Interview with the World Conservation Union Director, Julia Marton-Lefevre, following a meeting with AfDB Group’s President, Donald Kaberuka

03/12/2009
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“We had fruitful discussions with President Kaberuka. Our two organizations are convinced of the need to work together for the conservation of nature and sustainable development in Africa,” says World Conservation Union Director, Julia Marton-Lefevre, following a meeting with AfDB President.

Question: Could you introduce your organization to us?

Answer: Founded in 1948, the International Union for Conservation of the Nature (IUCN) is an international organization devoted to biodiversity conservation through the protection and sustainable use of the earth’s resources. The world’s oldest and largest environmental democracy, it is a unique partnership of States, government agencies and NGOs. The Union’s wok is guided by the belief that successful conservation requires collective action based on sound science. For 60 years, it has acted as a convenor, bringing, together members and stakeholder to develop and negotiate solutions to environmental and development challenges and to provide them with the concepts, strategies and technical support needed to achieve their goals.

Question: We are approaching Cop-15 (Climate Change Conference, Copenhagen). Environmental issues are also currently at the heart of discussions among experts in the AfDB. In your case, you have just had a meeting with the Bank’s president. Were your discussions also related to Cop-15?

Answer: This is my first meeting with President Kaberuka and I am glad we discussed a wide range of issues related to environment. From our discussions, I have the strong feeling that the Bank cares a lot about environmental issues and sustainable development in the continent. I am also glade we briefly touched Cop-15 conference, as our common goal is to provide healthy and environment for a sustainable development. As you know, our two organizations signed an MOU in 2006 and we need to put a plan of action in place. Our discussions focused on the key areas of possible collaboration and I am glad we are convinced of the need to work together.

Question: What are some of your recent achievements in Africa?

Answer: In Africa, we work closely with a number of important intergovernmental partners including regional economic commissions such as SADC, ECOWAS and River basin development agencies like OMVS, CICOS and CBLT. Our organization adds value to biodiversity conservation efforts in Africa in several areas. Among others, we have aquaculture: fish farming may meet the hunger for seafood that wild stocks cannot satisfy. We are involved in wild medicinal plants cultivation. In that capacity, we have been helping rural women plant, harvest and bring herbal medicines to market across North Africa. We contribute in eradicating aliens: invasive noxious weed species hurt economies worldwide. In Africa, they destroy entire livelihoods. IUCN coordinates the fight against this scourge at local and national levels. You also know that water is an issue, not only in Africa. For example, Burkina Faso and Ghana speak two different languages, but they share one Volta River. Four decades of drought have made that river’s water a geopolitical flashpoint. Upstream dams in Burkina Faso have been blamed for threatening Ghana’s vital hydropower downstream. IUCN stepped in as an honest  broker to analyse the problem, encouraged dialogue, and established solid scientific foundations acceptable to both nations.

Question: How did your organization make it happen?

Answer: It started by carrying out a water audit which sowed who used how much water, where and when. The new knowledge is being used to help different stakeholders to understand the effects of development and coordinate future management plans. Finally, we helped the two countries to co-develop a code of conduct that establishes shared rules and priorities for both nations, including drinking water. This code of conduct now unites all six countries that share the Volta Basin. This is an example of our actions.

Question: Africa, like other parts of the world is facing unprecedented crisis emerging from the loss of biological diversity and species. What do you do about it in Africa?

Answer: Biodiversity and species underpins all life on earth, including the functioning of fragile and interconnected ecosystems from which humanity derives products and services. Biodiversity is being lost at a rate far beyond what would occur through natural process due to pressure from habitat destruction and degradation such as deforestation, land conversion, wetland degradation, as well as from climate change, pollution and the spread of invasive species. What do we do about it? To halt and reverse the loss of biodiversity, and reverse the trend of disappearing ecosystem services, the IUCN programme is, harnessing knowledge, developing and using standards and tools, convening scientists, policy-makers, enabling the participation of marginalized stakeholders in decision-makers and influencing policy from global to local levels.

Question: What do you do about climate change, currently known as one of the greatest challenges facing people and the environment?

Answer: Climate change will increasingly cause storms, drought and floods and will have severe impacts on health, food production and water availability. Poor people in particular depend on natural resources for their livelihoods. Managing and conserving these resources in a sustainable way can contribute to building resilience against the effects of climate change. For example, managing agricultural lands using local knowledge of specific crop and livestock varieties can help protect and provide a regular secure food supply. Properly applied, mitigation initiatives like reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation, cannot only reduce emissions, but also held conserve biodiversity and produce healthier forests that deliver services for people.

Our organization is implementing solutions to adaptation and mitigation through natural resources management, providing capacity building, creating adaptation tools, and facilitation communication between a wide range of local and international organizations (stakeholder dialogues) to establish governance and policy solutions. With support from Royal Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, we are implementing pro-poor projects in five pilot countries (Guatemala, Indonesia, Liberia, Cameroon and Ghana. The project is working on national strategies that build on and strengthen existing forest governance reforms and are in line with and contribute to national poverty reduction strategies.

Question: Can you explain to us what make you feel satisfied with your meeting with President Kaberuka?

Answer: Our discussions with President Kaberuka have been fruitful. Our two organizations are convinced of the need to work together for the conservation of nature and sustainable development. We focused our discussions on key issues threatening the world and African continent in particular. These issues are of common interest to our organizations and they include potentials for healthy environment and resources management, as well as biodiversity conservation in Africa. The meeting also sought to identify cooperation areas and discussed capacity building issues. You may recall that our institutions in 2008, signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). In this regard, President Kaberuka proposed two major areas of collaboration: Environmental impacts on huge projects (hydraulic and infrastructures); and Capacity building on projects. I would like to thank the Bank Group president for providing us this useful opportunity to discuss with experts on all these issues.