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ECOWAS Regional Consultation urges protection of Africa’s ‘irreplaceable’ biodiversity

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Regional Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) Consultation on Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework held recently has said that threatened biodiversity from the West and Central Africa regions that form an irreplaceable part of humanity’s natural heritage must be protected for generations to come.

According to Dr Mohammed Abubakar, deforestation across the West African sub-region is among the highest in the world

This formed part of the recommendations at the maiden Regional Consultation hosted virtually by the Federal Government of Nigeria and ECOWAS from August 10 to 11, 2020.

Organised with the technical and financial support of Nigerian Conservation Foundation (NCF) and Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF) respectively and moderated by Prof. Alfred Oteng-Yeboah, a professor of botany from the University of Ghana, the Consultation centred on biodiversity in Africa with the hope of mobilising regional effort to deliver biodiversity protection and resource mobilisation towards achieving the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework.

Conscious of the need to ensure that the use of wild species is ecologically, economically and socially/culturally sustainable, the Consultation expressed its commitment to the full implementation of global instruments adopted to preserve wild species of fauna and flora and their ecosystems.

The Regional Consultation with the theme “Strengthening the African Position Ahead of the Open Ended Working Group-3 (OEGW-3) Meeting” was declared opened by Dr. Mohammed Mahmood Abubakar, Nigeria’s Minister of the Environment.

He said that the African continent is experiencing catastrophic biodiversity loss resulting from human-induced threats arising from unsustainable management practices. One of the African sub-region mostly impacted by this biodiversity loss is West Africa, having witnessed substantial economic loss because of this.

According to him, these losses are becoming irreversible with the rate at which biodiversity is being decimated, and habitat converted or degraded. He lamented that deforestation across the sub-region is among the highest in the world, along with increased uncontrolled farmland expansion, and illegal wildlife trade.

He said: “The livelihood of West Africans is being threatened daily due to unsustainable practices, strong biodiversity policy and laws but weak enforcement, lack of environmental awareness, weak political will for sustaining biodiversity conservation gains, and uncoordinated sub-regional effort, among others.

“As a government, we will continue to support and encourage other ECOWAS Member States to develop appropriate mechanisms to strengthen enforcement of biodiversity law and mobilise means of implementation towards the developed biodiversity action plans. In addition to this, we will also provide the required support to ensure continuous coordination of this sub-regional consultations on biodiversity while promoting strong regional collaboration among parties towards achieving the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework.”

In her remarks, Mrs. Elizabeth Mrema, Executive Secretary of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), revealed that it is important to recognise that Africa has, over the last several years, played a leadership role in biodiversity.

The African Ministerial Summit on Biodiversity held in 2018 in Sharm El Sheikh and the Pan-African Action Agenda on Ecosystem Restoration for increased resilience, endorsed at that Summit are some of such examples of Africa’s outstanding leadership, Mrema added.  

She believes that the consultations call for an inclusive and cooperative spirit will be needed at all levels, seeking to forge a new ambitious global framework to combat biodiversity loss and stop the destruction of ecosystems underpinning our very survival and the wellbeing of all life on earth.

She said: “The impacts of COVID-19 should awaken in us a renewed sense of urgency to step up our efforts to conserve and protect biodiversity and nature, as these will be essential for avoiding future pandemics. The COVID-19 pandemic, climate change, poverty alleviation, food and water security – these may seem like separate challenges, but they are interconnected and so too must be our response.

“Clearly, the One Health approach, which recognises the connections between human health, animal health and the health and resilience of nature, can also help guide our work towards an effective post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework, as well as to help achieve the Sustainable Development Goals while addressing the climate crisis.”

Dr. Muhtari Aminu-Kano, Director General of the NCF, regarded the ECOWAS CBD consultation as first of its kind in the sub-region necessary to address the challenges of environment which are climate change, loss of biodiversity, deforestation and more.

He said: “NCF pledged to work with all colleagues in other West African countries leading national organisation to take the lead from the government and translate it to the grassroot.”

According to Ms. Alice Ruhweza, Africa Regional Director, World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), coming together of Africans to discuss and provide solutions to biodiversity challenges will go a long way to impact the continent’s environment.

She said: “The Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework provides us with a window of opportunity to return to a path of sustainability for nature and people in Africa. Increasing and securing the share of benefits of our communities from nature while stopping and reversing biodiversity loss will be an essential pillar for Africa’s transformation.”

In her closing remark, Mrs Sharon Ikeazor, Minister of State on Environment, urged stakeholders to take the ambitious road and work together as a sub-region to choose a different path which is the path of conservation, restoration, transformation and sustainable use of biodiversity “for indeed, our solutions are really in nature”.

She said: “We cannot afford to stay on this path we are currently on which is the continued and accelerated destruction of nature; this path holds cascading consequences for nature in all ecosystems and on climate, including tipping of transitioning earth from a carbon sink to a carbon emitter. This path also holds grave consequences for humankind as we have seen from the outbreak of COVID-19 which has affected the global economy.”

Although the Regional Consultation is a CBD Party-driven discussion, it also gave opportunity for selected development partners, intergovernmental organisations and environmental NGOs like African Union Commission, African Development Bank, African Group of Negotiators on Biodiversity, Canadian Embassy, German Embassy, US Embassy, British High Commission, Australia, High Commission, United Nations Environment Programme, AUDA-NEPAD, SADC, CEEAC, EAC, Birdlife International and others to participate and offer the necessary support.

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