International Conventions: hearings


31 August 2000
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Meeting Summary

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Meeting report

This Report is a Contact Natural Resource Information Service
Taking Parliament to People, and People to Parliament


The aim of this report is to summarise the main events at the meeting and identify the key role players. This report is not a verbatim transcript of proceedings.


31 August 2000

Note: Documents and presentation notes are available on the Contact WebSite ( in the documents section!

Documents handed out (
1. International Environmental Conventions, Commissions and Agreements - Working Group Clusters
2. Information on Marine and Coastal Conventions and Agreements to which South Africa is Party
3. Information on Antarctic Treaties, Conventions and Agreements to which South Africa is Party
4. Tourism: International Co-operation and Agreements


The meeting began with a discussion of the working groups and their composition. It then moved into the international conventions relating to Marine and Coastal Management, including:
United Nations Law of the Sea Convention (UNCLOS)
Nairobi and Abidjan Conventions
Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLER)
This section was presented by Mr Horst Kleinschmidt, Mr Denzil Miller and Mr Andre Share. The hearings then moved on to a discussion of Antarctica and Islands, primarily the Antarctic Treaty, presented by Mr Richard Skinner. Following discussion the Committee heard presentations on the World Heritage Convention (presented by Dr Tsengwa), The World Meteorological Organisation (Mr Gerhard Schulze) and the World Tourism Organisation (Mr Patrick Matlou).

The Director General of the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism began the meeting by presenting the work of the department following on from the previous days meeting. The department, at the request of the committee, had grouped the various conventions and agreements into five clusters, which were presented to the Portfolio Committee. The clusters would be used as the basic structures around which to develop the working groups with members of the Department, members of the Portfolio Committee, NGO representatives, and representatives from universities and other government departments.

The five basic clusters were:
Sustainable Development
Marine and Coastal
Tourism and Cultural Heritage
Atmospheric Protection, Weather, Chemicals and Waste.

The Portfolio Committee accepted the basic structure, however Cultural Heritage issues were shifted to the Tourism cluster after some debate.

Mr Kleinschmidt (Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism) then proceeded to brief the committee on the various marine and coastal Conventions to which South Africa is a party. Before proceeding with a more detailed briefing relating to specific conventions, he Mr Kleinschmidt made a few general comments.

He noted that in many of the conventions, there was a dominance of northern hemisphere interests. In addition, the lack of participation by Southern Hemisphere and developing countries further favoured the northern hemisphere countries. As fish were not constrained by political boundaries, and their movement carried them beyond borders which any individual country maintained control, the conventions were used as mechanisms to control fisheries issues internationally. Entering into agreements lead to many legal obligations which South Africa would therefore need to comply with. Therefore South Africa should balance the economic, social and environmental issues in deciding on conventions, and should not just spend time attending the multitude of meetings. However, once a convention had been identified as being important for South Africa, the regular attendance and participation at meetings was important. His final general comment was that these conventions involved numerous role players, and the relationships with the various countries was managed by both the Marine and Coastal Management directorate within Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism, and the Department of Foreign affairs.

Mr Kleinschmidt proceeded to go through his presentation on the various conventions. After his presentation, he was asked a variety of questions by MP's.

Ms Semple (DP) asked how Krill was used, and for a definition of straddling stock. Dr Miller (Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism) replied that Krill was a high protein resource. The use of the resource would grow in the future. There was a high degree of scrutiny internationally on the harvesting of krill, as there were concerns with respect to the ecological implications of harvesting. A feasibility study of potential krill harvesting in South Africa was currently being undertaken. Straddling stock was a term used to describe a fishery in which the species moved across political boundaries or economic zones. In the New York agreement, straddling stock moved across Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ's) and high seas borders.

The Chair, Ms Mahlangu (ANC) asked for clarity on the difference between the various Tuna conventions, and the benefits of South Africa for the conventions. Further, she noted that presentation indicated that the Abidjan & Nairobi Conventions (AN) would benefit Africa, and asked why the convention had not been accepted by South Africa.

Dr Miller replied that the three Tuna conventions dealt with specific regions or species (i.e. Atlantic region, Indian Ocean region and the Blue fin Tuna species). Therefore the conventions did not overlap, even though they were trying to achieve the same broad goal. However, the Department believed that there was a good case to be made for rationalizing the conventions into a single agreement.

