The following newsletter prepared by the United Nations Environment Programme (UN Environment) provides updates on the European Commission-funded programme on capacity building related to multilateral environment agreements (MEAs) in African, Caribbean, and Pacific (ACP) group of countries known as ACP MEAs 2.
Programme Steering Committee Meeting - June 29th 2016, Brussels, Belgium
The Programme Steering Committee (PSC) is the main annual meeting that brings together the main partners involved in the ACP MEAs 2 (Programme hereon). The Programme was designed based on the recognition that ACP countries have various levels of capacity related to the implementation of MEAs and in that there are a lot of opportunities for South-South cooperation between the ACP regions. Thus, the project aims to promote environmental sustainability in the ACP countries by building capacity – whether it is institutionally or technically – in the mainstreaming and implementation of MEAs in the regions.
The PSC meeting was hosted by the Secretariat of the African, Caribbean, and Pacific Group of States (ACP Secretariat) in Brussels, Belgium on June 29, 2016. It was preceded by two preparatory meetings: the meeting between UN Environment and the regional hubs of Africa, Caribbean, and Pacific on June 27, 2016 and an all partners' meeting held on June 28, 2016. In addition to the participants from the day before, the all partners' meeting included the participation of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and project partners such as UNEP - World Conservation Monitoring Centre (UNEP-WCMC) and local NGOs.
The Steering Committee members included representatives from the ACP Secretariat; the project manager from the European Commission; the UN Environment coordination team and representatives from FAO. Given the vast geographical reach of the Programme, the PSC provided an important shared platform for all the stakeholders to engage and learn from each other on their achievements over the past year.
Highlights from the PSC
- The PSC meeting took place shortly after the United Nation’s Environment Assembly (UNEA), which brought together an unprecedented number of environment ministers and representatives from 173 countries as well as the historic adoption of 25 resolutions to tackle global environmental issues. The Programme's work has gotten greater impetus and support in international environmental governance As a number of resolutions are linked to MEAs, with one of them particularly promoting synergies between biodiversity-related MEAs and UNEP (resolution 2/17), this has given the Programme's work greater impetus and support in international environmental governance.
- The Programme has the ambition to implement more than 80 activities over 4 years, for the components managed by the UN Environment in the three regions, responding to very precise objectives focused on two specific clusters of MEAs in the areas of biodiversity and the sound management of chemicals and waste with an emphasis on synergies.
- During the last year of implementation, the Law Division at UN Environment continued to develop its capacities to ensure the overall coordination, support, and strengthening of the Programme, including through the recruitment of new dedicated staff.
- With the Programme expected to end in December 2017, discussions around sustainability brought up interesting approaches. It became evident that sustainability is a concept that is being tackled differently in the three regions. As for the Pacific hub, the current Programme has enabled co-funding for a new GEF project that will ensure long-term continuity for part of the ACP MEA activities. Meanwhile, coordinators from the Caribbean and Pacific Hub highlighted the creation of knowledge and institutional infrastructure is in itself a reflection of the sustainability of the project.
Support to East African Community (EAC) to develop Harmonized Biosafety Policy Framework
Building a harmonized framework for biosafety policies, laws, and administrative measures on the regional level can be crucial. In the East African region, this is important due to the nature of trade or informal cross border exchange of seeds and commodities. Thus, such a framework would work to ensure that living modified organisms (LMO) that are acceptable in one of the partner states would ideally be acceptable in all the other partner states. Such a regional approach could minimize risk hazards and prevent large scale loss of biological integrity. To address this, the African Hub housed in the Department of Rural Economy and Agriculture in the African Union Commission, introduced the first-of-its-kind regional EAC Biosafety Framework, which was launched in June 2016.
Even though countries in the region have ratified the Convention on Biological Diversity and the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety - both of which require parties to put in place national legal, policy and administrative frameworks on biosafety - all the party states are currently at very different stages of implementation. This can be attributed to the application of different standards or in some cases no standards at all in cases where neither law nor administrative measures have been put in place.
