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Gaborone Declaration Pioneers Commitment to Natural Capital ...
01/06/12

The Government of Botswana, in partnership with Conservation International (CI), announced the endorsement of the Gaborone Declaration by ten African countries and numerous public and private sector partners from within and outside Africa. The Declaration, a set of concrete principles and development goals focused on the value of natural capital in sustainable development, is the culmination of discussions held over the two-day Summit for Sustainability in Africa held in Gaborone, a first of its kind on the continent.

Among the agreements were two key conclusions: first, leaders reached unanimous consensus that the historical pattern of natural resources exploitation has failed to promote sustained growth, environmental integrity and improved social capital and has even been counter-productive;  second, they agreed that the value of natural capital, or the wealth of benefits and services provided to people by biodiversity and ecosystems, must be fully accounted and integrated into national and corporate planning and reporting practices, policies and programs.

The Gaborone Declaration represents an immense success for public-private leadership in establishing a global movement focusing on the value of ecosystem services and natural capital to enable economic growth and provide food, climate, water, cultural, and health security to people. It reaffirmed African nations’ commitments to implement all conventions and declarations that promote sustainable development and additionally committed them to annual reporting, “to ensure that the contributions of natural capital to sustainable economic growth, maintenance and improvement of social capital and human well-being are quantified and integrated into development and business practice.”

His Excellency Seretse Khama Ian Khama, the President of the Republic of Botswana and co-host of the summit, was a driving force behind the commitment to reporting and announced countries’ endorsement of the Gaborone Declaration at the close of the event’s second day.  In his remarks closing the Summit he noted:

"I am particularly delighted that we leave this Summit with a strong and robust commitment to give life to the good ideas that came from the debates of yesterday and today, and to scale up the commitments contained in the Gaborone Declaration across the whole African continent and indeed the wider world.

Of particular note, the Gaborone Declaration specifically warned that “economic growth and human well-being in Africa will be threatened if we do not undertake concerted action to halt and reverse the degradation and loss of healthy ecosystems and biodiversity, and to enhance society’s ability to adapt to climate change and environmental risks and scarcities.”

An addendum Communiqué to the Gaborone Declaration focused on “the limitations of GDP as a measure of well-being and sustainable growth that values environmental and social aspects of progress”, and invited governments and their accounting bodies to, among other goals, “Develop science-based methodologies on an experimental basis for ecosystem accounting as a complement to GDP and corporate performance.”

Natural capital accounting, which incorporates the financial value of ecosystem services and biodiversity to countries’ measures of economic strength, is a relatively new way of viewing the balance sheets of governments and businesses. Leaders in Gaborone therefore recognized the still major differences between African countries to currently implement natural capital accounting into their national accounts and expressly recognized the need for improved data collection and capacity building between them.

Peter Seligmann, CEO and Chairman of Conservation International and co-host of the Summit singled out President Khama and his administration’s leadership and expressed his appreciation and admiration for the deep and personal engagement of all the nations and partners involved.

“What we have achieved has been a statement that really underscores the importance of valuing natural capital and the endorsement of ten key nations in committing to the valuation of natural capital as a means for making intelligent decisions about the future land use of their territories and their nations for the well being and benefit for all their citizens. This is a very big deal, a very big moment and a big step forward. It is truly a beacon on the hill for the rest of societies and it will be held up on top of that hill in Rio de Janiero.”

While still a relatively new approach, business, governments and multilateral organizations which understand the direct connections between healthy ecosystems and human well being hope the public support of the Gaborone Declaration will set in motion broader, global strategies that will reduce risk and ensure flows from these important natural assets. To accomplish this, representatives attending the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development next month will leverage the newly signed Declaration as a roadmap and example of what can be accomplished as African nations unify and work together in the pursuit of aligned development goals.

The World Bank’s Vice President for Sustainable Development, Rachel Kyte, who also participated in the Summit, congratulated leaders for their strong commitments to action.  “African leadership on sustainable development makes complete sense. The natural wealth of the continent and its peoples can sustain Africa and the world. First to use natural capital accounting to make long term planning and investment decisions, Africa acts while others talk.”

Heads of State and Government from the nations of Botswana, Rwanda, Liberia, Namibia and Mozambique were joined by Ministers from Ghana, Kenya, South Africa, Tanzania, and Norway and global leaders from the private and public sector, as well as civil society. These leaders came from various groups including the World Bank, U.N. Environment Programme, U.N. Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, World Vision, MacArthur Foundation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, The Coca-Cola Company, Walmart, Woolworths, ArcelorMittal and other key participants.

Dr. Charles Owubah, a Regional Vice President of World Vision East Africa, also expressed support for leaders’ commitments in Gaborone. "We cannot continue to neglect the value of natural capital accounting; and we cannot continue to under-value its utility to building resilience among vulnerable communities in Africa."

The plenary addresses and panel discussion can be viewed at:  http://bit.ly/KKdKDH 

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