Open regional funds for South-East Europe – Biodiversity

Project description

Title: Open Regional Fund for South-East Europe – Biodiversity
Commissioned by: German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)
Countries: Regional (Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo, FYR Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia)
Lead executing agency: Regional Cooperation Council (RCC)
Overall term: 2015 to 2018

Context
South-East Europe (SEE) is exceptionally rich in biodiversity. It hosts a variety of ecosystems, ranging from Mediterranean coastal zones, to rivers, forests, steppes and alpine areas. Numerous species of flora and fauna are endemic, and there is an abundance of agrobiodiversity. However, there is a lack of awareness at all levels about the importance to human health and wellbeing of the varied species, habitats and ecosystems, and the overall genetic diversity. These resources are inadequately protected. Biodiversity aspects are rarely integrated into development priorities and plans, despite the fact that biodiversity provides food and contributes to clean air and water, and provide other socio-cultural, recreational and economic benefits (e.g. local products and tourism) at local and national levels.

Especially in rural areas, mountain and forest regions as well as coastal zones, biodiversity faces serious threats, mainly due to inappropriate land use, urban sprawl, infrastructure development, over-exploitation, the intensification or abandonment of agriculture, and climate change. In the SEE region there are many borders that cut across ecosystems and areas of high natural value. This represents an opportunity for regional, cross-border cooperation to protect and sustainably use these shared resources.

EU accession is a common goal for the countries of the region. However, the need to assimilate the EU’s complex environmental laws presents them with great challenges. In terms of biodiversity conservation, this means implementing the EU Birds Directive and the Habitats Directive, as well as the EU Biodiversity Strategy 2020. Many countries of South-East Europe share similar shortcomings with respect to the adequacy of financial, technical and human resources, reliability of data, the designation and management of protected and other conservation areas (Natura 2000 network) and the integration of biodiversity-related issues in their policy-making processes.

Objective
Increased regional cooperation in South-East Europe is contributing to the implementation of the EU Biodiversity Strategy 2020.

Approach
The Open Regional Fund for Biodiversity (ORF BD) supports regional projects which aim at implementing the EU-Biodiversity Strategy through increased regional cooperation. The projects involve partners from at least three countries and are planned and implemented jointly with the respective partners. The main project partners are government agencies responsible for nature conservation, biodiversity and environmental management but also for tourism, agriculture, forestry, energy and finance, civil-society organisations, private sector and regional thematic networks.

The ORF BD facilitates learning processes in the cooperation countries, and involves actively relevant stakeholders from Croatia, the youngest member state of the EU. It supports organisational capacity building in specific thematic and cross-cutting areas, for governmental, non-governmental and other civil society stakeholders. It promotes networking and partnerships with GIZ related global, regional and bilateral initiatives, international organisations and initiatives, such as the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), World Wildlife Fund (WWF), the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF), the Regional Center for Environment (REC) and others. Such interactions ensure the greater efficiency and coordination of the partners’ activities; they are also useful for piloting new approaches to biodiversity mainstreaming at policy and institutional level. Therefore, the Fund enhances the emerging Regional Environmental Working Group (REWG) of the Regional Council of Cooperation (RCC).

Results
In regional consultations the project has identified a number of priority interventions involving all cooperation countries of SEE region. The first started in July 2016. They include:

  • Biodiversity Information Management and Reporting (BIMR) – This will improve the partner institutions’ capacities to conform with the reporting requirements to the Convention on Biological Diversity and with other EU requirements (e.g. for the Natura 2000 network) through development of regional guidelines.
  • Ecosystem Services Assessment and Valuation (ESAV) – This involves a cross-sectoral approach to identify and communicate the value of biodiversity and ecosystem services in the context of development planning in targeted sectors (e.g. tourism, agriculture) for future improved decision-making processes.
  • Regional Network of Biodiversity CSOs (BioNET) – This will build a network of biodiversity-related civil society organisations which will assist with their advocacy, lobbying and fundraising activities, and strengthen their organisational capacities.
  • Transboundary Management of Ecosystems (e.g. biodiversity hotspot of Sharr Mountain area between Albania, Kosovo and FYR Macedonia) – This aims at supporting inclusive regional planning, monitoring and management actions with focus on local benefits and engagements.

Other identified priorities currently under preparation include:

  • Network of nature conservation knowledge-holders (e.g. young professionals, experts, academia) – This will support the establishment and capacity-building of a network of regional professionals.