TASHKENT. The first day of the Central Asian International Environmental Forum 2018 has ended. After the official opening ceremony, the forum began work on the first thematic area "Biodiversity Conservation and the Development of a Network of Protected Natural Areas".
In the plenary session opening the thematic areas, the representatives of the countries of Central Asia and Afghanistan talked about the current national policies and priorities in the field of biodiversity conservation. Institutional and legislative approaches in Central Asia are generally similar, but at the same time, there is significant progress. In particular, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan have been taking measures to synchronize efforts in preserving the saiga antelope population since 2014.
After the plenary session, parallel thematic sessions began their work. Participants discussed the conservation of biodiversity and the development of a network of protected natural areas in three directions:
• Legal and Institutional Framework
• Scientific cooperation and best practices
• Public-private partnership
During the discussion of the legal and institutional framework, the forum participants noted the importance of updating the global database on protected natural areas (PNA). Data for Central Asia were updated in 2006. Neville Ash, director of UN Environment World Conservation Monitoring Centre, explained that to work with information bases a certain methodology is needed. The World Conservation Monitoring Center plans to organize seminars in this direction.
At the session on scientific cooperation, participants noted that losses of biodiversity and ecosystem degradation are one of the ten risks reflected in the global economic risk reports of the World Economic Forum 2018. Experts also explained that this challenge is interlinked with the risks of the water, food crisis, and the risks of the shock associated with energy prices. This interconnection, according to experts, should be taken into account when developing measures to conserve biodiversity and expand the network of protected areas.
Representatives of the academic community also stressed that it is necessary to link the decisions made at the level of politics and science. Without the common work of decision-makers and specialists of the scientific sector, it is impossible to completely solve the problem of biodiversity conservation.
At the thematic session devoted to the public-private partnership, the parties discussed how the business sector can work in the protected areas without harming biodiversity. Ms Giulia Carbone, Deputy Director of the Global Business and Biodiversity Program of the International Union for Conservation of Nature, noted the following directions:
• Biodiversity businesses: direct funding to conservation through entry fees, license fees, users’ fees, carbon offset and Inset projects, payment for ecosystem programmes etc.
· Alternative livelihood opportunities: focus on business activities that can replace other activities that have a negative impact on the area.
· Philanthropic activities: additional conservation actions implemented by businesses
At the final plenary session, which took place on June 6, the morning of the second day of CAIEF 2018, the forum participants stressed the importance of the messages voiced during the sessions on biodiversity conservation. The representatives of the delegations of the countries of Central Asia and Afghanistan expressed their interest to continue the dialogue and cooperation after the forum.