Q&A about AMWN
In a recent interview, Dr Tony Ribbink, CEO of Sustainable Seas Trust, explained why SST has become central to both the fight against the marine pollution and to fight against poverty.
Is there really a need for a Network?
The burgeoning amounts of debris and other waste that enter the seas of Africa, mainly from the land, is costing many millions of dollars each year, it is negatively affecting human health, degrading terrestrial and aquatic environments, killing marine animals. Plastics and other debris are valuable resources that are being lost the Africa If we take the right steps, including harnessing the circular economy, then waste can become profitable and create many jobs. Furthermore, the environment, human health and tourism will all benefit significantly.
The need is clear. rapid development in Africa without a concomitant decrease in levels of poverty has led to such polluted coastal and marine areas that there are fears that Africa may become as heavily polluted as South East Asia, which is the worst in the world. Africa is approaching a crisis situation which needs to be addressed.
The problem is so great that no single organization, town or country can meet the challenges alone There must be a cross-border approach with all affected countries working in concert.
Who called for the Network?
The growing waste problems in Africa led to a call by United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP), Plastics SA, universities, governments, NGOs and others at several African Marine Debris Conferences for an African Network to address the problem. There was a consensus decision from delegates at the African Marine Debris Conference which was held in 2015 To develop the network.
Who will lead it?
Sustainable Seas Trust (SST) was invited to lead the programme, building on the back of the international Hope Spot network which it launched in 2014. Further back, I have a history of networking as the African Coelacanth Ecosystem Programme (ACEP), which I led from 2001 to 2007 involved nine African countries and many organizations and institutions in each country. I enjoy networking and plan to draw on my experience.
Why was SST chosen?
SST is a neutral, NGO, a charitable trust and a Public Benefit Organization whose personnel have a history of collaboration and networking as well as a mandate to work in Africa
Where will AMWN be based?
The programme is destined to operate out of Port Elizabeth, South Africa, to serve all coastal and island states of Africa. At the moment it is operated from SST in Kenton on Sea.
Why should it be based in Port Elizabeth?
Port Elizabeth is well placed in the Eastern Cape neatly between Durban and Cape Town to be a hub in South Africa. It can be readily reached internationally to serve the network members of Africa. There is a growing strength and an increasing number of marine experts in Port Elizabeth with Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU) in particular rapidly becoming a leading maritime and marine centre in Africa with many experts, teachers and students who could provide support to the African Marine Waste Network. Furthermore, Algoa Bay is an international Hope Spot. Logistically too, Port Elizabeth is close to the Kenton on Sea headquarters of SST. In the initial years this proximity will be critical as the SST CEO will need to work closely with the AMWN managers.
What will AMWN do?
The Network will have seven primary projects:
- Education and awareness
- Strategic development and action
- Research and best practice
- Capacity building
- Policy and management
- Finances and marketing
How can people become involved?
Will it cost to join the Network?
There is no cost to joining the Network and the benefits are that members will be informed of activities, events, opportunities, and developments.
Who will be members of the Network?
The changes we would like to see involve everyone so, ideally, everyone should join the Network and become participants. We shall encourage individuals to join the Network and use it as a platform to champion the cause. Hopefully some individuals will become global stars and positively influenced millions of people. The principal working members, however, will be governments, businesses, NGOs, schools, universities, recyclers, societies and action groups.
How will the Network make a difference?
The network aims to mobilise people in order to transform a ripple of change into a wave of positive action and new attitudes.
The focus is on people; it is people in government, business, academia, clubs, societies, schools and civil society who need to network. Waste is generated entirely by people and people have the collective power to profitably manage waste. A theme for the network is “our children’s tomorrow”. Today’s generation of children is the most pivotal; their tomorrow depends upon how we guide them.
It is the action that people take that will determine if we all have a cleaner, healthier more prosperous future. The role of the Network is to ultimately instill an ethic of waste management in everyone so that almost automatically everyone choses sustainable behaviour.
When will the Network begin its work?
Immediately, in fact SST is working on the programme already as there is an urgency to turn the tide of debris. Indeed, there has never been a more important time in human history than now. What we do or do not do in this decade will define the future of humans on the planet.
Who will guide AMWN?
An Advisory Panel of experts will guide AMWN making recommendations to the Board of Trustees. In addition, specialist forums will guide sectors such as the Education Forum, the Research Forum, the Recycling Forum, and others.
How will funds be obtained?
Several organizations have offered start-up funding, but fund-raising is necessary and AMWN will need to generate funds. We are currently open to sponsorship, including for the upcoming African Marine Waste Conference.
Who will manage funds?
The Board of Trustees of Sustainable Seas Trust has the legal and fiduciary responsibilities for the trust and its projects. The Advisory Board will advise the trustees and make recommendations.