In 2011, the European Union (EU) and the ACP Group of States mandated IUCN and JRC, the Joint Research Centre of the European Commission, to implement a programme on protected area information management and capacity development for better decision making and planning. For five years, the Biodiversity and Protected Areas Management Programme (BIOPAMA) has worked towards bringing together the critical knowledge and capacity to Africa, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries’ efforts for effective conservation and sustainable use of their natural resources . In 2017, the European Union and the ACP Group of States have renewed their investment for continuing this extremely ambitious programme, while adding a novel element of a Euro 20 million Action Grant component to fund activities on the ground.
The BIOPAMA partnership combines the protected areas and the biodiversity conservation expertise of IUCN with the scientific know how of the Joint Research Centre. It builds on IUCN’s networks, presence and experience on the ground. Within IUCN as a Union, BIOPAMA brings together the Secretariat and four regional offices, the expertise of the IUCN WCPA – Capacity Development group, and many IUCN members, States and non-governmental, as beneficiaries. Regional organisations in Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific also participate in the implementation of the programme, especially through the collaboration for the Observatories for protected areas and biodiversity.
The direct beneficiaries of the BIOPAMA programme are the protected area actors at the regional, national and local levels, whose efforts will continue to be supported by the provision of tools, services, capacity development and the possibility to finance actions at the site level.
BIOPAMA intervenes in three regions: 79 countries hosting 9,000 protected areas, encompassing a massive diversity of ecological, social, economic and cultural landscapes. The regions represent some of the most challenging places on Earth and host a huge share of our planet’s biodiversity. While the programme’s objectives are the same across all the regions, BIOPAMA can only succeed by tailoring them to respond to specific needs and complement countries’ efforts filling the gaps where they exist.
Using the best available information to drive appropriate conservation actions and decisions is crucial for protected areas management and the livelihoods of people who depend on them. The BIOPAMA Reference Information System (RRIS) is a tool developed by JRC that gathers the information from the many knowledge products, projects, databases on protected areas, species and related information, in addition to the data uploaded, created and generated by the users themselves. The RRIS is an open-source and free tool that collects and analyses information on protected areas and their trends. It is expected to be harmonised with other major global datasets and relevant information management platforms, including PANORAMA - Solutions for a Healthy Planet - and the IUCN Green List of Protected and Conserved Areas.
The central pillar of BIOPAMA’s work is the Regional Observatories for Protected Areas and Biodiversity, mandated by well-established regional institutions: the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) in the Pacific, the University of the West Indies (UWI-CERMES) in the Caribbean, the East African Community (EAC) Secretariat, the Observatory for Central African Forests (OFAC) in Central Africa and the West African Marine Protected Areas Network (RAMPAO) and West African Economic and Monetary Union (WAEMU) for West Africa.
These Observatories host regional versions of the Reference Information Systems tailored for each region of intervention. The data and information available through the RRIS helps monitor and report on the status of protected areas, conservation, management effectiveness and governance, climate change, illegal wildlife trade, poaching of high value species, overharvesting of marine resources, overfishing, illegal logging and many other issues.
Data collected can also be used for the IUCN Green List, reporting on international commitments and the World Database on Protected Areas (WDPA). This data helps prioritise where immediate interventions are needed and where to invest in increasing the capacity of staff and organisations to manage those areas.