Key national experts from the Ministry of Environment Protection and Natural Resources of Georgia, other government institutions, the NGO sector and the knowledge community have concluded the consultation and capacity building process aimed at the improved and more coherent implementation of international conventions relevant to protected areas, and mapped out main directions for the further application of the outcomes of the process. The final guidelines for improved implementation were presented and discussed at the Ministry on 19 February, 2009.
This activity of the project “Halting the loss of biodiversity in the southern Caucasus” (with funding from the Royal Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs), which built on the TEMATEA Issue-Based Module on protected areas (PAs), was implemented jointly with the TEMATEA Secretariat. Starting from the online issue-based module on protected areas, an inventory of the current implementation of PA-related commitments under the main environmental conventions was produced and discussed among national experts, and a draft set of specific actions for improved implementation was derived based on this inventory. After further discussion, the most relevant actions and four general principles for better coordination of implementation activities were developed into guidelines.
Results of the process have already been integrated into the draft Long-term PA System Strategy and Action Plan which is currently being developed by the Agency of Protected Areas at the MoE. They will also be used as a basis of the revision of Georgia’s Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan, which is coming up in 2009. The multi-convention approach developed during the national consultation process and some of the specific actions will also help to widen the perspective during national implementation of the CBD Programme of Work on Protected Areas, which comprises most of the central commitments of Georgia related to PAs.
The guidelines were endorsed by a wide range of stakeholders present on 19 February: Sophiko Akhobadze, Advisor to the Minister of Environment Protection and Natural Resources and member of the Ramsar Standing Committee, highlighted the participatory way in which the document was produced: “Our experts from the Ministry have been closely involved in producing these outputs. TEMATEA remains useful as a tool to identify gaps in the current implementation that should be filled. The Department of Environmental Policy and International Relations of the MoE, which is also responsible for the implementation of international conventions, will assume an important role in following up on the outcomes presented here today.”
Ana Rukhadze, Chief Specialist at the Biodiversity Service as well as CITES and Ramsar Focal Point at the MoE, added that “… the Biodiversity Service has been actively involved in this process from the start. We consider the outcome of the process highly useful for our day-to-day work and believe that it will really improve implementation of Georgia’s commitments under international conventions with relevance to biodiversity”.
This was further supported by Tea Barbakadze, Head of the Planning Division at the Agency of Protected Areas (APA) - the leading agency involved in PA management in Georgia: “The Agency of Protected Areas is very satisfied with our collaboration with IUCN during this and other activities. Inclusion of relevant actions into the Protected Area System Development Strategy and Action Plan of the APA is particularly important as this plan will serve as a day-to-day reference for the development of Georgia’s PA system for years to come”.
Nugzar Zazanashvili, Conservation Director of WWF Caucasus, put the outcomes of the TEMATEA process into the context of WWF’s support to the implementation of the CBD Programme of Work on Protected Areas in Georgia: “The Ministry is faced with a sea of international commitments and obligations, not only from the Programme of Work on PAs but also from all the other CBD Programmes of Work and other conventions. Therefore, the guidelines and the TEMATEA Modules as such are important tools to structure and prioritize these commitments, and it would be useful to apply the same approach to other issues and conventions”.
The approved guidelines will also be posted on the website of the Ministry of Environment Protection and Natural Resources of Georgia.