The CBBIA project in the southern African sub-region focussed on building capacity within decision-making authorities on biodiversity issues. The aim is to provide training, posters, case studies and other capacity-building tools in order to assist authorities in the region to make sound decisions.
The initial output of the sub-region was a situation report, providing a context for the consideration of biodiversity in decision-making globally, at the SADC level and within fourteen southern African countries. It explores a number of issues:
- the level of understanding by decision makers of the term 'biodiversity';
- the importance given to biodiversity by decision-makers;
- the basis for decision making with regard to biodiversity impacts;
- the use of 'bottom lines' or thresholds for biodiversity in decision making;
- the relative importance of biodiversity information to decision-makers;
- consideration of cumulative impacts and the precautionary principle in decision making;
- the basis for making trade-offs involving biodiversity in decision making;
- and decision makers key needs to enable improvement in the consideration of biodiversity in decision making.
The importance of natural capital in sustaining livelihoods, reducing poverty and working towards sustainable development has been acknowledged in a number of plans, policies and strategies of NEPAD and SADC.
Earlier SADC policies, such as the 1996 policy on environment and sustainable development, stressed the importance of the roles played by both natural capital and impact assessment; yet more recent years have seen an apparent decline in the significance of impact assessment, with biodiversity considered within a broader spectrum of 'nature and natural resources', or 'biodiversity', rather than as a cross-cutting enabler of sustainable development. Strategic tools such as the Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers have failed to incorporate natural environmental issues, emphasising this problem.
Key findings of the situation assessment are as follows: Impact assessments and decision making often failed to consider biodiversity adequately. It is not certain that development is occurring and/or would occur within safe or sustainable ranges. There is no consistency in either the treatment or profile of biodiversity in decision making in southern Africa.
This means, therefore, that there is a need to:
- Improve the form and substance of information on biodiversity provided in IAs, and
- Build capacity amongst decision making authorities to make informed decisions about biodiversity and ecosystem services.
This toolkit aims to give a better understanding of the following:
- The importance of biodiversity in human wellbeing and sustainable development
- How best to address biodiversity in the impact assessment process
- The importance of giving due consideration to biodiversity in decision making
- The key challenges facing impact assessment and decision making on biodiversity