UNEP workshop on issue-based modules for MEAs, February 2006
Coherent implementation of different biodiversity-related conventions
With the assistance of Belgium, UNEP has started a project to structure available information on common topics shared between several biodiversity-related Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEAs). The objective of the project is to facilitate the coherent implementation of the biodiversity commitments, taken under different international and regional biodiversity agreements, by all actors.
In conjunction with the 4th "Biodiversity in Europe" conference in Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia (cf. http://www.strategyguide.org/200602/Conclusions.html), preparing European positions for CBD COP8 (from 20-31 March 2006 in Curitiba, Brazil), a regional workshop was organized on "issue based modules for coherent implementation of biodiversity conventions" by the UNEP project manager Ines Verleye on 20-21 February 2006.
Although much has been said regarding the coherence between and coordination of conventions, few concrete projects exist to assist the national implementation of MEAs in a coherent way. This project is based on the hypothesis that the implementation of different MEAs often relates to issues of common concern and that a more coherent implementation would be enhanced if all actors involved received more structured information on such issues. The first phase of the project focused on the development of four modules on issues of common concern to the five biodiversity MEAs (the Ramsar Convention, Convention on Biological Diversity, Convention on Migratory Species, Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species, and the World Heritage Convention), namely inland waters, biodiversity and climate change, invasive alien species, and sustainable use. Each module is a set of documents providing a structured overview of how a certain topic is treated across several agreements. They identify and group implementation requirements under those agreements and address synergies and complementarities among the MEAs. By clustering obligations of different agreements under certain activities, the modules will facilitate the communication at national level and reinforce cross-sectoral understanding and cooperation, emphasizing the relevance of biodiversity to other sectors.
To maximize the usefulness of the modules for national experts and other stakeholders when implementing the commitments, it is important to ensure involvement of the end-users. With the assistance of the European Commission, UNEP organized this workshop to introduce the modules to a wider audience of about 20 European experts. Administrative authorities from the pilot countries Norway and Russia provided their feedback on these first four modules. They insisted that text from the MEA negotiation process needs to be translated into short and simple guidance for implementation at national level, that it is important to keep track of all relevant decisions from all agreements by clustering them and providing a logical framework, that cross-sectoral cooperation is needed to take advantage of sectoral agreements, and that broad concepts and approaches need to be structured into manageable pieces, making the identification of the issues a critical element. Besides the technical partners in the UNEP project WCMC, EEA, IUCN and WWF, the Ramsar Secretariat also participated in the workshop, stressing the concern of Ramsar's Parties for synergies with other international organizations, for renewed efforts to increase collaboration at national level and harmonization of national reporting (according to Resolution IX.5).
Now is probably the best moment for you to have your look at the four modules by going to www.svs-unepibmdb.net . These modules will formally be launched during CBD COP8. The participants in the workshop in Croatia believe that the modules already help to decrease duplication and increase implementation efficiency. In particular, the simplified language used in the logical framework of clustered commitments was considered very helpful. The modules can help the development of national planning, coherent positions and focused national reports. UNEP should therefore be congratulated for having embarked on this pilot project and be encouraged to provide interactive guidance to the users, to regularly maintain and update the modules in future, and to expand their number to include all major issues shared by the relevant MEAs. Ramsar is looking forward to a very fruitful cooperation between UNEP, the MEA secretariats, and the national authorities responsible for their implementation - a challenging programme ahead.
-- Tobias Salathé, Ramsar