"Larger than Elephants" - The European Commission hosted a successful technical expert meeting on a Strategic Approach to Wildlife Conservation in Africa
(at the bottom of this page, you now find all PPT presentations of the event)
On 9 and 10 February 2015, the C2 unit (Environment, Climate Change, Natural Resources) of the Directorate-General for International Cooperation and Development of the European Commission (DEVCO.C2) organised a two-day expert meeting in Brussels to validate a comprehensive technical report of 460 pages providing orientations toward a wildlife conservation strategy in Subsaharan Africa for the next 10 years. The meeting was opened by Deputy Director-General Klaus Rudischhauser and chaired by DEVCO.C2 Head of Unit.
The meeting itself was a great success. The attendance was double than expected, with 140 external experts, showing a strong interest from the conservation community; a large variety of stakeholders: six Member States, five national and three regional institutions from Africa, five UN agencies, eight research institutes, twenty-three NGOs, many individual experts and EU institutions (DEVCO, ENV, GROW, JRC and a large EEAS delegation).
All participants were highly appreciative of this meeting and the Commission leadership in addressing the wildlife crisis in Africa within its new Biodiversity for Life (B4Life) flagship. The participants stressed that this was the most important expert meeting on the topic in 20 years. Such great success is credited to EU's long-term support to biodiversity conservation in Africa.
The first day was dedicated to the presentation of the technical document. The document is the fruit of extensive consultations for more than a year with key stakeholders. It contains very detailed proposals along three main pillars:
¬∑ In-situ management of large key landscapes for conservation including conservation and local development programs)
¬∑ Fight against illegal trafficking (from supply to demand sides) with a strong emphasis on law enforcement
¬∑ Reinforcement of national and regional capacities for management and monitoring
The second day was organised around specific themes illustrated by brief presentations focused on case-studies: (i) sustainable management of biodiversity, (ii) link development-conservation, (iii) monitoring, and (iv) nexus conservation-security. The two last sessions gave the opportunity to explain the plans of other major donors (France, Germany, World Bank, Global Environment Facility) and to African stakeholders to present the way they want to appropriate the strategy.
The quality of listening in the room is a good indicator of-the excellence of the presenters, all with a long experience and strong messages to deliver. The key take-home messages that were delivered illustrated the role of conservation policies to other sectors:
¬∑ In fragile states, the protected areas provide a territorial sanctuary from which the civil security can initiate and grow. Thirty years ago, the North of Central African Republic was a paradise for population and wildlife. Chadian and Sudanese rebels arrived in the late 80ies to get revenue from poaching. They started by successively eradicating rhinos, elephants, big game and small game. Nowadays the same armed groups have caused the current chaos and civil war since the other sources of revenue were exhausted.
¬∑ The economic development of local communities is the best way to reduce the pressure on biodiversity and maintain the integrity of ecosystems services provided by natural ecosystems. Energy and rural development are very complementary to conservation. Sustainable use of wildlife is also a very important component of food security for rural population (bushmeat).
¬∑ Law enforcement in supply, traffic and demand sides are very complementary to the in-situ activities and need a concerted approach between police, justice and customs services, with the support of international agencies and local NGOs. The world "corruption" was cited many times as the main course of the resource depletion.
During the meeting, all the presenters underlined the quality of the technical report and the interest to have, for the first time, a strategic approach for wildlife conservation in Africa that is more than a political declaration. Many organisations (all big NGOs, some UN agencies) formally endorsed the report. Several African partners acknowledged the role of this document for designing a strategy adopted by African institutions as well.
The technical document will now be slightly amended, based on the inputs received from the participants. Its final version will be published in a glossy report for extensive dissemination. It is envisaged that the report will be officially launched by Commissioner Mimica in early summer (hopefully during the Green Week or at the European Development Days in June).
As a political follow-up of the technical document, the European Commission intends to release a new Communication that will lead to an EU Action Plan on Wildlife Conservation in Africa. It is expected that this process will be co-driven by DG Environment and DG International Cooperation and Development so as to be signed by their respective Commissioners Vella and Mimica. This Action Plan will focus on tackling the wildlife trafficking crisis, but will also encompass a more holistic approach to biodiversity conservation and sustainable development in Subsaharan Africa, in accordance with the EU Biodiversity for Life flagship initiative.