Mr Kleinschmidt replied that South Africa had only recently become involved in the AN conventions, and would be looking at the importance of the conventions with respect to its African focus and contribution to the African Renaissance. The Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism was concerned that it could possibly lead to many meetings and talk shops with little implementing affects.

Ms Nqodi (ANC) noted that on the previous day the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism had advocated for support of the ban on whaling. However, in the presentation they were advocating support for the harvesting of krill, which was an important source of food for whales. She asked whether this was not a contradiction.

Dr Miller noted that both positions of the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism were based on sustainable utilisation of the resource. In the case of whales, it was felt that the utilisation would not be sustainable. However, given the large quantities of krill, it would be possible to sustainably harvest the resource while maintaining a sustainable ecosystem which would include sufficient food for whales.

Ms Chalmers (ANC) asked on the solidarity amongst southern hemisphere countries, in particular with respect to the Beldivia group. She asked whether this solidarity could be strengthened, noting the importance with respect to the exploitation of resources by northern hemisphere countries.

Dr Miller replied that Beldivia group was formed with respect to geographical similarities and the closeness to the Antarctica. The group consisted of South Africa, Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, Australia and New Zealand. The group was established to try and build some co-ordinated view and response on environmental issues. The focus of the group at present had been on desertification, and not on marine resources.

Mr Swart (ACDP), with reference to the UN Law of the Sea Convention (LOSC), noted that an international tribunal had recently made a ruling with respect to contraventions by Japan. He asked whether this was relevant, given that South Africa did not have the capacity to police it's vast sea area. Secondly, he asked for information on the status of the outstanding South African claim dealing with the continental shelf? Lastly, he asked for more information with regard to the provisions in the LOSC for providing landlocked states with access to the EEZ for development purposes, with particular reference to SADC protocols.

Mr September (ANC) noting the vast area and lack of capacity, stated that the policing would need to rely on international agreements and the co-operation with countries such as Japan and Australia.

Dr Miller replied that the policing of our marine areas should be separated from issues relating to conventions. However, he acknowledged that no law would be of any use if there were no compliance mechanisMs While the South Africa navy does not have the capacity required, there was some capacity which should be deployed where it would make the most economic sense. In terms of the LOSC, foreign access to our EEZ is determined by South Africa deciding what access can be had by foreign fleets, and how much can be caught. Given the demand by South African companies, it was not really possible to provide foreign fleets with access to South Africa. In terms of the provision requiring countries to provide landlocked developing country neighbours to resources within the EEZ for development purposes, there were two conditions. South Africa would decide on whether there was a surplus over and above that used by South Africa, and for which resources. However the LOSC was not clear on whether a developing country had to provide assistance to other developing countries.

With regard to the LOSC judicial inquiry into Japan fishing commercially within a total allowable catch for Blue fin Tuna allocated for scientific research, the ruling had recently been overruled by an arbitrator. The reasons given were that all the parties concerned (Australia and Japan) were parties to a regional treaty which should handle the issue, and therefore the international tribunal did not have jurisdiction on the issue.

With regard to the Continental shelf claim, the claim would extend South Africa control of the sea bed and things attached to it (i.e. minerals) to almost double that covered by the EEZ. South Africa ratified the LOSC in 1997, and had ten years in which to finalise clai
Ms The navy, Department of Minerals and Energy, and Department of Foreign Affairs was aware of the issue and was working on it.

With regard to policing, Dr Miller noted that there were two issues. The first related to illegal fishing practices, while the second dealt with trade restrictions. In the case of the second, there were specific agreements that dealt with some species such as the Patagonian Tooth Fish, while other species would be covered by more general treaties.

Mr September (ANC) noted that there had been recent examples in Cape Town of ships with polluting the coast. He asked whether their was provision for a tribunal on pollution related issues.

Dr Miller replied that the LOSC did make provision for a tribunal on pollution. However, the provision had not been fully developed.

Mr Kleinschmidt responded to a query on fishing agreements with countries, in particular the European Union. He noted that while the overarching trade agreement did make provision for a trade agreement on fishing due by the end of the year, no such agreements had been entered into, and no discussions were currently taking place. Given the demand by South African companies for access to fishing resources, it would very difficult to accommodate foreign fleets. This position was supported by all those in the South Africa fishing industry.

