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Building Awareness of the Ecosystem Approach

Senior Seminar and Expert Workshop ANNEX 3

Using the Ecosystem Approach to implement the CBD

A summary of lessons and recommendations from three regional workshops

The workshops, held in S. America, Africa and SE Asia, were designed in response to decision V/6 (taken in May 2000) of the fifth Conference of the Parties (COP5) of the Convention on Biological Diversity. The workshops aimed to catalyse and facilitate the practical implementation of the Ecosystem Approach (EA) under the CBD.

The workshops aimed to use case studies and discussions with key stakeholders in the region to provide lessons for the practical implementation of the EA. Specifically, the workshops aimed to:

• Build awareness in the region by using case studies to illustrate aspects of the EA under the CBD
• Examine perceived constraints in using the approach with a variety of stakeholders
• Share experiences from the region of opportunities for taking action under the EA
• Identify some key priority measures that are needed to facilitate implementation of the EA in the region
• Identify capacity building priorities (human and technical)
• Suggest when other approaches are more appropriate.

Case studies and participants
The workshop objectives were addressed in a series of case studies and discussions in working groups and plenary. A team of regional experts selected the case studies with the aim of identifying activities in a range of CBD thematic areas, at a range of scales and with a diversity of stakeholders. In addition to the National CBD Focal Points, participants in the workshop represented a range of local, national, regional and international organisations.


1. Misconceptions about the Ecosystem Approach – these included (a) that it is the promotion of sustainable use (b) the principal objective was conservation. Presentations and discussions identified that the most distinctive feature of the EA is that it is a strategy and a process for reaching a balance between nature conservation priorities, resource use and the sharing of benefits.

2. Relevance of the Principles - Most case studies were broadly illustrative of the EA, but very few case studies found all Principles to be relevant. Workshop results indicated that the major gap in case studies was that many neglected Principles 3, 5 and 8 (relating to ecological science or biogeochemical functioning, not to livelihoods.)

3. Structural and institutional issues - The value of existing structures (institutional and legal) should be fully recognised when identifying the appropriate scale(s) and mechanisms of management. Harmonisation of policies, institutional mandates and laws to remove inconsistencies and obstacles to the EA are probably more feasible and therefore likely to have a more rapid impact than far-reaching institutional changes.

4. Benefit sharing and incentives - The idea of benefit sharing was not new but discussions illustrated that equitable sharing under the Ecosystem Approach is quite different. For example, benefit distribution under the Ecosystem Approach would include a tourist operator paying compensation to fishermen to stop dynamite fishing. In addition, the sharing of costs and benefits across scales is an important aspect of the Ecosystem Approach.

5. Scale of implementation – Examples and discussions demonstrated that the EA can be applied at any scale: a single field, farm, ranch, rangeland, forest, coastal zone, catchment, ecoregion, or even the planet.

6. The EA and other conservation strategies - how the EA relates to other (more traditional) approaches to conservation was a cause for concern. Is the Ecosystem Approach saying that there should be a balance between conservation, sustainable use and equitable sharing of benefits at one or more of the local / provincial / national / regional / global scales? Or should each protected area seek a balance between use, benefit sharing and conservation? Participants agreed that clear guidance needs to be developed to address these questions.

7. Mainstreaming the EA - the EA is an holistic system for the management and use biodiversity. This was broadly welcomed but the steps needed to make the system operational were not thought to be sufficiently clear and further guidance is hoped for. The workshops identified a number of specific steps that can be taken.

8. Capacity building needs – many were identified. In addition to specific needs for taxonomists and other natural and social scientists it was felt that the EA calls for managers that can, coordinate multidisciplinary activities, provide vision, mobilise stakeholders including communities and manage finances.

In addition, a set of responsibilities was identified for National CBD Focal Points. It was widely felt that the task of promoting the EA requires resources and capacity that far exceed that of most Focal Point offices and that a significant effort is needed to build the capacity of these offices.


1. Building regional awareness

1. All sectors of government should examine the meaning and implications of the EA.
2. There is a need to communicate the Ecosystem Approach widely among the general population as well as conservation and development practitioners.
3. Dissemination should be through all appropriate means, including simple illustrative materials, popular media, extension groups and NGO umbrella groups.
4. There is a need to convey to project level workers what are the differences between the many holistic approaches to conservation and development.

2. Overcoming constraints

1. The capacity of National CBD Focal Points needs to be significantly enhanced.
2. The absence of means for valuing and marketing ecosystem goods and services is an obstacle to the equitable distribution of costs and benefits.
3. Problem-specific implementation guidelines need to be developed.
4. Functional understanding of ecosystems needs to be developed much further if management is to successfully balance conservation and economic demands.
5. For actions in support of the CBD to be successful they should always address socio-economic priorities.

3. Seizing opportunities

1. Existing technical information is often substantial. Only a modest investment would be needed to collate and synthesise it and make it available in an accessible form to National CBD Focal Points and non-specialists.
2. Existing inter-ministerial committees and similar structures should be built on and used to integrate the EA across government sectors.
3. Full use should be made of existing local decision-making structures and indigenous knowledge.

4. Priority measures (institutional, policy, planning, financial, scientific and legal)

1. The Ecosystem Approach needs to permeate thinking and practice through appropriate harmonisation of laws, policies and planning guidelines.
2. The scientific basis for planning and decision-making under the Ecosystem Approach needs to be enhanced.
3. Indigenous and scientific knowledge needs to be collated, processed and integrated so that the resulting knowledge base can support the decision-making process relevant to each identified problem.

5. Capacity building priorities: technical and human

1. A long-term perspective is needed for capacity building; existing local-level institutions should be utilised as appropriate.
2. Priority actions should include: building a base of relevant professionals including landscape engineers, natural resource economists, environmental economists etc
3. Mainstreaming of the Ecosystem Approach into education curricula.
4. In-service training for those people already operational in the field.

6. When are other approaches more suitable?

1. There is a need for a comparative assessment of how other approaches compare to the EA. This should include comparison with natural resource management as well as conservation approaches.
2. Clarification and guidance is needed on how protected areas and species-centred conservation strategies relate to the Ecosystem Approach.

E Maltby


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