It has been a week since the meeting started and it has been a busy week indeed, with many issues central to South Africa under discussion, writes Hastings Chikoko, Head of IUCN South Africa and Head of Constituency Support and Communications for Eastern and Southern Africa.
While the agenda changed, one thing remained: the power of alliances to influence policy positions. Delegations were openly consulting each other and trying to mobilize others towards their way of thinking.
Anyone who has a grain of doubt that the conservation movement should be driven by collective influence should have been here this week, where it was evident that the conservation challenges that the world is facing cannot be addressed when nations work in isolation.
One of the side events I attended was convened by IUCN Member Birdlife International, which shared the results of a monitoring project of protected areas carried out in 117 sites, across seven African countries. The conclusions were that biodiversity in African protected areas is declining fast. Of course, one would quickly say “I have heard that before”. But did you know that the pressures on biodiversity have been increasing along with the increase in investment in protected areas? So has this investment been put to waste? Where are we going wrong?
Among other things, the meeting noted that the disappointing correlation above could be due to the fact that conservationists tend to deal with problems in isolation. During the meeting, it became apparent that some of the solutions to problems in protected areas lie in sectors outside the conservation domain. One delegate was quick to mention that they could actually come from sectors that deal with livelihood issues such as the labour and employment sectors. What? The Department of Labour attending a biodiversity meeting? Surely not the Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice! Well, well…the choice is yours. Either do it on your own and achieve nothing or work collectively and make a difference.
Delegates challenged the conservation sector to create platforms of engagement with other important sectors. However, one of the IUCN position papers said it loud and clear that “ IUCN strongly encourages inter-sectoral dialogue between protected area managers and economic sectors to reduce existing and emerging conflicts and protect ecosystem health and services.” And believe me, IUCN wrote this before the side event. So lets all give a warm welcome to the Department of Labour and employment creation as they join the 15th Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice!
This week would not have been as exciting as it was if it were not for my experience at the IUCN Passage Pavilion with 20 exhibition booths for IUCN Members and Commissions.
I liked the pavilion not only because of the numerous scientific publications that were on display but because of what the pavilion represents.
Believe me, being a social scientist, I did not even understand what half of the publications were saying. One talked about blue carbon, another about black carbon and yet another about some other colour carbon, almost making me think that the whole rainbow is full of carbon.
What I found most exciting about the pavilion was that it represented the full make-up of IUCN. As I walked through I realized that IUCN is the Environmental Law Institute, Kew Gardens, Nature Kenya, African Wildlife Foundation, East African Wildlife Society, Environment Liaison Centre International, just to mention a few.
One person said to me: “IUCN must be big – all these booths from IUCN? How many offices do you have?” Yes, Sir, when you bring the various strands of IUCN together – its Council, Commissions and Members and Secretariat - IUCN becomes much bigger than the number of offices it has.