|Community Aldeia Day 7|
Morning session: Working Groups
A week into the Community Aldeia, Equator Prize winners split into self-chosen thematic working groups to reflect on lessons learned over the course of the dialogue to date, and to discuss proposals for actions to collectively strengthen their work going forward. Later, the groups each presented their conclusions.
Group One focused on medicinal plants, and included participants from Egypt, Guatemala, Brazil and China. Some of these participants already work in the conservation of medicinal plants while others represent organisations interested in expanding their work into this area. Lessons that the group identified from the past week included the realization that the traditional use of medicinal plants is relevant to all cultures, and in fact can help to connect diverse communities. Local stakeholders play a crucial role in conserving genetic resources, and this protection must remain under local control. Communities, however, need support in this: the group highlighted the roles that government and NGOs can play in supporting and strengthening local organisations that work in this field.
Group Two, focusing on water and public policy, also emphasized the importance of ensuring that local communities retain the autonomy to manage their own resources. Improved access to information, especially with regard to funding, was identified as a key factor in empowering communities in this respect.
Group Three discussed a range of issues including adaptation, women's empowerment and food security. The main message from this group was that women's empowerment is key to achieving results in each of these areas. The group would particularly like to see more attention being given to women's projects at the grassroots level. The need for improved access to markets and credit for women was also emphasized.
The final group comprised those focusing primarily on conservation, building on the presentations heard on Monday. Recommendations included the need for access to resources for enhancing community-based conservation efforts; strengthening the capacity of local governance systems; and the need to disseminate the messages that have come out of Rio with the local beneficiaries of the winning groups here. Specific proposals mentioned the importance of local recycling systems, introducing improved cook stoves, and reducing the use of plastics. Above all, the members felt the autonomy of local communities to sustainable manage their natural resources must be maintained and improved.
Each of the groups also presented proposals based on their discussion and a key theme of these proposals was the desire for stronger networks between community-based initiatives. Each one of the groups requested that an international network be established in order to connect all Equator Prize winning groups for the exchange of knowledge and experiences. Although Equator Prize winners work in diverse areas, it was acknowledged that they all share common goals. Such a network might be organized by thematic areas and would ideally facilitate knowledge exchange with non-prize winner groups as well.
The groups requested the assistance of the Equator Initiative in setting up such a forum, with the suggestion that it might be managed by the Equator Prize winners on a rotating basis. Summing up the outcomes of the working groups, participants agreed that they should take the lead in helping to raise awareness and share knowledge with other community groups in their countries.
During the afternoon session, the participants summarized what they had collectively learned during the Aldeia, and how this informed recommendations for supporting local sustainable development. Presented by Salatou Sambou (Association des Pêcheurs de la Communauté Rurale de Mangagoulack, Senegal) and Fatima Mustafa Ahmed (Zenab for Women in Development, Sudan), these messages are summarized below:
“We come on behalf of our communities.
We come from 25 diverse communities and cultures, but we all engage in conserving and nurturing our local ecosystems
Our actions are local and sometimes similar, but our vision is global
We are conserving our natural resources as our elders and ancestors have been doing for many centuries. It is part of our culture and identity.
We have learned about the role that creating ICCAs can play in promoting conservation of natural resources to sustain local livelihoods.
We learned that there are enabling international policy mechanisms (e.g. the Convention on Biological Diversity) and institutions (e.g. the GEF Small Grants Programme) that are supporting community initiatives.
Networking is a good strategy to serve the purpose of conservation (as witnessed in the Gambia.)
Women are no longer simply witnessing these development interventions, but are on the frontlines of leading their communities in helping them to conserve their ecosystems and sustainably use them to meet their needs for food, health and livelihoods.
Medicinal plants and traditional medicine are relevant to all countries and people, especially those that are biologically rich but economically poor
Conservation of biological resources is central for the wellbeing, health and livelihood security of our communities.
Communities have the necessary wisdom and skills, and therefore must be fully involved in conservation, sustainable use, and fair and equitable access and benefit-sharing processes.
Communities must be involved in the design and implementation of regional conservation programmes (as in Kenya.)
The autonomy of communities in conservation is vital for its successful implementation (as seen in Indonesia and Fiji.)
Our problems are similar, yet we solve them differently. There is no single route to success.
Voluntary action, traditional knowledge, and strong community governance and organisations have made it possible to overcome our problems.”
The Community Aldeia Recommendations
These recommendations were presented to Olav Kjørven, Assistant Secretary-General and Director of the Bureau for Development Policy (UNDP), who visited the Aldeia space to meet the Equator Prize winners. He responded by congratulating the participants on their work and successes, saying that while large-scale programmes and planning by governments and the private sector have certainly produced some results in development, it is ultimately the work of local groups that are achieving the most effective results on the ground.
Mr. Kjørven reiterated that, as Equator Prize winners, communities would be able to return home with improved options for accessing further resources and forging new partnerships. Specifically, national award ceremonies hosted by UNDP Country Offices will honor winners, and will hopefully help to build on their work to bring real grassroots development solutions to other communities within their countries.
In response to questions on the role of UNDP Country Offices in strengthening community-based initiatives and connecting them with national governments and funding sources, Mr. Kjørven spoke briefly about the role of UNDP in supporting governance improvements at the local level. Asked about the status of the Rio negotiations, he outlined the state of the agenda for designing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). While it is not a perfect document, there is a lot to be happy about; namely, it is evidence that there is now widespread acceptance of the centrality of sustainability to development. If it’s not sustainable, it’s not development. The decision to begin creating the SDGs is therefore a positive outcome of Rio.
Govindaswamy Hariramamurthi (Hari, a representative of a partner organization to an Equator Prize 2002 winner from India) spoke about the role of the prize in helping the group he works with, the Medicinal Plants Conservation Centre, in scaling up their work. The centre now works in over twice as many locations as it did in 2002; the prize has also helped to mobilize support for the initiative from the government.
Lourdes Cardozo Laureano of the Pacari Network, Brazil, mentioned that UNDP has directly supported the work of four community-based groups within her organization’s network, and that this support has been timely and extremely valuable.
Mr. Kjørven brought the day to a close by stating that we have to find new and better ways to live within nature’s boundaries. The paradigm of growing our prosperity by pillaging our environment has to shift dramatically: we have to change mindsets, cultures, and policies. These community groups are on the frontlines of this change, and this work needs to be scaled up to the level of whole nations.