From a learner to a key actor

From where I come from, it is often said “if mountains can meet, then men shall always meet”. I always thought it was a consolatory statement whenever we had to go away from a friend or someone we cherish, but little did I know a famous re-union will proof to me how true the statement is. The short story started last August 2019 when I was privileged to be one of the 21 participants who attended the “77th UNEP/UNESCO/BMU International Short Course on Ecosystem Management – Biodiversity Conservation and Ecosystem Services”. Spending almost a month with 20 young talented and inspiring professionals from diverse countries around the world, dedicated and sacrificing every minute of their life’s in fighting for the conservation of our biodiversity was a unique experience for me.

The various course lectures, group works, field and study trips were just awesome. Nevertheless, I thought I was at the end of my excitement until we had a study trip at the Isle of Vilm, words can’t explain the experience. However, one of the main highlights of the stay at Vilm was the course on “CBD-COP negotiation simulation”. Under the coordination of Dr. Axel Paulsch, a seasoned CBD-COP negotiator, we were drilled on negotiation skills, language alignment, getting what we want via compromise, pressure building….. Passionate on issues relating to blending science and policy as far as biodiversity conservation is concerned, I found my world during the simulation exercise. Futhermore, I was boosted when Dr. Paulsch at the end of the exercise said and I quote “Simon, I am convinced soon, very soon, you will be at the international stage, this time around in the real, negotiating for your country”. Those were just words isn’t it??? Yes they were, but never underestimate the strength of words.

Last February to March 2020, 1000 delegates from 142 countries met in Rome-Italy for the Second Meeting of the Open-ended Working Group of the CBD on the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework. The main aim of the meeting was for parties to engage in negotiations towards the elaboration of an agreed main text of the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework.

I was greatly privileged to be designated as one of the two delegates who represented Cameroon to the negotiations. But this privilege was amplified when I met one special personality in the meeting. Guess who??? – Dr. Axel Paulsch – The famous re-union took place. I was full of emotions when I met this wonderful professional who across CIPSEM and the SC77 course, empowered me with innovative negotiating skills.

blog1

Our re-union was smooth, humble, peaceful and quiet just like nature itself. The humble character of the re-union was expressed when Dr. Paulsch told  me as we met and I quote “yesterday you were a learner but today you are my colleague and I will be honoured to get your perspectives relating to the negotiations we are about to embark in”. The words say it all. On my side, whenever I had to speak either in the name of my country or the African group, I felt the weight of the responsibility and the unique privilege I had not only as a delegate from my country, but as a CIPSEM SC77 Alumnus having his course instructor in the same conference hall listening to him participating in the development of a new biodiversity framework that shall re-shape life on earth and participate the sustainable well-being of hundreds of millions of people.

blog2

Meeting Dr. Paulsch gave me the opportunity to finally accept the statement that “if mountains can meet, then men shall always meet”. But beyond statements, participating in the Rome negotiations was another proof of the skills learned, knowledge gained and senses built during the CIPSEM experience, which goes a long way to highlight the rich and innovative content of the CIPSEM course programs.

At the certificate award ceremony of the CIPSEM SC77 course, I had the honour to be one of the two speakers who spoke on behalf of our fellow course mates. I remember telling them that, “if we don’t want to be victims of the destruction of biodiversity, we should be actors of its conservation and to do this, rather than trying to do things right, we should always do the right things”. CIPSEM has done its part and I’m convinced we SC77 Alumni are doing our everyday in our universities, government agencies, NGOs, CSOs, businesses, etc.. And this is true because the re-union at the Rome meeting wasn’t only with Dr. Paulsch but I also met my SC77 course mate Mr. Yew Aun Quek, who was part of the Malaysian Delegation.

 

by Mr. PATAMAKEN ANECK Simon Ndibnuh,

Senior Environmental Engineer, Ministry of Environment, Protection of Nature and Sustainable Development-Cameroon, SC77 CIPSEM Alumnus

Biodiversity experts released into the “wild”

After becoming a force to reckon with regarding the conservation of biodiversity and the protection of essential ecosystem services for sustainable development, 21 experts finished the “77th UNEP/UNESCO/BMU International Short Course on Ecosystem Management – Biodiversity Conservation and Ecosystem Services” and are returning to their respective workplaces to make a difference!

