How Africa balances conservation of wildlife and wild lands with sustainable economic development has far-reaching consequences for saving Earth’s natural environment. On Thursday, May 5th, African Wildlife Foundation (AWF) convened a high-level panel in Washington, D.C. to examine the nexus of conservation finance, development, and mitigating climate impacts in African countries, along with the implications for U.S. policy formation trailing the global pandemic. Panelists drilled down on how the U.S. government and the GEF plan to prioritize foreign assistance going forward, the evolving role of the U.S. government in African conservation, and the importance of non-partisan political engagement in America’s partnership with African governments.
Panelists emphasized the crucial role that African leadership must play in employing strategies that sustainably manage natural resources while developing African economies. Billed as a discussion on local and global “megatrends,” participants focused on specific ways governments can work together in developing a new climate action agenda, partnerships to prevent biodiversity loss, and how these issues are playing out across Africa.
The AWF panelists included: Justin Kenney, counselor, Communications and Public Diplomacy, Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs, U.S. Department of State; H.E. Mathilde Mukantabana, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Rwanda to the United States of America; Dr. Adriana Gonçalves Moreira, Senior Environmental Specialist, Global Environment Facility; John Gantt, President, International Conservation Caucus Foundation; and Kaddu Sebunya, CEO, African Wildlife Foundation (panel moderator).
Justin Kenney, counselor, Communications and Public Diplomacy, Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs, U.S. Department of State, said: “We stand at a crossroad, facing a climate crisis, a pollution crisis, and a nature crisis. Down one road is more of the same—more pollution and more severe storms, rising temperatures and sea levels, loss of biodiversity, greater environmental injustice, and greater insecurity. The other road leads to a better future where we live sustainably with nature. As we work to raise ambition and, more importantly to take action, collaborations with Africa are front and center in this effort.”
Dr. Adriana Gonçalves Moreira, Senior Environmental Specialist and Global Wildlife Program Coordinator, Global Environment Facility (GEF), said: “Leaders around the world are striving to achieve sustainable development in the face of biodiversity loss, climate change and infectious disease. There is increasing recognition that nature underpins human resilience, which means we need approaches that simultaneously address environmental challenges and human well-being challenges. In the coming decade, the GEF is promoting partnerships that merge grassroots solutions and resources with national- and global-level support. The role of African leadership cannot be understated, and this includes not only governments but also vibrant private sector and civil society organizations.”
Panelists unanimously said that decisions leaders take now will have enduring impact, and that the U.S. Africa policy landscape is rapidly changing. Factors include extreme weather events occurring more frequently, elevating climate change to warrant a new status of national security. Also, the rush to address pandemic prevention and public health threats from unregulated wildlife markets in the aftermath of Covid-19 will heavily influence opportunities available to Africans governments.
AWF CEO Kaddu Sebunya, said: “Today’s panel focused on what we are calling the megatrends. These overarching drivers will heavily influence US-African policies that help fund the different aspects of our conservation work. As Africa joins the rest of the world in addressing these key concerns – particularly the climate crisis – efforts must be made to restructure support and financing of conservation agencies, programs, and NGOs working across the continent.”
AWF and the Rwandan Government will co-convene the inaugural IUCN African Protected Areas Congress (APAC) from July 18-22, 2022. The Congress will be an important proving ground for African governments to show the international community that countries are capable of working together to address urgent conservation challenges, and come together under one big tent to put forth new ideas on an African-led vision that secures and safeguards Africa’s vast natural landscapes and wildlife.
Kaddu Sebunya continued: “The proposal to serve as a financing mechanism for conservation is the formation of a Pan-African Conservation Trust (A-PACT), envisioned to support all of Africa’s protected and conserved areas. The A-PACT model is a Conservation Trust Fund with sufficient endowment (US$ 95-225 billion) to pay out up to $6.7 billion annually.”