Dominican Republic, Malawi and Thailand are beginning their National Ecosystem Assessments (NEA), taking a further step towards accounting for nature and its contributions to people, in policy making on a national level. The incorporation of these three countries into the NEA initiative was celebrated at a recent workshop attended by the Dominican Republic’s Vice-Minister of Environment for Protected Areas and Biodiversity and Malawi’s Director of Environmental Affairs.
The workshop, held over January and February 2021, led by UNEP-WCMC, with the support of UNDP and UNESCO under the Biodiversity and Ecosystems Network (BES-Net) saw nearly 40 participants, including those from the countries which have already embarked on the NEA journeys. Situated at varying stages of their assessments, the NEA country partners shared their knowledge and experiences with the three newly joining countries on themes such as the assessment process, stakeholder engagement, communications and incorporation of indigenous knowledge and local community perspectives Participants also gained new ideas and inspiration about how NEA can be used to instigate policy and behavioural change.
Three new countries beginning the process is an important milestone for the BES-Net Initiative that is supported by the Government of Germany’s International Climate Initiative (BMU/IKI). NEAs summarise and evaluate critical knowledge on biodiversity and ecosystem services that can be used by decision-makers to inform policy making across a range of sectors.
All in all, , UNEP-WCMC is engaging with and supporting 11 national governments in varying stages of undertaking NEAs.
Accounting for nature in policy making
Nature and its contributions to people can be difficult to capture and are often overlooked and undervalued in national policies and decision-making processes worldwide. NEAs help to address this by establishing an up-to-date and robust evidence base which paves the way for greater consideration of the values of biodiversity and ecosystem services in policy making.
Policies that account for the value biodiversity and ecosystem services can help to rebalance the relationship between people and nature and encourage sustainable development across sectors. NEAs are driven by stakeholders. The process is often country-wide and combines science and local knowledge across communities, sectors and levels of government to build a broadly-owned evidence base, encouraging buy-in and using innovative approaches along the way.
In Grenada, digital tools were used to drive engagement for their NEA. A national mobile phone video competition encouraged stakeholders to creatively share their knowledge and perspectives on Grenada’s ecosystems. During earlier community consultations, many were trained on using mobile phones for data collection and advocacy. As a result, more community members could take part in the video competition and contribute local knowledge.
Benefits of building an evidence-base for nature
As well as helping to develop policies that account for the value of nature and its contributions to people, completing a NEA also promotes the establishment of national biodiversity platforms that encourage engagement between practitioners, policymakers, diverse knowledge holders and other stakeholders. Recently, we celebrated the establishment of Azerbaijan's first ever national biodiversity platform.
There are further benefits, too; NEAs also strengthen national capacity at the intersection of science and policy, to effectively engage with intergovernmental processes. The ecosystem assessment process can support national implementation of international agreements and processes like the Convention on Biological Diversity and the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), as it supports biodiversity planning, national reporting, technical and scientific cooperation, capacity building as well as awareness and outreach. For example, Ethiopia and Cameroon have successfully nominated a number of country representatives to several IPBES taskforces.
Sharing learnings on NEAs
NEAs can be adapted and implemented by national institutions, bringing together the expertise of the BES-Net consortium of UNEP-WCMC, UNDP and UNESCO. The assessment practitioners are supported to implement their NEAs, with training materials, lessons learned, case studies and networking opportunities.
For more information: https://www.unep-wcmc.org/featured-projects/national-ecosystem-assessments