How could business initiatives and market opportunities contribute positively to the livelihoods of the people and the conservation of natural resources in North Africa?

A special answer: the Business and Development Programme, an IUCN programme component adapted to the context of North Africa .

The private sector in the North Africa region is of particular significance in terms of socioeconomic, geopolitical, and environmental interest. Developing Free Trade Agreements with the United States (as in the case of Morocco), as well as the Euro-Med Free Trade Agreement, could have negative impacts on the natural resources in North Africa. At regional level, Egypt, Morocco and Tunisia have signed the Agadir Agreement (2004) to promote free trade among Arab States.

Certain economic activity sectors, such as tourism, industry, and agriculture, represent a main source of income for the countries in the region. These activities, however, have proven to have a major impact on natural resources and the livelihoods of the people depending on these resources. For this reason, it would be vital within the framework of this programme to identify means, strategies, and partnerships to make them more sustainable, by examining their impact on natural resources and trying to off-set it, promoting certification, as well as identifying pilot activities with the private sector to apply the lessons learned.

A/ Catalysing the investments and guiding sustainable actions
IUCN members in North Africa have decided to create a strategic discussion platform composed of different stakeholders at national level (members, associations, key companies...) in order to:

  1. Define the key economic sectors and main strategic actors for the region.
  2. Better channel the financial flows through projects with potential added value for the region.
  3. Support technical strategic guidance on the key economic sectors of the region, such as agriculture (food security, policy, rural development) and tourism (impacts on biodiversity and community livelihoods).

B/ Action plans with the private sector in North Africa
The sub-regional programme for North Africa, through the advice and collaborative work with members and partners, will focus on three economic sectors, namely sustainable tourism, aquaculture and agricultural production, in an effort to add value to the economies of these sectors and propose an alternative market to the local populations.

For more information, please see thematic priority area 5 in the IUCN Subregional programme for North Africa 2008-2012, Integrating ecosystem conservation values in economic policy, finance and markets in countries in North Africa.

IUCN-Med will work with all members to examine different development options with the private sector, such as opportunities for developing sustainable tourism (mainly within protected areas), and building the “marketing” value of World Heritage Sites and the conventional tourism they usually attract.

Moreover, business opportunities in the agriculture sector will be examined, such as cooperation initiatives or joint ventures, development/enhancement of specific economic networks, promotion of fair trade, biological agriculture, etc. The programme framework will also deal with certification issues and disseminate information relating to adequate certification schemes, as a tool for guaranteeing the fulfilment of environmental, social and economic requirements in the long term.

As an example, IUCN-Med along with members in North Africa will encourage the use of the ACCOR guidelines in hotels in the region, which are the result of a joint project between IUCN and the Accor group.

The guidelines (Biodiversity: My hotel in action) highlight the different ways in which hotels can influence biodiversity conservation.