BIOPAMA gains momentum at Pacific Islands fora
The BIOPAMA team joined forces in late November and early December to significantly raise awareness of the Programme at a number of fora held in the Fijian capital of Suva. IUCN’s focal point for the Pacific, Tony O’Keeffe, BIOPAMA Programme Manager, Nick Cox, and EC Joint Research Centre (JRC) BIOPAMA Coordinator, Steve Peedell delivered presentations and convened workshops inviting participants to contribute ideas to current, proposed and potential BIOPAMA activity in the region during the 9th Pacific Islands Conference on Nature Conservation and Protected Areas, CBD capacity building workshop for the Pacific on ecosystem conservation and restoration, and the UNESCO Pacific World Heritage Workshop.
The presentations enabled regional and national participants to develop a better understanding of what BIOPAMA offered to the region, and provided forums for them to contribute views on key issues and key needs and where BIOPAMA could focus support efforts. In particular, specific input was provided from government and other Pacific regional participants on several specific BIOPAMA objectives relating to data and information tools, as well as capacity development. Regional BIOPAMA posters, banners and factsheets at BIOPAMA display booths enhanced the visibility efforts.
“This was a great opportunity to get specific ideas from Pacific Islands governments and civil society on their most urgent needs for nature conservation,” said BIOPAMA Programme Manager Nick Cox. “BIOPAMA will be able to support several ongoing initiatives and also help fill some gaps in science-based decision-making across the region.”
The BIOPAMA events highlighted that gaps in biodiversity and protected area data are not necessarily the most critical information need, and that accessibility to data, usability of data, and data management capacity are the fundamental challenges that need to be addressed. A number of JRC information tools were demonstrated, revealing that their implementation will need to be supported by an effective capacity development approach – which is consistent with the planned establishment of the DOPA (Digital Observatory for Protected Areas) and the Regional Reference Information System in the region.
While there were many ideas and needs expressed within BIOPAMA related sessions, particularly in relation to specific information needs, environmental pressures and unique country governance issues, some key take home messages included: more direct capacity and policy support to higher decision making levels of national governments; cultivating a positive mainstream attitude by civil society for the natural environment; strengthening support and buy-in from leadership; resourcing for monitoring and compliance; building a regionally trained cadre of protected area practitioners; developing capacity to interpret, manage and apply information; and ensuring suitable networks that support alignment, collaboration and resource optimisation across a markedly busy, diverse and geographically disbursed regional nature conservation space.
The Pacific Islands Conference resulted in ten high order action statements that must be undertaken to improve biodiversity conservation in the Pacific. Two actions add considerable regional emphasis to the objectives and deliverables of BIOPAMA: Action 5 – Information for decision making, and Action 6 – Capacity development. The statements can be accessed here. The actions will be a key contribution from the Pacific region for the IUCN World Parks Congress 2014, held in Sydney in November. The Parks Congress will also provide a major forum to showcase BIOPAMA’s impact in the Pacific, and the three other regions where it operates, Western and Central Africa, Eastern and Southern Africa, and the Caribbean.