Day 7 - May 27
Equator Prize Ceremony
On 26 May 2008, the Equator Initiative welcomed the Government of Norway as the newest addition to the Equator Initiative partnership during an award ceremony at the 9th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological diversity, celebrating twenty-five winners of the Equator Prize 2006. The Equator Prize is a biannual accolade recognizing successful grassroots-level achievement in alleviating poverty through the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity; and, as a result of three rounds of awarding the Prize since 2002, winning communities have found themselves with greater currency in influencing and shaping local and national environmental policy.
The evening event opened with a warm welcome from Charles McNeill, UNDP Senior Advisor of Environment and Energy, and continued by introducing ‘Curitiba Voices,' a short film documenting feedback from participants of the Community Taba-a dialogue space held at the Eighth Conference of the Parties (Curitiba, Brazil) in March 2006. Following the film, Dr McNeill noted that ten such dialogue spaces have been hosted by the Equator Initiative since its first inception at the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, with the most recent dialogue space being the Community Dorf at COP9 in Bonn. Initially designed as a home base for 2002 Equator Prize recipients, the dialogue space evolved into a venue in which community experts had the opportunity to share their experiences with each other, interface with policymakers and influence measures implemented at the national and international levels, and build networks to enhance their work at home. Dr McNeill further noted the Community Dorf was the first time 2006 Equator Prize winners have been gathered, representing a diverse range of expertise which includes community-based eco-agriculture, grassland conservation, eco-enterprise, and environmental education.
Community Dorf facilitators were joined by Equator Initiative partners to announce and present certificates of achievement to prize winners. Partners that were present include Conservation International, represented by Olivier Langrand; the Convention on Biological Diversity, represented by John Scott and David Cooper; Ecoagriculture Partners, represented by Claire Rhodes; the Government of Germany, represented by Konrad Uebelhör; IUCN, represented by Annelie Fincke; The Nature Conservancy, represented by Roberto Troya; and the United Nations Fund, represented by Luisa Lema. Following distribution of certificates, a representative from each focal region of the Equator Prize-Africa, Asia and Latin America and the Caribbean-gave short statements in relation to community-driven biodiversity conservation. Yusuf (Shani) Ole Patenya of the Shompole Community Trust (Kenya), Tran Triet of Phu My Leporina Wetland Conservation Project (Vietnam) and Emma Celeste Flor Gil of Asociación de Mujeres de Isabela "Pescado Azul" spoke on behalf of their regions respectively. Official delegations were in attendance to support their national winners, including country delegates from Costa Rica, Ecuador, Guatemala, Kenya, and the Philippines.
Following distribution of the awards, Inger Naess, Senior Advisor of the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, was invited on-stage to comment on Equator Prize winners and receive official welcome to the partnership from Veerle Vandeweerd, UNDP Director of Environment and Energy. Ms Vandeweerd noted that Norway will be a strong addition to the Equator Initiative partnership, and that the commitment of Norway to the conservation of biological diversity is exemplary. Konrad Uebelhör of the Government of Germany was asked to join the stage to receive special thanks for Germany's support in making the Equator Initiative a discernible presence throughout the COP. Dr McNeill further noted that the German Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)-longstanding partners to the Equator Initiative-has gone above and beyond in ensuring the Equator Initiative-and community representatives at the Community Dorf-had a strong basis for engaging in deliberations at Bonn.
In closing, Dr McNeill encouraged the audience-people from both the grassroots and international policymaking levels-to familiarize themselves with one another and invited the audience to the Community Poble, scheduled to be held within the Fourth IUCN Conference (Barcelona, Spain) in October 2008. During this dialogue space, 2008 Equator Prize winners will come together, interface with leaders on the international level, and continue the multi-tiered dialogue to help formulate better policies in conserving biodiversity.
High Level Panel Discussion on Biodiversity for Development and Poverty Alleviation
In an effort to forge innovative, multi-tiered partnerships to bridge the gap between bottom-up and top-down approaches, UNDP Equator Initiative hosted a Local-Global Leaders Dialogue within the Community Dorf on 27 May 2008. The dialogue brought local and indigenous community leaders together with international policymakers to formulate ways to build partnerships towards successful biodiversity conservation. In his introductions to the session, Benson Venegas of the Talamanca Initiative (Costa Rica) stated that community forces are the strength of sustainable development, and noted that its success is dependant on it being a process of equals, carried out with honesty, transparency, reciprocity, respect, understanding, and commitment. Charles McNeill, UNDP Senior Advisor of the Environment and Energy, noted the dialogue is an open forum, encouraging participants to step away from thinking within traditional mindsets and advocating specific positions.
Three Equator Prize winners represented the voice of local leaders. Each thanked the Equator Initiative for facilitating knowledge exchange across regions and asked for further and continued support for such opportunities. Maria de Lourdes Cruz of Sociedad Cooperativa de Producción Pesquera "Pescadores de Vigía Chico y Cozumel" noted that the Community Dorf helped foment a stronger, unified voice in relation to community-driven biodiversity conservation. Rezwan Hasanat Mohammed of Shidhulai Swanirvar Sangstha proposed that local and international organizations collectively take action to deal with the looming threats posed by climate change, which is projected to produce 20 million Bangladeshi environmental refugees by 2030. Dominique Bikaba of the Pole Pole Foundation/Kahuzi-Biega National Park followed noting that poverty reduction can only be carried out on the community level. Politicians, however, can work in supportive roles by helping communities sell their products, access information, and partake in training and capacity-building workshops.
Global leaders contributed their viewpoints, starting with Roberto Troya of The Nature Conservancy. Mr Troya noted his organization's belief that people are the key to biodiversity conservation, and maintained that conservation is impossible when locals suffer from hunger and extreme poverty. Partnership-built on transparency and a clear understanding on both policymaking and local levels-was mentioned as foundational to successful conservation practices. Gustavo Fonseca of the Global Environment Facility built off statements made by Mr Troya by stating that greatest success is witnessed in projects exhibiting strong local ownership and leadership. Mr Fonseca noted the usefulness of Equator Initiative knowledge exchanges, allowing policymakers to learn from mistakes and how to better work with grassroots-level actors. Konrad Uebelhör of GTZ championed community participation in policymaking (namely indigenous inclusion) and provided examples of successful multi-stakeholder initiatives.
Continuing on the theme of partnerships, Veerle Vandeweerd of the UNDP Environment and Energy Group drew attention to national and provincial-level partnerships, noting that international partnerships should reflect actions on the national level, with international laws overlapping with national policies and major national groups included in international forums. Ms Vandeweerd emphasized the need for local communities to become self-sufficient (namely through market-based mechanisms), and stressed the fact that outside donor funding will never be sufficient in sustaining local projects forever. Global players were identified as being helpful in lobbying national governments to create environments conducive to community-based conservation, thereby reducing the dependence of local initiatives on donor support. In Ms Vandeweerd's perspective, this is the next step to be taken by the UNDP Environment and Energy Group.
Community participants responded with a number of participants championing the importance of knowledge exchange; there was mention of local communities bearing the knowledge, but communities lacking the forums in which to share their knowledge. Gladman Chibememe, Bibhu Mohanty, and Ishwar Poojar, all three from the Community Knowledge Service, mentioned the importance of their Service in supporting communities to learn best practices among themselves.
Britta Slettemark of the Norway Ministry of Environment made note of Norway joining the Equator Initiative partnership because of Norway's commitment to cooperate with communities and incorporate local voices in larger policy dialogues. Mr Troya provided some closing remarks, noting that biodiversity and people are inseparable, and that the human element must be fully incorporated into the daily work of global policymakers.