Update on SAP-Bio, the Mediterranean biodiversity plan

28/01/2003

[Following the conclusion last week of the SAP-Bio Advisory Committee meeting in Tunis, Spyros Kouvelis, the MedWet Coordinator, provides this update on how the project is going.]

The SAP-Bio project now:

The acronym stands for 'Strategic Action Plan for the conservation of coastal and marine biodiversity in the Mediterranean region'. The need for the project was identified under a GEF-funded project called SAPMED, mostly to address pollution in the Mediterranean, but also to carry out a Transboundary Diagnostic Analysis for the region to determine priority actions. The Regional Activity Centre for Specially Protected Areas of UNEP/MAP in Tunis was appointed to oversee the preparation and implementation of the SAP-Bio project, also under GEF funding.

In order to produce the SAP, four groups of experts were put together: 1) The Advisory Committee, made up of representatives of international and regional bodies with technical and scientific expertise in the Mediterranean. MedWet sits in this committee. 2) The national correspondents, responsible for the collection of information and coordination at a national level. The UNEP/MAP focal points were selected for this committee. 3) Three groups of international consultants/experts, producing guidelines, national reports and the final SAP-Bio documents. And 4) a team of national consultants involved in the national processes.

MedWet has participated in the process by processing all the information that was collected on coastal wetlands and structuring it into a strategic/operational programme for incorporation in the final document. Also, a collaboration has been initiated between RAC/SPA and one of the four Medwet centres, la Station Biologique de la Tour du Valat, for drafting specific action plans for the conservation of a number of endangered bird species.

The reports produced pull together information on marine and coastal biodiversity problems, risks and needs, drawn from the national reports of the 17 countries participating. They are developed into a logical context of problems, objectives, targets and activities. The final documents will be prepared for the final meeting of the national correspondents and upon approval will be presented to the Conference of the Contracting Parties of the Barcelona Convention for adoption in the fall of 2003.

The role of the SP-Bio cannot be overstressed: it is expected to constitute the road map for all biodiversity conservation activities in the marine and coastal ecosystems of the Mediterranean, influencing to a very large extent the decisions of policy makers and funding agencies/donors.

The Advisory Committee has played a key role throughout the preparation of the SAP-Bio, by providing guidance for the development of the guidelines for the project, reviewing progress and documents, and proposing measures and procedures for its implementation. During this meeting, the complete draft of the SAP-Bio was reviewed, and significant changes were adopted, in order to ensure consistency, quality and feasibility of implementation.

It was proposed that the term of the current Advisory Committee should be extended until the final adoption of the SAP Bio, and that a permanent structure in the form of a Steering/Advisory Committee be created under UNEP/MAP, to overview and assist the RAC/SPA with the implementation of the SAP-Bio. The current members of the Committee should participate to secure continuity, and other members may be invited.

The Advisory Committee also recommended to launch the implementation of the SAP-Bio through an international conference with an aim to attract donors, ensure media coverage, and establish partnerships with other Mediterranean and global organizations.

The next meeting of the Advisory Committee in a joint working session with the National Correspondents is planned for early May 2003.

-- reported by Spyros Kouvelis, MedWet Coordinator

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