Comments on BIOPAMA's inception
Voices from participants to the inception workshop, representing the various project partners:
Pedro Rosabal Gonzalez, Senior Programme Manager IUCN Global Protected Areas Programme (GPAP)
1. There are already many initiatives for capacity building in protected areas. What is new about BIOPAMA?
There are indeed a number of initiatives for capacity building which are indirectly linked to protected areas, such as those about how to improve implementation of the CBD Programme of Work on Protected Areas or those dealing with the implementation of the UNESCO’s World Heritage Convention; however these initiatives are not directly addressing the needs of protected areas agencies and managers to do a better job. BIOPAMA will try to change this situation by addressing capacity building needs of people, institutions and regional networks directly involved in protected areas management. This may not be new but makes BIOPAMA a unique initiative. The fact that BIOPAMA will promote synergies and join actions between IUCN, JRC and GIZ is also a new feature in the conception of this programme.
GPAP, supported by the IUCN Regional Programme for Europe, played a key role in the negotiation of this programme. This process took over 3 years of work and interactions mainly with the EC, the ACP Secretariat, JRC and GIZ. During this process GPAP coordinated the input from 4 IUCN Regional Programmes and two commissions, SSC and WCPA, which was essential for project design. During BIOPAMA’s implementation GPAP will play a key role in the coordination of activities within IUCN and with the programme partners to ensure its effective implementation and will assist to identify lessons learned to design and promote follow-up actions in ACP countries and worldwide.
Ali Kaka, Regional Director IUCN East and South Africa Office (ESARO)
1. Could you please summarize in a few words the main needs to improve protected area management capacity in your region?
Invasive species stand out as a major issue. They are leading to changes in the whole vegetation profile, thus affecting the biodiversity and equilibrium in the ecosystems. A number of countries are changing their PA laws to address this problem, but PA managers have not been sufficiently prepared to implement that. Another most vital part is the lack of understanding/awareness among decision makers in Africa as a whole on the importance and working of PAs. Capacity in some PAs is very weak – training programmes are often very general, even though PAs are located in different ecosystems. There is a need for more specialized capacity training. Another gap is the fact that many PA managers lack skills on public relations and communications. Availability of information which is relevant, practical and applicable for better management is usually either completely missing or not easily accessible to managers in a convenient manner.
The capacity building component should, if properly structured address most of these aspects if not all. It will depend on what we prioritize according to the budget available. During the regional inception meeting also, we shall receive views from the target stakeholders on which ones need to be given more emphasis to.
Bernard O'Callaghan, Regional Programme Coordinator, IUCN Oceania Regional Office
1. What are principal needs for PA capacity building in Oceania?
There is definitely a very big need for capacity building. A priority must be the development of national protected area systems. This is a challenge because 90% of the land are under customary ownership. There is a need for protected area systems that both conserve biodiversity and meet the needs of local people. We need to find legal mechanisms to recognize community conserved areas and to support community efforts to protect biodiversity. There is a good information set about natural resource management. The cooperation with JRC in the framework of BIOPAMA is an important opportunity to generate a baseline for protected area system planning.
BIOPAMA, through the establishment of effective protected areas, contributes to increased resilience to climate change, both in ecosystems and in human communities. The project will help contribute to our ability to withstand climate change.
José Courrau, Director of Environmental Policy and Management, IUCN Regional Office for Mesoamerica and the Caribbean Initiative (ORMA)
1. What are the biggest challenges in terms of capacity building in the Caribbean?
There are severe issues related to the know-how, in terms of visitor management, stakeholder engagement and law enforcement. We need to strengthen the capacity of communities neighboring protected areas and of government agencies. The meaning of the different protected area categories, in terms of boundaries, land tenure relations, etc., is not clearly defined. Another issue concerns overlapping rules of government institutions – the roles are not always clearly differentiated. As always, funding of course is another major constraint. There is also a need to disseminate the importance of certain wildlife species and promote both their conservation and sustainable use.
The primary need is to narrow down the action needed on sites: since funds are limited, we will need to establish priorities. We will also need to enhance coordination with the project partners. Logistical arrangements need to be initiated – I am primarily thinking about the regional inception workshop. We should develop a baseline concept for data collecting and prepare a work plan for the first year of implementation. We should definitely take advantage of the regional CBD workshop in April and link it to BIOPAMA.
