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The Joint Research Centre (JRC) is the European Commission's science and knowledge service which employs scientists to carry out research in order to provide independent scientific advice and support to EU policy.
A new Regional Resource Hub on biodiversity and protected areas has been launched to support 24 countries in Eastern and Southern Africa. This knowledge hub facilitates better decision-making for fair and effective management and governance of the region’s protected areas and natural resources.
The new Regional Resource Hub is one of the regional observatories implemented by the Biodiversity and Protected Areas Management (BIOPAMA) Programme, and is hosted by the Regional Centre for Mapping of Resources for Development (RCMRD) in Nairobi, Kenya. The overall goal of the BIOPAMA Programme is to improve the long-term conservation and sustainable use of natural resources in the 79 African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries. It is an initiative of the Organisation of African, Caribbean and Pacific States (OACPS) financed by the European Union’s 11th European Development Fund (EDF), jointly implemented by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and the JRC. Protected areas are a key instrument for conserving biodiversity and critical ecosystem services, and contribute in many ways to the achievement of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The partner institutions presented the knowledge hub to the stakeholders in Eastern and Southern Africa during a virtual launch event that took place on 24 November 2020. The hub was launched in the presence of many high-level representatives of national protected area agencies, ministries, Regional Economic Communities, and BIOPAMA donors and partners.
“This new knowledge hub will play an important role in supporting decision-makers in the region with critical information“, says Stephen Peedell, the BIOPAMA project coordinator at the JRC. “The host organisation, the RCMRD, is a highly regarded institution, working with all 24 countries in the region, and with a great track record on developing information products. So we are very excited to work with them on the Regional Resource Hub for Eastern and Southern Africa.”
The knowledge generated and disseminated by the Regional Resource Hub will help regional organisations, national governments, NGOs, local communities and other stakeholders achieve their biodiversity conservation objectives and more accurately report their progress on multilateral environmental agreements, such as the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). The knowledge hub compiles and analyses data and provides information to support field interventions, policy dialogues and decision-making processes at local, national and regional levels. Finally, the knowledge hub aims to catalyse synergies among information systems in the region.
The Regional Resource Hub includes:
In the coming months, the BIOPAMA Programme will work with the partners in the region to further improve and populate the Regional Resource Hub with critical information, and to develop the capacity of key stakeholders in the region to use the hub for decision-making. The JRC continues to support this work, including through further development of the underlying information systems and products, as well as a service contract with the RCMRD.
The JRC supported the preparation of the report, for example with indicators of ecoregion protection from the JRC’s Digital Observatory for Protected Areas (DOPA), a global information system that supports the implementation of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).
The analyses underpinning the report show that, across Eastern and Southern Africa, 16.5% of the terrestrial area and 5.6% of the marine area is covered by protected areas. However, there is still scope for expanding governance and management assessments across the region, including through the application of tools such as the Integrated Management Effectiveness Tool (IMET) developed by the BIOPAMA Programme. Such assessments can help to review strengths and weaknesses of protected and conserved areas, identify priorities for action, and thus help to achieve better conservation outcomes and socio-economic benefits.
The Regional Resource Hub for Eastern and Southern Africa is the latest in a series of similar knowledge hubs that the BIOPAMA Programme has helped to establish in other parts of the world, always in partnership with well-established regional institutions. The network also includes regional observatories for Central Africa and Western Africa, the Caribbean Protected Areas Gateway, and the Pacific Islands Protected Area Portal. All of these regional observatories support capacity development, data collection, analysis, monitoring and reporting, and also provide policy guidance for better decision-making on biodiversity conservation.