Are you aware of these amazing facts?
The EU’s Outermost Regions (ORs) and Overseas Countries and Territories (OCTs) include 34 political entities which: (1) cover a total land area equivalent to the EU (2) cover the largest marine territory in the world (3) host more than 20% of the world’s coral reefs and lagoons, and (4) are home to 4 of 36 global hotspots biodiversity: Caribbean Islands, New Caledonia, French Polynesia and Macaronesian Archipelagos. EU Overseas host unique and amazing ecosytems of global importance but these ecosystems are severely under threat from climate change, invasive species, and habitat degradation, fragmentation and loss.
"The EU’s ORs and OCTs hold 80% of the EU’s Biodiversity and are Ambassadors for the EU." - Humberto DELGADO ROSA, Director Natural Capital, DG ENV
In 2010, the BEST initiative was launched to promote the conservation of biodiversity and sustainable use of ecosystem services, including ecosystem based approaches to climate change adaptation and mitigation, in the EU’s Outermost Regions and Overseas Countries and Territories.
"Nature provides for us, and it is clearly in our interest to protect ecosystems; ecosystems protect us from climate change impacts." - Manuel CARMONA YEBRA, DG Clima, European Commission
During ‘’the BEST Future conference’ that took place on 28 November, MEPs, Ministers, European Commission representatives and partners met in Brussels to share their experiences and take stock on where BEST is in terms of securing a long lasting partnership and stable financing mechanism that keeps the momentum going and allows BEST to continue into the future.
"BEST is one of the EU’s most ambitious intiatives protecting biodiversity and ecosystems. Now is the time to secure financing for a common and dedicated mechanism to take the initiative post 2020 and into the future." Maurice PONGA, MEP
Since its beginning, the BEST initiative has opened 9 calls for proposals for small and medium grants and supported financing of 80 projects with €10.8 million in support and more to follow soon.
Everyone agreed that the BEST projects truly demonstrate the effectiveness of small grants for unlocking the local potential and how local actors can have a big impact when they have access to even modest levels of financing.
"Nous devons repenser nos outre-mer, nos îles, avec la résilience de nos écosystèmes pour maître-mot. Le programme BEST a montré la nécessité d’accélérer nos politiques de préservation et de reconquête de la biodiversité." - Annick GIRARDIN, Ministre des outre-mer
But it is also evident that there is still an enormous need because the demand for funding largely outcompeted the budget available for open calls. Many eligible projects have not yet been funded.
"Although a small drop in an ocean, the results of the BEST Initiative are impressive locally: the number of actors it has mobilized, the new partnerships that have been built, and how BEST has raised awareness for biodiversity in the EU’s ORs and OCTs at all levels." - Stefan LEINER, European Commission
As the day progressed many interventions appreciated the diversity and flexibility of the scheme, which matches the different needs and capacities in the ORs and OCTs. One just has to look at the BEST projects funded so far in the seven geographical regions which spread across the world: Pacific, Indian Ocean, Caribbean, Polar/Sub-polar and North/South Atlantic. Projects cover marine to terrestrial landscapes, and range from protected area designation and management to tackling invasive species, creating synergies using ecosystem services for climate change adaptation and mitigation, protecting endangered species, communication, education, capacity building and much more.
BEST has also increased the recognition of the importance of biodiversity in the EU’s ORs and OCTs. Further, as Party to the CBD and other global conventions, the EU can use and harness the BEST initiative in ORs and OCTs as an engine to contribute to the achievement of international commitments.
"The BEST initiative has unlocked the potential of the EU’s ORs and OCTs to contribute to achieving the Aichi targets. The CBD stands ready to collaborate with BEST partners to support efforts and move the BEST initiative into a more permanent mechanism." - Cristiana PASCA PALMER, CBD Executive Secretary
BEST has provided key seed funding for many important activities that would not have happened otherwise. But there was time to discuss and showcase only a few of the successful initiatives such as the achievements of PISUNA and COCA LOCA projects described below:
PISUNA, or "Piniakkanik Sumiiffinni Nalunaarsuineq" which is its Greenlandic name. This partnership between the Greenland Government and European Commission led to the creation of a field-based scheme which enables Greenlandic fishers and hunters to monitor living resources and propose management decisions. For the first time ever, PISUNA gave indigenous fishers and hunters a voice and their observations are now supporting decision making in Greenland. So much so that PISUNA has led to the creation and implementation of 500 management measures! The success of this venture has even found its way to the UN General Assembly.
COCA LOCA, Connectivity of Loggerhead Turtle (Caretta caretta) in Western Indian Ocean. This project, funded by the Agence Française de Développement (AFD) has brought countries in the region together with nesting sites of endangered loggerhead turtles to work together to learn more about, protect and manage this amazing species.
As the day ended, participants agreed about the success of BEST so far. The main take home messages that:
- Small is beautiful - small investments can make a big difference
- Tailored grant mechanisms efficiently unlock local potential
- Investments to support biodiversity and sustainable development in the EU’s ORs and OCTS are still needed
- The BEST initiative needs to be transformed in a sustainable mechanism
Let’s keep faith that the European Commission, AFD and other donors and partners take pride in and keep hearing the voices of the EU’s exceptional ORs and OCTs.
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