People must benefit from Conservation

This is what delegates were told at the opening of Conservation International’s Global Symposium held in Madagascar on Tuesday and which ends on Saturday. The title of the symposium is Defying Nature’s End: The African Context..

The Symposium brings together Conservation International’s large contingent of staff from its projects all over the world plus selected conservationists from various African countries. Nature Seychelles’ Nirmal Jivan Shah is attending this interactive and exciting meeting of some of the world’s leading conservationists.

The symposium was opened by the President of Madagascar, Marc Ravalomanana,
 who gave an impassioned  speech on the need for conservation. The President called on the international community to do more but also said that Madagascar was  putting the money where its mouth is. It will triple the amount of protected areas in the next 10 years making Madagascar the country in Africa with the most national parks.

Conservation International (CI) already has large programs in Madagascar and several other African countries. Hugely successful at raising funds, CI has put in millions of dollars to help African countries. Unlike many other conservation organizations it actually understands that conservation needs huge financial investments, and it has undertaken to provide these for Governments that are serious about environmental protection.

Despite being an NGO, CI acts like a donor and provides assistance for a wide range of programs. In Africa these include mostly land based initiatives, but at the Symposium, marine conservation is not being ignored. Nirmal Shah said he has had many opportunities to network with old and new contacts which would prove of benefit to Seychelles. In fact, Dr. Sylvia Earle, the world famous marine explorer and oceanographer paid homage to Nirmal, mentioning him by name during the first few sentences of her plenary address.

The sessions stretching over four days have fascinating and highly relevant tiles such as: How debt reduction and investment should ensure that nature’s capital is managed; Environment, Poverty and Health; Environmental Services Valued and Evaluated; and Resource Management and Governance. The speakers are not only from Conservation International but from the World Bank, the French development agency, leading Universities as well as research centers and NGOs.

Nirmal Shah tells us that the sessions are pertinent and exciting, and bring a new urgency and relevance to conservation by placing it in the midst of national development. The focus on economic and governance priorities is of huge interest to governments and donor agencies because it links economic growth and poverty alleviation to environmental protection..

CI and its donor partners like the World Bank are very keen to place more effort in conservation in Africa.  But it does seem that the typical relationship between donors and governments is changing. The donors want concrete and serious commitments from African governments for transparent governance, support to NGOs, and growth of civil society. CI seems to be getting that commitment in countries where it is working. In fact, some very senior African politicians sit on CI’s Board.
Amidst standing ovation, Marc Ravalomanana in closing emphasized the leadership role needed to save Africa’s biodiversity. He stated he had taken on this role for Madagascar and he was guaranteeing some important results in conservation for the benefit of people in his country. Are other African leaders listening?

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Since 1998.

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