IUCN Members in Malawi speak on the environmental situation

The Malawi National Committee of IUCN Members met recently to discuss national environmental issues affecting the country. The Committee includes leading environmental organizations in the country such as the Wildlife and Environmental Society of Malawi (WESM), the Coordinating Union for the Rehabilitation of the Environment (CURE), the Malawi Environmental Endowment Trust (MEET), the Centre for Environmental Policy and Advocacy (CEPA) and Mulanje Mountain Conservation Trust (MMCT). The Malawi National Committee of IUCN Members was formed in November 2011 by members of IUCN in Malawi to, among other things, influence the conservation and development agenda in Malawi.

.. Photo: IUCN/James Makunike

During its meeting, the Committee recognised the positive progress being made by the Malawi Government, its partners and local organisations to address climate change and biodiversity conservation matters at the national level, and their pursuit of potential assistance from the Global Environmental Facility and other donors towards addressing these national environmental priorities.

The Committee expressed concern at the downsizing of the operational capacity of the Malawi Environmental Endowment Trust at a time when its strategic role to supporting local initiatives is most urgently needed to address the range of priority environmental interventions. MEET was established by the Malawi Government, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and their attention is drawn to addressing this challenging circumstance of the organisation.

The recent advances of the extractive industry were appreciated by the Committee and could assist to generate improvements to the local economy. However, the mandated authorities should recognize and fulfil their responsibility to ensure that negative social and environmental impacts are ascertained very clearly at the outset, consider whether approval is the appropriate way forward and if so, that comprehensive mitigation measures are incorporated to alleviate future possible impacts.

Participants noted that the current economic challenges in Malawi will severely impact the conservation status of the country’s natural resources as many people resort to traditional coping mechanisms to maintain their household food security and livelihood standards. The environmental issues currently facing the nation will be compounded by these challenges and there is a need for alternative conservation financing channels to be determined and utilised.

The IUCN Committee appealed to the Government of Malawi to consider state membership of IUCN (alongside 89 other state members) and also the natural resource management sector state agencies to become government agency members of the IUCN joining 124 other government agency members globally. Currently, there are no governmental members of this global network and this situation must be viewed as a significant lost opportunity as there are many benefits that the Union offers.

Malawi was once a State Member of IUCN and during that time, Malawi benefitted from some of the IUCN regional programmes like the Zambezi Basin Wetlands Conservation and Resources Utilisation Programme, which was implemented in Lower Shire; Networking and Capacity Building (NETCAB) Programme and the SADC Regional Biodiversity Programme. Currently there are discussions for Malawi to participate in the programme on Monitoring Illegal Killing of Elephants (MIKE) which is implemented jointly by IUCN, CITES and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

The IUCN Committee has also informed the public that it has successfully nominated the candidature of Mr Mafa Chipeta as the first Malawian national to be considered for election to the IUCN Council as IUCN Regional Councillor for Africa. The elections will be held at the IUCN World Conservation Congress, to be held in Jeju, South Korea in September this year.

For further information on the Malawi National Committee of IUCN Members please contact the Chairperson, Carl Bruessow at carl@mountmulanje.org.mw.

For information about IUCN, please contact: Hastings Chikoko, IUCN Head of  Office - S Africa and the Regional Head of Constituency Support and Communications (Eastern and Southern Africa) at hastings.chikoko@iucn... or visit www.iucn.org/esaro

Work area: 
East and Southern Africa
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