A recent major African conference on biodiversity information for sustainable development highlights key messages of relevance to the protected areas observatories for Eastern and Southern Africa: mobilizing more decision-making and policy- relevant data; having full visibility of the value chain of biodiversity; adopting an inclusive approach towards other sectors that have an impact on biodiversity; and promoting collaborations to maximize the available resources.
The Biodiversity and Protected Areas Management (BIOPAMA) Programme participated at the Africa Rising: Mobilizing Biodiversity Data for Sustainable Development Conference held from 19 – 22 May 2015. Over 100 delegates from national agencies, international organizations and research institutions representing data managers, scientists, researchers and policymakers from Africa and beyond, as well as representatives of civil society, international organizations, UN agencies and private foundations, converged in Cape Town, South Africa, to attend the conference. BIOPAMA was represented by its technical advisor for Eastern and Southern Africa, Selwyn Willoughby (IUCN), and Andrew Cottam, from the Joint Research Centre of the European Commission (JRC).
Highlighted in several sessions, BIOPAMA showcased its lessons learnt in information sharing and effective management of information systems, and its resources and tools for mobilizing biodiversity data. The Regional Reference Information System, developed by IUCN and JRC under BIOPAMA, is a significant regional resource with an existing information system platform, content and networks that supports the building of effective biodiversity networks and data collection in Africa. Other BIOPAMA resources including training and outreach, institutional support as well as operational support were also presented at the event.
With this occasion, the European Union and the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF) have launched a four-year €3.9 million project aimed at increasing the amount of biodiversity information available for developing countries, Biodiversity Information for Development (BID) which will focus on enhancing capacity and mobilizing data from countries in Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific.
The content and geographical scope of the BID project compliments the BIOPAMA investment. Data mobilized through the BID project can be made available through the regional observatories and specific data needs identified in BIOPAMA could be filled through grants from the BID project. Furthermore it underscores the need to forged close collaboration between the initiatives to ensure the BIOPAMA investment in infrastructure and capacity building is harnessed to catapult the BID related projects.
The event coincided with the International Day of Biodiversity (22 May) and resulted in the Declaration on biodiversity information for sustainable development in Africa, a joint statement of intent developed by the conference participants.
The Africa Rising Conference had four important takeaway messages which are of relevance to BIOPAMA and they are expressed as needs to:
1. have full visibility of the value chain of biodiversity, from collection to use, aiming at success in effecting the desired change;
2. mobilize more decision-making and policy relevant data;
3. be inclusive, working with all sectors that have an impact on biodiversity; and
4. work in closer collaboration as means to maximize our available resources.
Africa Rising was organized and hosted by the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) with support from Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF), the JRS Biodiversity Foundation, RESILIM: USAID Resilience in the Limpopo Basin, and the United Nations Environment Programme – World Conservation Monitoring Centre (UNEP-WCMC).