The newly established Biodiversity Taskforce (BD TF), formed of representatives of the economies of South East Europe, met for the first time on November 14 2017 in Belgrade. Participants underlined the importance of fostering regional cooperation and giving a unified voice on issues concerning biodiversity protection. Conclusions from the meeting were presented at the Ministerial Conference of Southeast European Nations held during the Climate Change Conference –UN COP 23.
South East Europe will face rising temperatures above the European average, change in precipitation patterns, leading to increased flood risk, extended periods of draught, soil erosion and forest fires, reports the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). In response, South East European economies need to advance in the implementation of the regional strategy South East Europe 2020 (SEE 2020 Strategy), developed by the Regional Cooperation Council (RCC) with support of the European Commission, to address these challenges. The strategy recognizes that climate change related impacts are likely to devastate human and natural capital in the most productive and economic areas of the region, and calls for comprehensive action to “adapt to the climate change in order to reach more climate resilient society and economy.” More specifically, Dimension J (Environment) – one of the 16 dimensions of the SEE 2020 Strategy – identifies actions to address climate change, among other.
In recognition of the above, The Biodiversity Task Force was established under the Regional Working Group on Environment (RWG Env). By gathering representatives and fostering dialogue between institutions responsible for environmental, water resources, land, climate protection and biodiversity, the working group is an intergovernmental body that coordinates regional activities, facilitates the implementation of the goals of the SEE 2020 Strategy and creates an environment for more efficient implementation of state policies related to environmental protection.
The objective of the first meeting of the BD TF, chaired by the Ministry of Environmental Protection of Serbia, was to identify priorities and preliminary strategic directions. Participants agreed on developing the following themes within the framework of the BD TF Work Plan: consolidating biodiversity information and knowledge for policy-making and action at the regional level; strengthening SEE economies in progressing towards international biodiversity commitments and implementation of EU nature policy; mainstreaming biodiversity and ecosystem services into sectorial policies. A number of cross-cutting activities, such as regional capacity development and visibility and outreach were also identified. The BD TF will meet twice a year, with next meeting due in spring 2018 and presided by the representatives of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.
The Regional Office for Eastern Europe and Central Asia of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN ECARO) acts as the Secretariat of the BD TF and provides administrative support, while also contributing to better linking and faster implementation of measures related to the conservation of biodiversity and healthy ecosystems envisaged in the SEE 2020 Strategy. Support for establishing the BD TF has been provided by the German organization for international cooperation - Open Regional Fund for South-East Europe – Biodiversity (GIZ/ORF BD), funded by the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development of Germany (BMZ).