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National Biodiversity Platforms connect diverse stakeholders for nature and policymaking

23 June 2021
Az Webstory

Photo by Graeme Morris on Unsplash

 

For centuries, Azerbaijan’s culture and economy have been closely associated with its diverse ecosystems, including the country’s mountain habitats that comprise up to 60 per cent of its territory, as well as inland water and forest ecosystems. These habitats provide fertile grounds for crops, summer pastures for cattle, and rapidly growing tourism opportunities. They are also essential for biodiversity, providing a home to many iconic species including the Caspian tiger, Persian gazelle, and Egyptian vulture.

In recognition of this important biodiversity and benefits it provides to people, the government of Azerbaijan recently approved the country’s first ever National Biodiversity Platform (NBP), which will facilitate knowledge-exchange and policy support around biodiversity and ecosystem services. This platform aims to strengthen the engagement of knowledge holders, practitioners, policymakers and other stakeholders in Azerbaijan’s national ecosystem assessment (NEA) process. 

Collaboration for conservation

UNEP-WCMC’s NEA initiative is partnering with UNDP and UNESCO to strengthen the capacity of countries to conduct their own ecosystem assessments.  Azerbaijan is the second country within the NEA Initiative to establish a new NBP with official recognition, the first country being Cameroon.

The creation of Azerbaijan’s NBP was a collaborative process, bringing together representatives from government, the private sector, NGOs and other national stakeholders. In particular, the engagement of representatives from the Azerbaijani oil sector in constructive dialogue around biodiversity and ecosystem services sets an example for the development of NBPs in countries whose economies rely heavily on extractive industries. Looking forward, the platform is expected to play a significant role in encouraging knowledge exchange on biodiversity and ecosystem services between diverse stakeholders in Azerbaijan.

Azerbaijan’s NBP will play a critical role in protecting the country’s treasured mountains and the species they host. Mountain forests, predominantly in the country’s Greater and Lesser Caucasus and the Talish Mountains, occupy approximately 10% of the country’s total land area, in addition to another 20,000 hectares of forest on the banks of the Kura and Araz rivers. In almost all forested regions of Azerbaijan, forest watersheds are a key source of water that is naturally purified and filtered, providing an estimated 2,100,000 people with clean non-treated water.

Azerbaijan’s NBP will help to ensure these benefits from nature are properly captured and communicated, supporting policymakers to make informed decisions about how to best safeguard ecosystems from depletion.

Forests are also essential ecosystems in Cameroon, the first country in the NEA Initiative to establish a new NBP. There are many areas where no forestry exploitation or industrial agricultural activity has taken place in Cameroon, which may be securing benefits for biodiversity and the indigenous peoples and local communities that depend on it. The leading forest reserves in Cameroon, including the Dja, Boumba Beck, Nki, Lake Lobeké, the Korup National Park and the Campo reserve, form a large and biodiversity-rich area of at least one million hectares in total.


What will result from National Biodiversity Platforms?

The impact of Cameroon’s NBP is already beginning to be observed. This NBP has had several crucial functions in the national ecosystem assessment process, from validating the mandate of the co-chairs and authors of the assessment to the assessment’s scoping report, communication strategy and final report. From now on, the NBP will approve and validate all national assessments on biodiversity and ecosystem services. This is a critical function, as these assessments will significantly contribute to Cameroon’s reporting towards global biodiversity targets.

Thanks to the collaborative process which led to the creation of Azerbaijan’s NBP, there is hope that this national consultative body will support decisions and planning across sectors, showing that despite Azerbaijan and Cameroon’s distinct ecological differences, knowledge exchange and policymaking for nature in both countries is set to benefit from the creation of an NBP.


A decade of opportunity

NBPs hold great potential in all countries as a mechanism for independent review of NEAs, strengthening the credibility, relevance and transparency of these assessments. In the context of the 15th Conference of Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity where the new post-2020 global biodiversity framework is expected to be agreed, NBPs could play a critical role in supporting national-level action on implementation of global environmental agreements, acting as a cross-sectoral advisory body on biodiversity and ecosystem services.

Similarly, effective collaboration across sectors at both national and international levels will be of paramount importance in the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration. Successful ecosystem restoration depends on engaging stakeholders from across society and capturing their knowledge and relationship with nature. By enabling a better understanding of how different actors relate to nature, NBPs can ultimately strengthen the relevance and impact of future restoration policy and projects.  

 

UNEP-WCMC’s National Ecosystem Assessment Initiative is part of BES-Net, and works in collaboration with, UNDP and UNESCO. This work is funded by the German Federal Ministry of Environment’s International Climate Initiative (IKI).