The aim of a harmonized regional biosafety policy guidelines is to ensure that the development, handling, transport, use, transfer and release of any LMOs are undertaken in a manner that reduces the risks to the environment, natural resources, and human health.
Some of the key outcomes from the Framework include:
- the development of regional guidelines to guide the legal frameworks formulation in the sub-region,
- the setting up of a regional framework for cooperative or where feasible joint implementation of national biosafety laws to ensure harmony in enforcement of safety measures and facilitation of trade at the sub-regional level
- establishment of harmonized penalties for those convicted of violating national laws regarding releases of LMOs into the environment, to avoid situations where some countries with less stringent laws serving as entry points for LMOs would otherwise have not been approved for entry into the sub-region
- defined mechanisms to promote regular communication of information and regular meetings between biosafety regulatory institutions in the sub-regions to exchange experiences and find solutions to challenges they may be facing.
Building capacity by training the trainers
The Caribbean Hub, led by the Caribbean Community Secretariat (CARICOM), organized a regional-level workshop with a focus on training of trainers on the use of integrated environmental assessment tools for mainstreaming of MEAs and improving their implementation.
The workshop - which took place in Georgetown, Guyana on June 21-23, 2016 – is a follow up of the work done in Phase 1 of the Programme, when the training module was developed, and used in two regional and two national MEAs mainstreaming workshops. National workshops focused on mainstreaming the SDGs and the biodiversity cluster of MEAs, using NBSAPs as the entry point. At the second regional workshop, CARICOM member state representatives specifically recommended that environmental professionals and educators from around the region be trained to use the tools and techniques in the module. This workshop was a direct response to that recommendation.
A workshop is planned for Guyana sometime in the next few months, to be delivered in collaboration with UN Environment regional office for Latin America and Caribbean (ROLAC). Another follow up workshop is expected to be held in a country to be determined in early 2017.
Developing environmental impact assessment (EIA) guidelines and providing training in Tokelau
The Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP), which is the main coordinating body for the Pacific Hub for the Programme, organized a training on environmental impact assessment in Tokelau – a dependent territory of New Zealand in the South Pacific Ocean. The training took place from 10-14 June, 2016 in Nukunonu, which is the largest atoll in Tokelau. Bringing together a total of 12 participants, the EIA training proved to be successful in achieving a number of outcomes.
It was the first training to be conducted in Tokelau in EIA processes and played a role in building confidence among the participants. During the discussions, the participants noted that environment plays a crucial role in development and thus EIA should be adopted as part of the development approval framework. This was fully endorsed by the former "Ulu" of Tokelau, Honrobale Pio Tuia - Elder of the Taupulega (Council of Elders).
Furthermore, the participants were introduced to the EIA Policy framework developed in 2012 specifically for the Nukunonu Airstrip. It was resolved that they develop a framework to address the airstrip and other developments. As a follow up from the training, the Director of Environment will be requested by the Nukunonu Taupulega to write officially to SPREP seeking assistance on the finalisation of the EIA Framework and also assistance in other program areas such as Waste Management and State of Environment Reporting.
State of the Environment reporting in the Republic of Marshall Islands
The Pacific Hub was also involved in building capacity remotely in the Republic of the Marshall Islands, specifically in the area of environment reporting. The State of the Environment (SOE) is a comprehensive report that provides information on the various pressures on the environment in a given state and ultimately contributes to improving environmental management and outcomes while balancing the needs of economic development. The reporting process is currently underway and includes topics such as indicator development, data analysis, inter-ministerial collaboration for a cross-sector analysis of environmental conditions, pressures and responses.
The SOE reporting mechanism was developed through a widely consultative process including inputs from over 10 individual government authorities, NGOs, ministries, local mayors, and academic institutions led by the Office of Environmental Planning and Policy Coordinator (OEPPC), with full support from SPREP. The 2016 State of Environment Report (SOE) for the Republic of Marshall Islands (RMI) updates the 1992 report. It uses the DPSIR model (Drivers, Pressures, State, Impact and Response) and aims to:
• Document the key drivers and pressures behind the changing environment, covering issues from marine to the built environment as well as impacts of environmental changes on the society, economy and environment.