Mr Grove (ANC) commented that meeting was trying to rationalize international agreements. He therefore referred to a submission by Professor Butterworth, in which it was recommended that CITES be extended to cover many of the fisheries related agreements. Mr Grove noted that this would need international agreement, but suggested it would aid in rationalizing agreements.

Dr Miller replied that the rationalization of agreements was at the center of the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism suggestion that the tuna conventions, for example, get collapsed into a single agreement. The LOSC acts as a broad overarching convention, similar in principle to a constitution. However, specific areas still require further laws, which was what regional convention attempt to do. He noted that it was an ongoing issue that needed more thought.

Ms Ramatsomai (ANC) noted that South Africa had adopted the 1996 Protocol for the London Convention, however the convention was not yet in force. She requested an explanation. Dr Miller replied that the number of nations that were required to sign the convention had not yet been met to bring the convention into force. Many nations did not have the necessary national legislation, while other nations believed the convention was not in their interests to ratify.

Mr Burgerner (TRAFFIC), in response to the discussions on the lack of capacity to police fisheries resources in the EEZ, asked what options were being explored. He queried whether there was a recognition, in other departments and at a cabinet level, of the vital importance for this issue to be addressed, as it could be costing South Africa millions of Rands. He suggested whether departments like Safety and Security could be added to the Committee for the Environment. Further, Mr Burgerner noted with respect to the AN conventions and SADC protocols, whether there was potential for conflict with other conventions which benefited northern hemisphere countries. Finally, he asked whether the department regarded CITES as a potential monitoring tool.

A representative from the Department of Foreign Affairs noted that one of the key components of the LOSC was issues relating to the deep sea bed. Initially, African members had approached South Africa to become a member of the Convention in order to influence decisions on the deep sea bed, in particular with respect to Minerals. African mining interests were predominantly land based, and could face competition if extensive sea based operations were started.

With respect to the Beldivia group, he noted that it was not as important an structure as it was hoped it would be. The assumption was that most southern hemisphere countries would have things in common. However no spontaneous co-operation had been experienced within the group so far, and the Department of foreign affairs would welcome any suggestions on how to get the magic to bind the members together.

The Director General for the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism commented on the issue of policing security, commenting that the challenges were beyond the capacity of the department. He stated that high level discussions were going on between the various security institutions in South Africa. The new fishing policy which the minister had released earlier would need to be backed up by force.

On the African Renaissance, the Director General noted that Africa was unique in that it was surrounded by two oceans and two seas. With respect to Marine and coastal issues, there were potentially different needs and strategies that could be followed with respect to the different regions within Africa, such as the SADC, or the Mediterranean grouping. Therefore there were strategic questions that needed to be asked with respect to a best way forward in terms of advancing Africa's interests.

Ms Mahlangu (Chair, ANC) noted that the issue was strategic, and South Africa must not rush into things and pay lip service to agreements. More time should be given to access the best strategic way forward.

Dr Miller responded by noting that there were two views on the potential role of CITES. The first believed that marine issues needed to be controlled and managed by marine based agreements and specialists. The other view believed that species control and management was capable of being handled by CITES.

Mr Grove (ANC) suggested that while there may be differences with respect to sea and land based animals, the principles of sustainable use was a common unifying force, which would be attended to through CITES.

Mr Burgerner (TRAFFIC) noted that there had been guidelines issued by the WTO on regulating trade in marine species. TRAFFIC believed that CITES could be a valuable tool with respect to managing some marine species, but not necessarily all. However, CITES has the advantage of having nearly all countries a party to it. Therefore if a species was controlled by CITES, countries would be bound by the decision.

Dr Miller noted that the debate was ongoing. There was some concern with regard to CITES that the debate over utilising a marine species may become an emotional issues, rather than being based on scientific principles.

Antarctic Treaty, Mr Richard Skinner
The Antarctic Treaty deals with the territory south of the 60th parallel. It has been extended in spirit to around the 45th parallel.

Ms Nqodi (ANC) stated her support for this program and asked if the program was inclusive of previously disadvantaged communities (as well as geographically disadvantaged communities).

