country at the southern tip of the African continent, at the point at which three oceans meet, ranks No.11 in the world for waste management production and that the country alone is responsible for 12% of global plastic waste and about 2% of total mismanaged plastic waste, leading to between 0.9-0.25 megatons of it ending as marine plastic waste annually.

A week ago in Oslo, the Norwegian government said Africa would be an area of focus for the new fund beginning 2018, adding that the contribution was part of Norway’s overall effort supportive of campaigns undertaken by such as the UN Environment, the World Bank and INTERPOL to combat marine litter.

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File photo: Ship accidents at sea also contribute to waste pollution if not dealt with fast and effectively.

“Norway’s new development programme will include efforts to reduce waste and improve waste management in the areas that are most seriously affected by marine litter. Supporting efforts to clean up shorelines and coastal areas can also have a major impact,” said Mr Brende.

Meanwhile, Mr Brende said his government also intended intensifying its engagement with other countries in the identification and responsible exploitation of more economic opportunities presented by the world’s oceans economy,

“The Government is calling for sustainable use of the oceans to be given greater priority at the international level.

“Prime Minister Erna Solberg hosted a high-level event at the UN General Assembly on 20 September on the wealth of opportunities offered by the oceans. The event was attended by heads of state and government and ministers from a number of countries.

‘Norway has also supported the initiative to appoint a UN special envoy for the oceans. Former President of the UN General Assembly Peter Thomson of Fiji was appointed to this important post in September, and Norway will support him in his work,’ Mr Brende said.

He further confirmed that the Norwegian Stortinget (or Parliament) had also approved in June this year, a white paper on the place of the oceans in Norwegian foreign and development policy.

“The white paper sets out three priority areas: sustainable use and blue growth, clean and healthy oceans, and the role of the blue economy in development policy. In the time ahead, the Government will conduct dialogues on ocean affairs with other countries with a view to strengthening cooperation in these three areas,” he said.

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South Africa-Norway inaugural maritime sector ‘Science Week’ yet another cog in the oceans economy wheel

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Pretoria: 12 October 2016

South Africa’s multi-billions rand worth maritime economic sector presents business opportunities far fewer investors globally are willing to ignore, the least among these being Norwegians, who through both their government and independent institutions, are firming their bilateral relations with the country.

This becomes evident yet again last this month when the Scandinavian country – with long experience in oceans economy and globally respected expertise on matters marine and maritime – joins the South African government in staging a week-long “Science Week” beginning on October 31 in Pretoria and winding down in Cape Town five days later.

Delegates to the two-day national maritime cluster development seminar held in Port Elizabeth this week, among them senior government officials, maritime sector industry leaders, academics, research and business people from South Africa and Norway
File Photo: Earlier this year, delegates to a two-day national maritime cluster development seminar held in Port Elizabeth, among them senior government officials, maritime sector industry leaders, academics, research and business people from South Africa and Norway

Themed: “South Africa-Norway Science Week 2016”, the event – a first of its kind driven by the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Research Council of Norway and the Norwegian Centre of International Cooperation in Education, and supported in South Africa by a host of Government departments and institutions led by the Department of Science and Technology (DST) – is billed as aimed at creating opportunity for further sharing more intensively, information on the many opportunities presented by South Africa’s oceans economy.

In a statement recently, according to ‘Team Norway’ – a Norwegian group comprising the Research Council of Norway, Norwegian Centre for International Co-operation in Education, Innovation Norway and the Norwegian Embassy in Pretoria – the event “aims to explore opportunities for cooperation in education, research and new business development.”

The group states that the event is a result of and seeks to cement already well established relations between Norway and South Africa dating back to the ‘pre-freedom years when Norway actively supported opposition to the apartheid regime.

DSC_0148“The 1990s initiated an era of co-operation in higher education and research (and) since 2002, bilateral research programmes have provided support for 86 projects, of which 19 are still active,” it says, adding that annual high consultations between the two countries focus on areas of common economic and political interest, including the SANCOOP programme for research on climate change, environmental and renewable energy.

In addition, focus of the annual bilateral meetings between South Africa and Norway at Ministerial level have increasingly focused on areas for co-operation on South Africa’s Operation Phakisa (Oceans Economy) programme.

The latter co-operation has since culminated in among others, the Norwegians in 2016 entering into a partnership with the Port Elizabeth-based Nelson Mandela University where they ploughed some R50-million over five years in a new academic centre to fight against illegal fishing in South Africa.

During 2016, the Norwegians were also part of a gathering of some of the country’s maritime economic sector role-players in Port Elizabeth working on a strategy for an anticipated rollout of a South African national maritime cluster.

Later this month, they will again be joining South Africans to look at and share experiences related to the country’s opportunities and challenges with regards the ocean space over the next 10 years.

Signing a historic bilateral agreement on establishment of a centre to fight illegal fishering at the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University in Port Elizabeth are (Left) Norway's ambassador to South Ms Trine Skymoen and Dr Sibongile Muthwa, acting Vice President of the NMMU
FILE PHOTO: Signing a historic bilateral agreement on establishment of a centre to fight illegal fishering at the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University in Port Elizabeth recently are (Left) Norway’s ambassador to South Africa Ms Trine Skymoen and Dr Sibongile Muthwa, acting Vice President of the NMMU

The discussion in plenary sessions will focus on among key issues; an ‘overview and strategic context to the blue economy’ dealing specifically with global trends and national strategies related to benefits of expanding bilateral cooperation in education, research, innovation and business development.

Also in focus will be South Africa’s Operation Phakisa (Ocean Economy) and how the Norwegians could contribute in its further development and advancement.

Related will be focus on global success stories and new funding opportunities for entrepreneurs, innovators, researchers and related.

Over 200 guests are already confirmed as attending the Science Week in Pretoria and Cape Town, among these being dozens of academics, specialists and innovators in the global oceans space from several universities, research institutions and  business sectors in South Africa, France, and a few others countries.

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South Africa’s Minister of Science and Technology, Ms Naledi Pandor

Also key participants from South Africa are Minister of Science and Technology, Naledi Pandor; National Research Foundation executive director, Dr Aldo Stroebel; The Innovation Hub CEO, Mr McLean Sibanda; South Africa Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) acting CEO, Mr Sobantu Tilayi and others.

From Norway the delegation is expected to include Norwegian Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ms Tone Skogen; Research Council of Norway director-general, Mr Arvid Hallén, Innovation Norway director of Regions and Financing, Mr Per Niederbach; SINTEF executive Dr Karl Almås, and several others.

The South Africa-Norway Science Week 2016 begins at the Innovation Hub in Pretoria on October 31 and wraps up in Cape Town on Friday, November 4, 2016 with excursions of the Western Cape by various interest groups that may involve focused seminars, workshops and network opportunities.

For more information on the event, and an online platform to register for attendance, please Click Here.

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