One of the strategic orientations coming from the International Conference on Biodiversity and Climate Change conference, held in Guadeloupe in October 2014, stressed the need for facilitated access to funding for European Overseas entities’ stakeholders, especially to small grants, and for regional partnerships. With its BEST 2.0 programme, the European Commission is providing new funding opportunities for projects in the EU Overseas Countries and Territories (OCTs).
Recognizing the urgency to keep support for projects on the ground while a long-term BEST (Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services in outermost regions and overseas countries and Territories) financing mechanism is being elaborated, the European Commission’s Directorate General for International Cooperation and Development (EuropeAid) has decided to allocate new resources for concrete projects in the Overseas Countries and Territories through a five-year programme called BEST 2.0.
Offering new funding opportunities for OCTs stakeholders, calls for proposals in the Overseas Countries and Territories will be organised in the two coming years with a provision of over €6 million and easier access to grants. BEST 2.0 is part of the B4Life flagship initiative and is aiming at tangibly supporting the environmental dimension of the EU-OCT Association Decision.
The goal of BEST 2.0 is to enable, empower and strengthen local stakeholders, authorities and civil society organisations in OCTs who are committed to local development, biodiversity conservation and sustainable use of ecosystem services.
Eligible beneficiaries will be local authorities and services, civil society organisations as well as stakeholders working in OCTs. Match funding with Outermost Regions (ORs) and Small Island Developing States (SIDS) will be possible to meet regional needs and support regional cooperation.
Five of the existing BEST knowledge hubs with OCTs (Caribbean, Indian Ocean, Pacific, Polar/Subpolar, South Atlantic) will help assure that the calls are adapted to the varying conditions and situations encountered in OCTs but will also provide support to local organisations and stakeholders for proposal submissions.
The proposals will be reviewed by the Regional Advisory Committees comprising independent experts and the EC will take the final decision. Thanks to this programme, new projects on the ground will be implemented in all OCTs addressing needs and priorities as identified in the EU-OCT Association Decision and further oriented by the OCTs’ Environmental and Regional ecosystem profiles. The BEST 2.0 programme will, amongst other activities, support implementing actions for biodiversity conservation, sustainable use of ecosystems and ecosystem services in the key biodiversity areas identified through the participative ecosystem profiles process led by the BEST knowledge hubs.
As a result, the OCTs will increase their visibility and contribute to the achievements of the EU and global biodiversity targets (Aichi Targets) by maintaining and restoring biodiversity and through the sustainable use of ecosystem services. They will also serve as models of ecosystem-based approaches to climate change mitigation and adaptation, and a low-carbon economy.
The EU Outermost Regions (ORs) and Overseas Countries and Territories (OCTs) European Overseas entities harbour ecosystems as varied as polar seas, rainforests, tropical coral reefs or volcanic islands which provide vital services to local people and populations far beyond their regions.
Unknown to many, most of Europe’s biodiversity is located overseas and faces severe threats exacerbated by climate change. The need to support conservation efforts in these entities has been recognized by the European Parliament, which adopted the BEST 'preparatory action' enabling the funding of projects in ORs and OCTs through two calls for proposals in 2011 and 2012.
As requests for funding exceeded the available budget by over six times, several projects which met all the evaluation criteria could not be funded. This shows the high demand for biodiversity funding in the EU ORs and OCTs.
The European Commission is currently supporting the work of a consortium of seven regional knowledge hubs and a central team coordinated by IUCN, known as BEST III, which is developing regional ecosystem profiles and funding strategies for a future long-term funding mechanism to better meet the local needs within the framework of the BEST initiative.