The preservation of the life we live on land through the integration of biodiversity into national policies. The Case of the Cook Islands.

Sep 1, 2015

Inception Workshop Participants. Photo Credit: Mii Matamaki.

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have now been launched, and with it comes a new era of intentions and commitments that have been made to ensure a brighter future for us and the generations to come. 

One of the seventeen goals that has been named is Goal 15: Life on Land. It speaks of the importance of preserving and sustainably managing our natural environment to ensure that we do not continue to degrade it in the manner that we are today. While the SDGs provide a strong instance to act on the future, actions have been taken locally in order to ensure our life on land and project the lands biodiversity. 

As UNDP Administrator Helen Clark has portrayed, “although biodiversity loss continues globally, many countries are significantly slowing the rate of loss by shoring up protected natural areas and the services they provide, and in expanding national park systems with tighter management and more secure funding.” 

The Cook Islands is one of these countries that has been working towards this over the past number of decades. The Cook Islands has been Party to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) since 1993 and have already achieved many significant milestones as part of their obligations under the CBD in terms of biodiversity planning and reporting. Currently, they have begun the second generation of the Biodiversity Enabling Activities under the Global Environment Facility (GEF). This is in order to further integrate Cook Islands obligations under the CBD into its national development and sectoral planning framework through a renewed and participatory ‘biodiversity planning’ and strategizing process. 

In order to kick-start this second generation process the Cook Islands Government, through the National Environment Service (NES), organised a two-day inception workshop for the National Biodiversity Planning to support the implementation of the CBD 2011-2020 project. The workshop was held at the Pukapuka Hostel and involved several government ministries as well as NGOs. It was opened by the Minister of Environment, Hon. Kiriau Turepu, on the 25 August 2015. The goal of this workshop was to produce measurable targets for biodiversity conservation and sustainable use. There are many factors that need to be accounted for when completing such an important task. These being that the value of the ecosystems’ goods and services are ensured. While it also means taking into consideration, during the process, the ecosystem-based adaptation and resilience. 

The project will utilise three components in order to achieve its activities. These will be (1) A participative stocktaking exercise on biodiversity planning takes place and national biodiversity targets are developed in response to the global Aichi Targets; (2) The NBSAP is revised/updated and it fully integrates new aspects of the CBD strategic plan, such as mainstreaming and anchoring the implementation of the plan into national development frameworks, valuing ecosystem services and promoting ecosystem-based adaptation and resilience; and (3) National frameworks for resource mobilization, convention reporting and exchange mechanisms are strengthened. 

“We have always lived in close proximity to our environment and it is excellent that we are integrating this important biodiversity aspect into our national frameworks,” highlighted one conference attendee. 

UNDP has been instrumental in assisting the project team in achieving their goals. During the inception workshop the UNDP Multi-Country Office Samoa provided specific finance monitoring and quarterly reporting training to the project coordinator, Mr Paul Allsworth. The facilitators were also able to provide an insight into the role of UNDP and GEF as an implementing agency to NES project staff, who are the implementing partner for this project. 

Thus, as the SDGs begin to be rolled out, the work that is being carried out locally will significantly assist in achieving these goals. The Cook Islands are leading the way in terms of strengthening their policies to ensure that not only are the SDGs achieved within the timeframe highlighted, but are continuing with the excellent work that they have been completing over the last number of decades in order to ensure a future where our all-important biodiversity systems that we all rely on remain intact. 

In other words they are highlighting the importance of life on land and are putting into place policies and actions that will continue to make this a reality. 

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