Is regional cooperation a good return on investment?

Boris Erg, Director of IUCN's regional office for Eastern Europe and Central Asia: "The message I brought along was very simple. The whole could be greater than the sum of its parts".

IUCN side event COP14

Returning to CBD COP after more than ten years since my first participation filled me with both excitement and anxiety. Excitement for the mere fact of once again being part of the biggest global nature conservation convention, only one leg before the milestone 2020 summit, and anxiety because I actually didn’t know what kind of community I am going to meet. Has the global conservation community grown in the meantime? Is it ready to respond to challenges ahead of us? Can IUCN help Parties navigate these times of uncertainty and change? I landed in Sharm El Sheikh with all these questions rattling around in my head. And above all, I asked myself what contribution I can make for the benefit of the wider community.

The message I brought along was very simple. The whole could be greater than the sum of its parts, if an idea is conceptualised and operationalized in a proper way. With this simple creed in mind we, at IUCN ECARO initiated in 2017 with GIZ Open Regional Fund - Biodiversity a cooperation platform for government agencies called the South-Eastern European (SEE) Biodiversity Task Force. This partnership was created with limited resources at hands, yet with trust in value added of cooperation beyond jurisdictions, seeking to reach out, cross-fertilise and enhance. Only a year and a half after its inception, the group was invited to present its first achievements at the CBD COP14, a major nature conservation forum. Why it would matter to the CBD? What difference does it make to a global process that already has its constituents and established reporting mechanisms to channel its decisions through an informal regional cooperation network?

The answer is simple. It’s better coordinated, more efficient, and often cheaper. Speaking through one consolidated voice increases the chance of being heard, and for decisions to be taken up at different levels. This is particularly important today as we discuss the post-2020 framework and plan our future. There is no better way of facilitating identification of joint priorities than through regional cooperation networks. The same can be said for policy-making, coordinated planning and implementation of action plans, setting up coherent monitoring and evaluations frameworks, fundraising, and communications.

With the plethora of benefits that regional cooperation entails and triggers, it is no surprise that the SEE Biodiversity Task Force has gained such traction in its first year of existence. The joint side event at COP14 proved the fitness of this relatively young and emerging cooperation platform and confirmed the interest of IUCN and partners to support it down the line. How the SEE Biodiversity Task Force will translate CBD targets to national levels and conversely, how will it help feed national achievements into global processes, remains to be seen. But it is clear that participating economies feel strong ownership of this regional process, and are ready to make an additional effort to operationalize it to its full capacity, including positioning it at the centre of regional discussion on the CBD and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

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