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Africa must map out it's biodiversity action plan

The need to re-orient and match Africa's ambitious agenda for economic, political and social transformation calls for positioning of the continent's natural ecosystems and wildlife as foundational to climate action and aspirations set out in Agenda 2063.

As we stand on the precipice of the African Union's Africa, Caribbean and Pacific Conference on the Implementation of the Outcomes of the CBD COP15 and CITES COP19, it is imperative that we reflect on the crucial role Africa plays in global conservation efforts.

With our rich biodiversity and diverse ecosystems, approximately a third of the total global biodiversity, Africa stands as a beacon of hope for global environmental sustainability.

Essentially, well-being of global ecosystems, economic systems and human existence largely depends on Africa. Undoubtedly, it is essential to underscore the fundamental principles that will guide us towards successful implementation.

For Africa, this moment presents an opportunity to define a more sustainable, efficient, and inclusive development and growth agenda in key sectors including agriculture, energy, minerals, transport and logistics, health, among others.

Experts have reiterated need to position people at the core of the conservation and climate action agendas. To succeed, conservation must be driven locally, with approaches that are inclusive and participatory, enabling local communities to take ownership and agency of the actions and decisions.

Local communities have a deep understanding of their ecosystems and can offer invaluable insights and traditional knowledge.

Non-state actors, such as civil society organisations (CSOs), should be treated as equal partners in decision-making and implementation processes. Their expertise and commitment are essential for translating policies into action on the ground. To promote accountability and ownership, all stakeholders, including non-state actors must be part of key decisions and processes.

Africa as a growing continent that relies heavily on its natural capital conservation must be positioned as the driver for sustainable development. Leaders and negotiators must recognise the interlinkages between biodiversity, poverty alleviation, and economic growth and capitalise on them in pursuing our development agenda. Africa's natural resources have potential to drive sustainable economic development, providing jobs and opportunities for our growing population. We must strike a balance between development aspirations and environmental stewardship, promoting sustainable practices that safeguard both the livelihoods of our people and integrity of our ecosystems.

Additionally, we must prioritise the visibility, equity, representation, rights, and meaningful participation of indigenous peoples and local communities (IPLCs), youth, women, and CSOs in decision-making bodies and processes. Their perspectives and contributions are vital for the delivery of goals and targets of the Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF) and other related multilateral environmental agreements.

Governments and partners should adopt a human-rights-based approach that protects IPLC rights from infringement by multinational corporations and market-based mechanisms. The principle of Free, Prior, and Informed Consent should be always respected. Such inclusive implementation will require collective engagement from CSOs, men and women in all their diversities, the private sector, youth, IPLCs, and national governments.

Africa's biodiversity and ecosystems continue to face numerous existential threats as a result of climate change. Africa must be at the forefront of championing the need to draw linkages between the twin crises of biodiversity loss and climate change.

Our collective knowledge and experience, largely carried by our young people is an invaluable asset that can drive effective conservation efforts on the continent. The upcoming meeting presents a unique opportunity for Africa to advance principles of local action, inclusive engagement, and social inclusivity.

The writer is former Ethiopian Prime Minister

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