• Assess the RMI environment, building on the 1992 SOE, using seven key themes: atmosphere and climate, land, marine, biodiversity, culture and heritage, built environment and nuclear legacy.
• Documents current responses to protect and better manage natural resources.
• Provides recommendations to address key challenges, and link them to actions in the National Environmental Strategy (NEMS) in the Republic of Marshall Islands.
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)
Regional policy dialogue on ecosystem services from sustainable agriculture for biodiversity conservation
A two-day workshop was held in Nairobi, Kenya on May 25 and 26th, 2016, bringing together relevant stakeholders involved in the preparation and revision of the Kenya National Biodiversity Strategies and Action Plan (NBSAP). The idea was to facilitate a cross-sectoral discussion on the importance of managing agricultural systems to preserve, and build upon ecosystem services and biodiversity. With over 60 participants, the workshop revolved around the newly released technical guidance document (see link below) by FAO and the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), which aims to mainstream biodiversity and ecosystem services into NBSAPs to help achieve relevant Aichi Biodiversity Targets.
The event helped in identifying and highlighting key contributions of ecosystem services and biodiversity to Kenya’s agricultural sector, and discussing these within a diverse group of stakeholders – including representatives from the Ministries of Environment and Natural Resources, and of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries. The discussion will inform the revision of the Kenya NBSAP, scheduled to start in the fall of 2016, as specific recommendation towards mainstreaming an ecosystem-based approach to the country’s agriculture were gathered during the meeting. These include specific actions to be included and encouraged through the NBSAP, supporting specific ecosystem services such as soil heath, pollination, water use and conservation, indigenous local knowledge and integrated farming systems. In addition, the meeting gave the opportunity to set the founding steps to establish a cross-sectoral Kenyan Taskforce on ecosystem services and biodiversity mainstreaming in national policies.
Meeting of the Working Group for the Pacific Regional Pesticide Registration Scheme
The Working Group for the Pacific Regional Pesticide Registration Scheme convened between 31 May and 2 June, 2016 in Suva, Fiji in the Pacific in order to finalize a proposal for a regional Pacific pesticide registration scheme. The Meeting was significant as it was the first gathering of the Working Group since its establishment in April 2015. Based on the discussions during the meeting, the proposal developed during the previous two years for a Regional Pacific Pesticide Registration Scheme was finalized. The proposal is now with the national registration authorities, and it will be submitted to the next meeting of the Heads of Agriculture and Forestry (HOAFs), to be held tentatively in 2017.
Supporting the conservation of migratory species
Many birds, terrestrial and aquatic mammals, turtles, fish and insects exhibit the remarkable biological phenomenon of migration. Yet the behavioral adaptations of these animals, which cause them to travel vast distances in search of feeding and breeding sites, make them especially vulnerable to human-induced threats and natural processes.
The Caribbean region shelters an enormous number of populations of endangered species - those, whose survival requires urgent and strict joint measures, and others, which have an unfavourable conservation status and require international agreements to improve their management. The Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS) stands as the main international legal instrument on the conservation of migratory wildlife and habitats on a global scale, and yet currently, there are only two countries in the Caribbean - Antigua and Barbuda and Cuba - that are Party to it.
To that effect, a regional workshop was jointly organized by the CMS Secretariat and the Caricom Secretariat, with funds and support from the Programme, to promote further accession of countries in the Caribbean to the specific MEA. The workshop took place in the capital city of Bridgetown in Barbados from August 31 to September 2, 2016. With a focus on emphasizing the importance of the Caribbean for conserving biodiversity and migratory wildlife, the workshop successfully delivered on a number of outcomes, including enhancing the knowledge base on the accession process and compliance mechanisms of the MEA to ultimately help stakeholders in making informed decisions.