One of the main objectives of the Ocean Governance project’s Networks Twinning is to facilitate the exchange of knowledge and experiences among marine protected area (MPA) manager networks in different regions of the world. Learning exchanges have the effect of increasing the capacity of people working in and with the networks and thus promote more effective management.

To this end, the Ocean Governance project held a learning exchange for two MPA manager networks that deal with MPAs in Africa: the Mediterranean Protected Areas Network (MedPAN) and the Regional Network of Marine Protected Areas in West Africa (RAMPAO). MedPAN comprises member organisations and partners from 21 countries in the Mediterranean, while RAMPAO brings together MPA managers from 9 member countries in West Africa. The secretariat staff and board members of both networks are also predominantly French-speaking, which facilitated the exchange.

Following the project’s Global Conference, the two networks convened in Tarragona, Spain, on 23-24 September 2023 for a comprehensive two-day exchange. The discussions centered on how the networks are structured, operated, tackle challenges, manage communications and acquire funding. The networks also explored avenues for potential future collaboration.

Participants discussed the role of the networks, prioritising technical exchanges to support MPA management over political strategising. Participants from both networks mentioned the need to engage local communities in successful MPA management. They also explored their differences, including the duration of governance mandates and the composure of decision-making bodies. And they highlighted the importance of regular and effective communication between the Secretariat and the Board of Directors. Both MedPAN and RAMPAO agreed on the importance of having a strategic plan, validated by a general assembly, along with yearly action plans, for coherent and efficient operation.

In discussing communication methods – and context and budget constraints – participants highlighted the dynamic nature of social media for effective communication. The two networks agreed to work together in the future on certain communication elements, such as webinars and manager toolkits.

The networks shared and compared their capacity-building approaches, including thematic task forces, training guides, exchange visits, webinars and annual workshops. They expressed a commitment to collaborate further through joint webinars and capacity-building initiatives. And MedPAN and RAMPAO discovered that they face similar challenges related to sustainable financing and equitable distribution of funds among MPAs within the networks. This led to discussions on collaborative approaches, exploring trust funds and engaging the private sector as strategies to secure sustainable financing.

The learning exchange set the stage for strengthened collaboration and mutual learning between the MedPAN and RAMPAO networks. Their dialogue not only enhances their individual capacities but also sets a precedent for collective action in their network activities. In order to formalise their commitment to continue working together, the participants plan to develop a joint statement or declaration to this effect.