The IUCN Centre for Mediterranean Cooperation (IUCN-Med) started its engagement with the private sector in 2008 and mainly through the new sub-regional programme for North Africa 2008-2012. The main purpose for this engagement is conciliating the balance between economic growth, social development and environmental threats, as the private sector is a main actor within these elements.

One of the main characteristics of the Mediterranean region is the strong dependence on natural resources and the different socio-economic gaps in the region.

In recent times, foreign and national investment has increased in countries of the region, not always being well catalysed for contributing towards sustainable development. For instance, there is little focus on social engagement and poverty reduction, particularly in the southernmost countries of the region. To ensure that economic policy, finance and markets integrate ecosystem conservation values and livelihood improvement principles, better collaboration with the private sector is necessary.

IUCN members in North Africa have therefore decided to create a strategic discussion platform composed of different stakeholders at the national level (members, associations, keys enterprises) in order to:

  1. Define the key economic sectors and the main and strategic actors for the region
  2. Better catalyse the financial flows through projects with potential added value for the region
  3. Support technical strategic guidance on the key economic sectors of the region, such as agriculture (food security, policy, rural development) and tourism (impacts on biodiversity and community livelihoods).

Intentions to engage and perspectives

Prior to engaging with any specific partners or sectors, IUCN-Med decided to initiate a dialogue with the private sector. In doing so a special emphasis was observed on the energy debate in the region. Several contacts have been made with this sector (e.g. with Repsol, Shell and BG) to understand how their operations could better integrate biodiversity considerations. As for renewable energy, different options have been looked into (solar in North Africa, wind with the association APREAN in Spain…), including the impacts on biodiversity (costs and benefits) as well as access opportunities (which possible transfer?).

Furthermore, IUCN-Med has been contacted by the CEPSA Group in Spain and the programme has encouraged the group to design a global strategy including all the biodiversity aspects in their operations, as well as providing relevant guidance.

Consultation in North African countries has enhanced the potential for private sector partnerships and, during 2009, IUCN-Med will design a special programme for a number of countries in North Africa that ensure a local positive impact on biodiversity, in cooperation with private sector partners.

Future work

In the future, the programme will focus on the three economic sectors of sustainable tourism, aquaculture and sustainable agricultural production, in an effort to add value to the economies of those sectors and propose an alternative market to local populations

IUCN-Med will work with all members to examine the different development options with the private sector within economy-generating markets at the local level, as well as internationally, such as opportunities to develop sustainable tourism – and mainly within protected areas – and building on the “marketing” value of the World Heritage Sites and the conventional tourism they usually attract.

Moreover, business opportunities in the agriculture sector such as cooperation initiatives (joint venture), development/ enhancement of specific economic networks (fair trade, biologic agriculture, etc.) will be examined. Certification issues will be dealt with in the programme framework and disseminated, such as adequate Certification Schemes as a tool to guarantee that all environmental, social and economic requirements are fulfilled and secured in the long-term.