ECO-IEST:A new article published by the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) Secretariat on the new ECO initiative. To answer complex needs of the ECO region, an initiative has been proposed to integrate National Biodiversity Strategies and Action Plans (NBSAPs) of all state members of the ECO region in order to develop a Regional Biodiversity Plan of Action (RBPA). This Plan will add to the framework plan of action on environmental cooperation and global warming for ECO member states (2011-2015) and could be used as a model for other neighbouring regions as well as other regional organizations and act as a roadmap for the implementation of CBD and achievement of Aichi Nagoya biodiversity targets.
Modern life has weakened the connections between humans and nature and the trend does not augur well for the sustainability of life on earth. Ever increasing rates of habitat and ecosystem degradation will result in the eventual non-existence of living organisms on earth, the only place where humans can live, as far as we know. The history of human interaction with nature demonstrates destructive consequences.
Concerns about the loss of biodiversity came to the attention of the international community in 1972, but it took 20 years before globally agreed terms of reference came into force as the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). Since then 192 parties have joined this convention and agreed to work together toward its objectives: the conservation of biological diversity, the sustainable use of its components and the fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising from the use of genetic resources, including appropriate access to genetic resources and appropriate transfer of relevant technologies which take into account all rights over those resources and technologies, and appropriate funding.
CBD changed protection priorities from species to ecosystems. This sounds feasible in principle, but the implementation of rules and regulations faces many challenges, mainly owing to technical and administrative inadequacies. CBD’s approach to the conservation of biological resources and the sustainable use of its components (including the equitable sharing of its benefits) calls for inclusion of environmental concerns in all national and regional development policies. The Convention’s latest development is a set of 20 targets to be considered as a global roadmap towards 2020.
Prior to the CBD, a regional agreement came into existence called the Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO), an intergovernmental regional organization established in 1985 by Iran, Pakistan and Turkey for the purpose of promoting economic, technical and cultural cooperation among the member states. In 1992, the organization was expanded to include seven new members, namely: Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, Republic of Azerbaijan, Republic of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Republic of Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Republic of Uzbekistan (Figure 1).
Figure 1. Map of the Eco region
The region is full of bright trading prospects. Despite its newness, ECO has developed into a thriving regional organization. Its international stature is growing. Nevertheless, the organization faces daunting challenges with respect to realization of its objectives and goals. Over the past 12 years the member states have been collaborating to accelerate the pace of regional development through their common endeavors. Besides shared cultural and historic affinities, they have been able to use the existing infrastructural and business links to further fortify their resolve to transfer their hopes and aspirations into a tangible reality.
Most of ECO region countries have joined or ratified the international natural environment legal instruments such as the Convention on Biodiversity (CBD), United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification, the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species (CITES), the World Heritage Convention (WHC), the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance (RAMSAR), Convention on Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS), and so forth being considered as applicable tools for the protection and improvements of Asian natural environment and biodiversity.
Nevertheless, rapid population growth, industrialization, urbanization, increasing agricultural demands, droughts and other natural disasters and ineffective development policies are amongst factors fast degrading the natural resource base and influencing the state of the environment in the region and posing serious threats to sustainable development namely loss of biodiversity, pollution and depletion of freshwater resources, increasing threatened species, mortality rates and contagious diseases, tourism pressures on protected areas, introduction of Alien Fauna and Flora, loss of genetic diversity, deforestation and loss of arable and grazing land, widespread land degradation and desertification. These have wider implications on food security, sustainable natural resources management, human health and efforts towards poverty alleviation.
Some studies show that several practices in the region have no ecological justification or economic rationale. Therefore improved and new conservation and management approaches are required.
To answer these complex needs, a regional initiative has been proposed to integrate National Biodiversity Strategies and Action Plans (NBSAPs) of all state members of the ECO region in order to develop a Regional Biodiversity Plan of Action (RBPA). This Plan will add to the framework plan of action on environmental cooperation and global warming for ECO member states (2011-2015) and could be used as a model for other neighbouring regions as well as other regional organizations and act as a roadmap for the implementation of CBD and achievement of Aichi Nagoya biodiversity targets. The initiative will be formally proposed by the ECO Institute of Environmental Science and Technology (ECO-IEST) to be developed under supervision of a Regional Steering Committee consisting of representatives of state members, academic centers and NGOs. It is expected that the results of such initiatives will feed into the NBSAPs to ‘enhance the benefits to all forms of biodiversity and ecosystem services’, particular with regard to target 14 of the Aichi Nagoya Targets: ‘By 2020, ecosystems that provide essential services, including services related to water, and contribute to health, livelihoods and well-being are restored and safeguarded, taking into account the needs of women, indigenous and local communities, and the poor and vulnerable’.
Development of the RBAP would start with an initial assessment in the following stages:
- Geographical and land characteristics
- Protected area systems and other in situ conservation
- Socio-economic situation including cultural, religious and traditional values
- Environmental legal systems
- Long-term development visions
The next phase of the initiative will be to establish coordination mechanisms of the RBPA. A monitoring framework also needs to be developed for tracking progress, effectiveness, and gaps in the plan not only in the ECO region as a whole but also in each country as an important element in the big picture. A series of consultations, roundtables and workshops should be organized to discuss challenges and take appropriate decisions with regard to tackling barriers to the implementation of the plan.
As the result of the development of RBAP many of the biodiversity challenges within the region will be identified and actions and programmes for their management will be defined. The benefits of developing Regional Biodiversity Action Plan are in accordance to the ECO plan of action and will be as indicated below:
• Conservation of Biodiversity
• Joint Efforts for Conservation of Transboundary Wetlands and Water Bodies
• Preservation, Management and Monitoring of Water Basins and Resources
• Conducting joint coherent actions on Endangered Species, Wildlife Migration Patterns, Mortality Rates, Contagious Diseases and International Trade
• Restriction on the Introduction of Alien Fauna and Flora
• Exchange of Biodiversity, Museum Specimens and Biological Samples
• Combating Desertification, Deforestation, Land Erosion and Protection of Mountain Ecosystems
Although individual countries and not regions have mandatory tasks and obligations to undertake as members of the convention, regional initiatives are required to facilitate synergies and sharing of experiences among countries with similar conditions and/or common interests. These arrangements would also benefit from inclusion of local communities in high-level decision-making flora.
Another benefit of the initiative would be enhanced coordination and cooperation between countries as well as stronger organizational and systematic capacities.
Existing institutional frameworks (such as ECO-IEST) will play a crucial role in this initiative not only during the development phase but also for implementation of the RBAP. It is also expected that this approach will bring coherence to national legal frameworks and facilities for the implementation of CBD.
There is no doubt that the initiative needs flexibility to be inclusive and able to work within the legal limitations of all state members. Public participation, cooperation mechanisms, decision-making support methods and a series of success indicators are substantial elements of such an initiative.
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