Participation from a wide range of countries and organizations, in addition to a diverse set of perspectives, marked forward strides for BIOPAMA in two recent workshops held in the Pacific and West Africa. To underline BIOPAMA’s importance to the regions, high level representatives from the European Union, which funds BIOPAMA, and other key stakeholders, such as the ACP (Africa, Caribbean and Pacific countries) Secretariat, attended the meetings, marking the Programme’s regional launch.
In the Pacific, more than 60 participants from 14 countries gathered in Lami, Fiji for a three day meeting that included government representatives from Environment, Fisheries, Land Resource Development and Spatial Planning departments of different Pacific Island Countries, as well as representatives of Pacific regional organizations. The delegation of the European Union for the Pacific opened the workshop with a passionate speech underlining the unique biodiversity assets of the region as well as the opportunities that could be gained by closer regional collaboration on common conservation targets.
During the sessions, participants emphasized the fact that only a comparatively small number of formally protected areas exist in the Pacific Island region and most do not possess the resources to employ protected area managers or rangers. Results of a regional capacity-development needs assessment revealed that countries like Samoa, Fiji, Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands have built on traditional sea and land tenure systems and established national networks of locally managed marine areas (LMMAs). The resulting management regimes are locally adapted, highly diverse and often not formally acknowledged by national governments.
The workshop provided the opportunity to gather the diverse set of organizations, communities and projects currently active in the Pacific in one place to share experiences and find synergies which BIOPAMA will help inform and promote. The Indigenous and Community-Conserved Areas (ICCA) registry presented its work, joining the University of the South Pacific, SPREP (Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme), University of Papua New Guinea and a number of NGOs which have been supporting national governments to develop capacity for sustainable natural resource management on the community level.
In the final day-long action planning exercise participants outlined key regional priorities to be considered in designing and implementing a regional capacity development programme and key institutions that could be involved in its implementation. They also proposed objectives for the work of the Regional Observatory and made recommendations for the design and implementation of a regional reference information system. “The character of the Pacific Island region has led to a range of unique solutions concerning sustainable natural resource management,” said Taholo Kami, Regional Director of IUCN Oceania, in his closing speech. “We expect that BIOPAMA, by supporting increased knowledge exchange and effective use of existing traditional and scientific knowledge, will contribute to promoting and consolidating these solutions.”
In Dakar, Senegal, 61 representatives from Western and Central Africa participated in the region’s first BIOPAMA workshop. The wide range of perspectives at the gathering came from protected area field managers, protected areas agencies, universities and academic institutions, and regional institutions such as RAPAC (Central Africa Protected Areas Network).
Participants stressed the need to use BIOPAMA to help increase the attention and commitment of decision makers to effectively address the biodiversity crisis that is affecting many countries in the region. Organized crime was particularly noted, as its groups and syndicates are increasingly involved in illegal poaching that can lead to extinction of important West African species.
IUCN was also urged by the participants to play a more active and critical role in raising awareness of this issue with national governments and the international community. A number of targeted recommendations were proposed on how to use the Regional Observatory that will be established by BIOPAMA as a tool to address this crisis. Recommendations on capacity development to enhance protected areas management were also put forward.
With this progress, IUCN will extend its work with key stakeholders in the two regions to expand BIOPAMA through continued collaboration on the ground and throughout the IUCN network, and implementation of meetings’ leading recommendations.