Johannesburg, South Africa. A regional meeting hosted by the SADC Secretariat (Southern Africa Development Community) developed the framework for the first best practice guidelines aiming to facilitate biodiversity conservation during the exploitation of mineral and hydrocarbon resources in the SADC Region. The workshop was convened in collaboration with the EU-funded Biodiversity and Protected Areas Management (BIOPAMA) Programme and the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) Pan-African Protected Areas Conservation Programme, in Johannesburg, South Africa, from 2-4 September 2014.
13 SADC Member States, representatives of the private sector, and conservation NGOs took part in the discussions on how to reconcile the development objectives of mineral and hydrocarbon exploitation with protection and sustainable use of biodiversity in the SADC region.
The SADC Region is endowed with an abundance of mineral and hydrocarbon resources that have significantly contributed to the economic development of many countries in the region. These resources represent a promising prospect of substantial economic growth in the future, following the discovery of a number of large deposits and reserves of various minerals, metals, oil, and gas in the region. Mineral resource rich areas also support extraordinary biodiversity that plays a critical role in promoting national economic growth directly through tourism and employment and indirectly through ecosystem services that sustain development and support livelihoods.
The three-day discussions resulted in the elaboration of a framework for Regional Best Practice Guidelines for the Exploitation of Mineral and Hydrocarbon Resources in the SADC Region, as part of the implementation of the SADC Regional Biodiversity Action Plan. This will be the first guideline at the regional level that aims to facilitate the strategic and operational mainstreaming of biodiversity considerations into the development of the extractive industries in the region. The guidelines will help governments, the extractive industry sector, and civil society to identify opportunities and needs for biodiversity conservation during planning, exploitation, and closure of extractive operations.
The development of the regional guidelines is in line with the key action to “Develop guidelines on the exploitation of natural resources such as minerals in reserves or protected areas” defined in the SADC Biodiversity Action Plan approved by Ministers responsible for Environment and Natural Resources in October 2013. The collaboration with the SADC Secretariat to host and facilitate this regional meeting is directly in line with the goals of the BIOPAMA programme in Eastern and Southern Africa that focuses on supporting cross-sectoral engagement for integrated sustainable planning with sectors and stakeholders active at the interface of protected areas.
The outcomes of this meeting will feed into the agenda of the next meeting of SADC Ministers responsible for Environment and Natural Resources, the upcoming African Ministerial Conference on Environment (dates to be confirmed) and the IUCN World Parks Congress 2014 (Sydney, Australia, 12-19 November 2014), to demonstrate the need to prioritize working with the extractive industries sector in relation to biodiversity conservation.