The Dominican Republic, Malawi, and Thailand are starting National Ecosystem Assessments (NEA), taking a further step towards accounting for nature and its contributions to people in policymaking on a national level.
The incorporation of these three countries into the National Ecosystem Assessment Initiative was celebrated at a recent workshop attended by the Dominican Republic’s Vice-Minister of Environment for Protected Areas & Biodiversity and Malawi’s Director of Environmental Affairs.
Working with UNDP and UNESCO within the framework of the Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services Network (BES-Net), UNEP-WCMC is engaging with and supporting 11 national governments in varying stages of undertaking NEAs. Three new countries beginning the process is an important milestone; NEAs summarise and evaluate critical knowledge on biodiversity and ecosystem services that can be used by decision-makers to inform policymaking across a range of sectors.
Nature and its contributions to people can be difficult to measure 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 multiple values of biodiversity and ecosystem services in policymaking.
Policies that account for the values of biodiversity and ecosystem services can help to rebalance the relationship between people and nature and encourage sustainable development across sectors. Driven by stakeholders, NEAs can also help to mobilize different knowledge systems and actors for biodiversity conservation and sustainable use of nature. The NEA process is often country-wide and combines science and indigenous and local knowledge, across communities, sectors, and levels of government to build a relevant, broadly-owned, and credible evidence base.
This is demonstrated by the work of NEA Initiative country partners so far. 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.
As well as helping to develop policies that account for the values of nature and its contributions to people, NEA processes have also promoted 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, including to effectively engage with intergovernmental processes. For example, Ethiopia and Cameroon have successfully nominated a number of country representatives to several IPBES taskforces. The ecosystem assessment process can also support national implementation of international conventions like the Convention on Biological Diversity, through strengthened biodiversity planning, national reporting, technical and scientific cooperation, capacity building as well as awareness and outreach.
NEAs can be adapted and implemented by national institutions in all parts of the world, with full support from UNEP-WCMC and our partners, including UNDP and UNESCO. With our partners, we provide resources to support assessment practitioners implement NEAs, including training materials, lessons learned, case studies and networking opportunities.
At the recent workshop, a range of NEA country partners at varying stages of their assessments shared their lessons and experiences. Participants also gained new ideas and inspiration about how a national ecosystem assessment can be used to instigate policy and behavioural change.
The participation of the Dominican Republic, Malawi and Thailand in the National Ecosystem Assessment Initiative is an important step forward towards strengthening the full consideration of nature’s values in decision-making at the national level.
This work is carried out under the umbrella of the Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services Network (BES-Net) hosted by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), with support from the International Climate Initiative (IKI) of the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety of the Federal Republic of Germany.