The DG stated that the DEAT will provide the committee with more detailed information on the demographics, but that significant headway has been made in this program since the transformation program began.

Mr Grove (ANC) stated that to him it seemed like the members agreed that this program offered SA a unique opportunity for scientific advance yet there is not nearly enough support, financially or logistically. The importance of this program cannot be understated as our geographical position means that our early warning systems are located in this area. Mr Grove also noted that the DEAT should be looking for partnerships to increase the levels of funding.

The DG stated that the agentization of the program will enable the establishment of new strategic partnerships.

Mr September (ANC) raised the issue of mining in the southern oceans - what safeguards are in place to prevent environmental degradation in this important area.

Dr Miller answered that the Madrid Protocol (of which SA is a signatory) puts a moratorium on mining in the southern oceans for a period of 50 years. The test, said Dr Miller is if oil or another strategic mineral is found in the area. The Madrid Protocol may not be enough - we need to be especially careful because the climate in that area makes it especially vulnerable to environmental hazards. It is especially important for SA to be pursuing the matter because we are usually the first to respond to any accidents.

Ms Mbuyazi (IFP) asked if we are meeting our obligations in the convention.

Ms M. Verwoerd (ANC) stated that it is important that it is clear who is accountable for accidents and clean up in the area.

Dr Miller stated that in terms of emergency responses there are a number of international agreements that deal with liability in the case of environmental accidents in international waters/territory. It will be interesting to see how these treaties will be applied in the case of Antarctica which is not a sovereign nation. Most likely it will depend on the policies of the individual nations involved.

World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) Mr Gerhard Shulze, Director, South African Weather Bureau
The WMO is designed to promote international cooperation between countries with respect to data and forecasting. Weather knows no boundaries so accurate weather services will depend on international cooperation. The convention, according to Mr Shulze, requires SA to monitor the weather well of the coasts for the Civil Aviation Authorities and the SOLAS Treaty (Safety of Lives at Sea). The organisation is of tremendous importance to SA as it coordinates the responsibilities and information dissemination that is critical in the accurate forecasting of weather.

Mr S Grove (ANC) asked that in our obligations to the CAA and to SOLAS, is it possible to sell the information or is it provided for free.

Mr Shulze responded that for standard information it is free but for added services it is up to the nation to decide.

Mr Hendrickse (ANC) asked what the consequences were of South Africa's 21 year suspension during the apartheid years.

Mr Shulze answered that it did affect the SA Weather Bureau significantly but that there was an informal exchange of information that took place.

Ms Ramatsomai (ANC) asked whether the country was really benefiting from the early warning systems set up by the WMO as evidenced by the problems associated with the floods in the North (as an example).

Ms Semple (DP) asked if the Weather Service uses the same instruments in its research as in its forecasts.

Ms Chalmers (ANC) asked if there was any commercial value in the weather modification systems being developed in SA.

Mr Shulze answered that the disaster warning system is quite effective; the Mozambique cyclone was predicted as far away as Australia but the infrastructure was not capable of informing and moving people in time. The same instruments are used to forecast and research, the difference being that for climate research much more diverse data is needed. In terms of weather modification systems SA is the leader in the development of 'cloud seeding' technology which can increase rainfall by up to 30%. The commercial value of this is yet to be seen or developed.

Ms Nqodi (ANC) asked what consultation is done with indigenous weather forecasters.

The DG answered that that is something the Service needs to look at as it moves through the agentization process. One of the Service's goals is to be a service that represents all South Africans. While the Service has taken a mostly scientific approach to forecasting, it would definitely be something to look into.

Ms Vervwoerd (ANC) stated that it might be helpful if research were undertaken to gauge the effectiveness of such methods, especially in the light of the success of natural medicines in that field.

World Heritage Convention (WHC), Dr Tsengwa
Presentation can be found at (in the documents section)

The WHC was adopted by the UN in 1972 and is seen as a legal instrument to protect key sites on the planet. SA signed on in 1997 and since then we have had three sites approved (St. Lucia Wetlands, Robben Island, and the Sterkfontein Caves) and two more under consideration. Currently SA contributes R435,000 as dues.

Ms Semple (DP) commented that in her observation from the briefing document, SA is not playing a large enough role. She also wanted to know what the timeframe was like for the sites under consideration to be approved.

