Government ministers from across Africa and experts from around the world are gathering this week in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, for the African Ministerial Summit on Biodiversity. The meeting on November 13, which focuses on biodiversity conservation, land and ecosystem restoration in Africa, marks the opening of the United Nations Biodiversity Conference 2018.
The conference, expected to lay the groundwork for action over the next few decades to protect biodiversity, and build momentum for a “new deal for nature” and people, includes the fourteenth meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP14) to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), and ends November 29.
A High-Level Segment will run from November 14-15, and in parallel, a Business and Biodiversity Forum. The conference brings together ministers of environment, business leaders, as well as representatives of national and international organizations, local authorities and subnational governments, the private sector, indigenous peoples, and local communities.
Together, these critical gatherings are drawing global attention to the ongoing, global biodiversity crisis. Biodiversity and ecosystems services play vital roles in supporting human well-being, economic activities, and social priorities, but despite decades of conservation efforts the trends grow more worrisome each year.
In particular, many ecosystems in Africa are facing severe degradation, leading to the decline or loss in biodiversity, and the impairment or disruption of ecosystem functions and services. This is threatening Africa’s ability to realise key sustainable development goals. Land and ecosystem degradation affect human livelihoods, the cultural identity and traditional knowledge of communities, and the productive capacity of African economies.
Since its inception, the Global Environment Facility (GEF) has supported African countries’ efforts to protect their incredible biological riches in line with their commitments to the Convention on Biological Diversity (see new GEF publication: 27 Years of Biodiversity in Africa). GEF’s investments have produced significant results. To date, the GEF has built a robust portfolio of 380 biodiversity conservation projects in Africa, for a total value of $1.2 billion while also leveraging $7 billion in financing from other sources (see new GEF-7 Biodiversity Strategy).
GEF investments range from supporting protected areas to mainstreaming biodiversity into productive sectors like agriculture, fisheries, forestry and tourism. Nevertheless, African countries (as well as many others across the continent) are losing biodiversity at alarming rates. Like others elsewhere in the world, many African countries are not on track to reach many of the 2020 Aichi Targets, the 20 time-bound, measurable targets to be met by the year 2020.
Reversing these trends will require new approaches that address the drivers of degradation beyond just focusing on protected areas, important as such efforts are. It is necessary to address the externalities of production systems, particularly agriculture and land use, in ways that promote massive restoration of degraded lands back into production.
Developing policies and projects to address threats such as habitat conversion, urban expansion, unsustainable land and forest management, poaching and the illegal wildlife trade, and climate change will be high on the agenda of the African Summit as well as COP14.
To make the necessary shift, relevant decision-makers need to better understand the importance of biodiversity to human well-being and sustainable development and to improve its overall conservation and management. Government policies and business practices need to adopt measures and approaches that recognize the value of biodiversity for economic and social prosperity. A central means to achieving this shift is to take actions to mainstream and integrate biodiversity in relevant economic sectors, as well as in cross-cutting national policies, such as development plans and processes, budgets, and economic policies.
The UN Biodiversity Conference, convened in collaboration with the Government of Egypt, will address the theme "Investing in Biodiversity for People and Planet." Main topics up for discussion will include achieving the globally agreed Aichi Biodiversity Targets, mainstreaming biodiversity issues and the beginning of two years of negotiation of the post-2020 global biodiversity framework, scheduled for final agreement at CBD COP15 in China in 2020.
The High-Level Segment of the conference is expected to include some 80 ministers of environment, infrastructure, energy, industry, and other sectors. The Global Environment Facility will organize a series side events, participate in the official meetings, and also present the biennial report on its actions as the financial mechanism of the CBD.
The GEF’s CEO and Chairperson, Naoko Ishii, spoke during the opening sessions of the Africa Summit, and the COP14 High-Level Segment, as well as the Business and Biodiversity Forum. The complete text of the CEO's speech can be found here.