Barbara Lassen, ABS Capacity Development Initiative
1. What are important lessons in ABS in Protected Areas that BIOPAMA can draw from, e.g. in relation to ABS as potential funding mechanisms for PAs?
There are an important number of linkages between ABS and protected areas:
While there are few best-practice cases of ABS agreements in protected areas until now, there are a number of experiences from protected areas that ABS policy-makers and actors can draw from, such as mechanisms for payment for ecosystem services, participatory governance arrangements, and benefit-sharing agreements between local actors. However until now, national frameworks for protected areas and for ABS are mostly being developed separately, which can lead to overlapping or conflicting rules and regulations (for example: which authority is responsible for handing out research and bioprospecting permits in protected areas?). These frameworks have to be harmonized if the full potential of ABS for protected areas is to be realized. The BIOPAMA project can contribute to this by documenting and supporting best practice, and developing the capacity of relevant actors around ABS and protected areas.
There are both challenges and opportunities arising out of the expansion of the Initiative to the new regions. The Initiative has been collaborating with African institutions and groups since 2005, including the African Union, the COMIFAC, trade associations (e.g. PhytoTrade Africa), indigenous networks (IIN and IPACC) among others. In the Caribbean and Pacific, new collaborations and partnerships will have to be developed and first steps of dialogue are well underway for example with CARICOM in the Caribbean, SPREP, SPIC and PIF in the Pacific. But since the Initiative has not had much experience in these regions until now, the BIOPAMA project offers a unique opportunity through collaboration with the IUCN regional offices.
In terms of existing levels of capacity for ABS, there are obviously differences between but also within the regions. Here again, the BIOPAMA project offers an exciting opportunity for south-south exchanges of experiences and expertise. The specific challenges that countries in the three regions will face when developing their ABS frameworks will of course vary, depending for example on the type of governance frameworks, ecosystems etc. in the countries. The realities in the Pacific Islands will obviously be very different from countries in continental Africa.
One area that we will be able to focus on more specifically through the BIOPAMA project is marine bioprospecting and marine genetic resources.
Gregoire Dubois, Joint Research Centre of the European Commission
1. From your point of view, what is the role of information systems/databases in informing protected area management?
Information is at the core of any decision-making process. Knowing and understanding the anthropogenic pressures protected areas are exposed to, the species richness and the uniqueness of the habitats they are hosting, is fundamental for conservation management. However, people working in conservation often struggle to access this fundamental information. One difficulty is having to deal with the large volume and variety of data, ranging from species observations to assessments of ecosystem services or images obtained from remote sensing surveys. Conservation issues are multi-scale and multi-disciplinary and this renders the integration of all information a complex task. If all of the essential information for a protected area does already exist, then another obstacle that is often encountered is the use of different formats and structures to store the information. It is not because information can be retrieved on the Internet, sometimes via rich interactive web based applications, that it can be integrated with other data and further used for decision making. Technical standards for sharing information via the World Wide Web already exist and it is urgent that the key actors involved in conservation activities start using these interoperable infrastructures for sharing information in a more efficient way.
2. How can existing databases be used for BIOPAMA? How will DOPA, the Digital Observatory for Protected Areas, be integrated into the project?
The core objective of BIOPAMA is to improve the capacity for effective protected areas management in the Africa, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) regions and one aspect of the project is to ensure the flow of information between the key actors. Typical data required by BIOPAMA on the terrestrial and marine protected areas are park boundaries, species occurrences, ecological characteristics, provision of ecosystem services, threats assessments, funding sources, management effectiveness and governance, to name only the essential information. Some information is already of good quality, available online and directly reusable, other data sometimes exist in databases but present high uncertainties and/or are not easily retrievable. Clearly, much still needs to be collected from the local experts.
Originally designed for global assessments of protected areas, DOPA is a good example of the kind of challenges and difficulties one encounters when trying to bring together such a large variety of data managed by different institutions. Clearly, the high number of actors in the ACP area in addition to the technical challenges in the collection and exchange of information will be a huge challenge but the main bottlenecks are usually cultural and institutional. The capacity building activities of BIOPAMA will therefore be an essential contribution to the success of the project as it will be fundamental for building bridges and removing the existing barriers. The DOPA is firstly about providing the right information to the right people with the right tools and this is achievable only if there is the adequate knowledge of and good communication between all actors involved.