Mr Hendrickse (ANC) noted that SA seems to be underrepresented on the committee and in terms of sites. What is being done about this?

Mr Grove (ANC) asked what is the relation between DEAT, Parks and SATOUR in terms of job creation in the industry.

The DG noted that most of the work in the cultural area is done by the Department of Arts, Culture and Technology but the relation between tourism and conservation is overseen by DEAT.

Dr Tsengwa stated that the financial assistance received from the WHC is not once off - you can apply for as many sites as you wish - they simply need to be approved by the WHC. In terms of the timeline for the remaining sites, a business plan should be completed by mid October. SA's contribution to the convention is less than it could or should be because of a lack of human and financial resources.

Mr Fabio Todeschini from the University of Cape Town made the comment that it is time that SA move from its dual definition of heritage as either 'nature' or 'culture' and realize the interconnectedness of the two in the making of heritage. The new term is 'cultural landscapes' and it sees heritage sites as a dynamic between the natural and the cultural. What distinguishes African experiences from Northern experiences is that the North tends to take a more holistic approach, while the South tends to be slightly out of sync with international trends.

Presentation On Tourism
Presenter: Dr Patrick Matlou, Deputy Director - General: Tourism


Dr Matlou began his speech by breaking down South African representation in international conventions into three categories; the World Tourism Organization (WTO), The Indian Ocean Tourism Organization (IOTO) and The Regional Tourism Organization for Southern Africa (RETOSA). (The activities of these organizations are described in more detail beginning on page two of Dr Matlou's presentation.) Dr Matlou was presenting to the Portfolio Committee, in part, to encourage South Africa's participation in The Commission for Africa, which meets once a year. The conference, which took place in July 2000 focused on the evaluation of marketing trends in Africa. The Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism (DEAT) did not attend.
DEAT is also concerned about the international agreements that have been signed in the past, primarily imposed by the Department of Foreign Affairs. DEAT does not feel it has the capacity or resources to adhere to these agreements and therefore is analysing the benefits of these agreements. DEAT may request their termination at a later stage. In the meantime,
Dr Matlou announced that DEAT is going to be revaluating their memberships with international organizations to ensure that their involvement is as effective and strategic as possible.

Ms Ramotsamai (ANC) asked for Dr Matlou to expand on the lack of effectiveness of these international agreements which were imposed by the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA). She also asked why SATOUR had not been mentioned in his presentation.

Dr Matlou clarified that SATOUR markets South Africa individually. RETOSA markets Southern Africa as a region. He asserts that each member country, of which there are 14, is well represented. In regards to the DFA, most agreements do emanate from that Department. DEAT is merely suggesting that efforts be made to make to maximize the benefits of these agreements.

Mr Grove (ANC) asked for clarification on the WTO and RETOSA membership dues at the back of the presentation.

Dr Matlou apologized for the misprint. The fees are US$59,230 (RETOSA) and US$43,902 (WTO).

Ms Mbuyazi (IFP) inquired about the repercussions of countries that do not pay their membership dues.

Dr Matlou says that this problem is being discussed. If dues are not paid those countries loose their voting rights.

Ms Nqodi (ANC) commented that the majority of South Africans are very poor. She wanted to know on what basis is it assumed that these memberships give South Africa value for money.

Dr Matlou informed everyone that the fees come out of the Tourism branch budget. He commented that South Africa is one of the more developed nations involved. The most important goal behind South Africa's involvement is to improve the poor image the country has among prospective tourists. Dr Matlou believes that RETOSA will have a significant role to play in making South Africa a popular tourist destination.

Ms Mahlangu (Chairperson) ended the meeting by saying how positive she felt the last two days had been. Although the focus of prioritizing international conventions was not entirely addressed over two days, Ms Mahlangu said it would be revisited at a later stage. She commented on how the gathering of all of the players into one meeting set an example for how successful contributions can be for developing legislation. She thanked Contact for being responsible for getting the word out to NGO's and for encouraging them to present. She said that she believes that the past two days will improve the relationship between the Committee and the Department and concluded by saying how proud she was of the work that was accomplished.
Although the focus of prioritizing international conventions was not intirely addressed it would be at a later stage.

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