BEST III Preparatory Action project for Europe overseas launched

On Friday 31st January, the contract to implement the third year of the European BEST Preparatory Action was launched at the European Commission. This crucial phase of the initiative focuses on developing measures for sustaining the European BEST Initiative for conservation and the sustainable use of biodiversity and ecosystem services in EU outermost regions and overseas countries and territories.

Partners in the BEST III project meeting at the launch event in the European Commission

The consortium of organisations involved in the project include IUCN - who will be acting as the project coordinator - Conservation International (CI), the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF), the French IUCN Committee, the WWF France, The UNEP SPAW Regional Activity Center (SPAW RAC), the Fundo Regional para a Ciência (FRC), the South Atlantic Environment Research Institute (SAERI), the French Antarctic and Sub Antarctic Territories, De Visu and One Agency-Ausy Belgium.

The four year project will develop a platform that shall profile BEST projects and facilitate information sharing on funding availability from a range of different sources. A lot of information will be available on the platform including description of current and BEST projects to come. The platform will serve as a clearing house for local actors and donors. It is envisaged that potential funders might include the European Commission, Member States and other possible partners, such as international financial institutions, NGOs and the private sector.

Crucially, the project will also see the development of required support mechanisms including regional ecosystem profiles and BEST strategies including investment plans. These tools are essential in order to ensure that long term funding for projects for biodiversity in European overseas entities is dedicated to the most pressing conservation challenges and to support priority sustainable development needs and climate change adaptation.

Karin Zaunberger, European Commission Policy Officer following the BEST Initiative said: “It has been quite a journey since the Conference in La Reunion in 2008. Thanks to the BEST Preparatory Action the initiative has gained visibility and momentum and I sincerely hope that together we will manage to transform the initiative into a sustainable scheme. The participation of representatives of several DGs of the European Commission, of Member States, of local and regional governments, and of other concerned organisations in the BEST III launch event is very encouraging. During these years I have learned a lot about the biodiversity in EU outermost regions and overseas countries and territories and it strikes me as a treasure which must not be lost. I find that this is a challenge as well as an opportunity not only for the Member States with outermost regions and overseas countries and territories, but for the EU as a whole”.

Carole Martinez, Programme Coordinator for IUCN’s EU Outermost Regions & Overseas Countries & Territories programme said: “This final phase of the BEST preparatory Action is a major opportunity for implementing the two core recommendations of the Message from La Reunion calling for a voluntary scheme and a dedicated mechanism for Europe’s overseas biodiversity and ecosystem services. We call on all organisations across Europe and its overseas entities, and global players to get involved in the project and ensure that Europe’s incredible overseas biodiversity is well managed for future generations to come. To quote the European Biodiversity strategy: 'We are all in this together', so let’s team up with the EU Overseas actors!”

EU Outermost Regions (ORs) and Overseas Countries and Territories (OCTs) are home to exceptional biodiversity. The 34 political entities include more than 150 islands and one Outermost Region in South America; French Guyana. Together they cover a total land area equivalent to the EU area, and a marine territory, which is the largest of the world.

In 2008 representatives of ORs, OCTs, EU Member States, the European Parliament and the European Commission came together for the Conference “The European Union and its Overseas Entities: Strategies to counter Climate Change and Biodiversity Loss”. The Conference led to the “Message from Reunion Island” which called for EU Member States and the European Commission, together with the ORs and OCTs, to establish a voluntary scheme for the protection of species and habitats. The BEST Preparatory Action, initiated by the European Parliament and implemented by the European Commission, provided funding for 16 projects in 2011 and 2012, and in 2013 thanks to a partnership with the French Aid Agency 2 further projects were supported and the BEST facilitating project was extended.

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