SC77_award_group

Inside CIPSEM – a look behind the scenes …

… of the ongoing 77th UNEP/UNESCO/BMU International Short Course on Ecosystem Management – Biodiversity Conservation and Ecosystem Services

Well, the course already started August 29th and a lot happened inside and outside the classroom. Here are some insights …

by Ms. Moselantja Rahlao, Lesotho:

2

Hello I am Moselantja Rahlao and I work for the Department of Range Resources Management, Ministry of Forestry and Soil Conservation, Lesotho. Welcome to the Kingdom in the Sky in Germany. Lesotho is a tiny country enclaved by another in Southern Africa.

It takes courage and passion to write application essays for the 77th UNEP/UNESCO/BMU International short course on Ecosystem management- Biodiversity Conservation and Ecosystem Services. Biophysical assessments are energy demanding. I do that on horseback, yes I am a rider. During data collection, I find myself staying uncomfortably in poky shelters of Lesotho. However, streams of passion to learn and be exposed never run dry. Usually after a completion of a hectic day, one wants only a good bath, food and sleep or entertainment at least. When everyone else prioritized the aforementioned and took a well-deserved break, I chose to sacrifice and compromise to achieve. However, my inquisitive nature coupled with thirst for knowledge sets me apart and makes me competent. I thrived because I dreamed, planned and acted “If you want to live your dreams, deny yourself any type of excuse”. I always apply effort and energy in things that I believe in for my growth. Then I work to proof myself to myself not anyone.

It was a heap of applications received (off course I knew this on arrival at CIPSEM) with very slim chances of being selected. This is a challenge of survival of the fittest measured by how logical one is, relevant content matters and what CIPSEM decides. Once this phase is passed, one can celebrate yippee. It was a moment of excitement and boosted confidence.

Logistically ready and hip-hip hooray! I landed in Dresden. The first day was tiresome after about 20hours flight (including layovers). A brief orientation done blah-blah-blah… and my heart began to palpitate faster. Next day, as the sun rose, I smiled and patted myself as I whispered “well done you are finally here”. Now ready to meet my fellow participants and the CIPSEM team. I take pride in my achievement to represent the Mountain Kingdom in Germany and interact with international fellows on the short course. It is exactly twenty (20) countries represented, namely: Indonesia, Cameroon, Guatemala, Mexico, Vietnam, Georgia, Turkmenistan, Ghana, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Rwanda, Haiti, Argentina, Brazil, Bhutan, El Salvador, Malaysia, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Armenia and of course Lesotho. Wow! What a diversity of culture, experience and knowledge.

Now anxiety and enthusiasm knocks daily to learn, network, exchange knowledge through participation throughout the course. We are here, stood out to be counted. Thinking individually but together towards conservation of biological diversity for enhancement of human wellbeing. The program runs from lecture hall with various experts to field excursion to get in depth knowledge. It is impossible to walk in nature and be in a bad mood. My best highlight was the stay on Isle of Vilm. The simulation on CBD-COP negotiation was eye opening to all participants. It went from just a practice to real emotional involvement, very defensive and argumentative. It takes the trophy. It was also a pleasure to celebrate my birthday at Baltic Sea Island. Surely, the course objectives will be accomplished by end of September, 2019. Yes, the course will end but never the memories with a good company. Never! We will go back to our countries and apply the knowledge, skills and experience gained. Lastly, “in a changing environment one either adapts, moves or die”. What an honor to be swimming in this pool of knowledge. A well-organized course and great gratitude to the sponsors. It would not be possible without them. Salute!

3

Nature Talks – Experiencing the International “Nature” of Negotiations

by Ms. Fitria Rinawati, Indonesia et.al.:

“You cannot negotiate with people who say what’s mine is mine and what’s yours is negotiable” – John F. Kennedy

One among many highlights of the CIPSEM 77th UNEP/UNESCO/BMU International Short Course on Ecosystem Management – Biodiversity Conservation and Ecosystem Services is how we can experience such negotiations related to biodiversity conservation in international events. This time we had the opportunity to do a negotiation simulation “CBD-COP decision on biofuels”. What a topic! It is so current that most countries are paying attention to it. Including small – fragile – island countries which are not necessarily able to produce it but might be impacted from it.
The simulation was set to get an agreement of the drafted decision text. Participants were grouped as delegations into 6 countries that have the right to vote: Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, Brazil, European Union, Ethiopia and Tuvalu, and 2 observers consisting in the United States and Greenpeace. One can imagine the dynamic of such a simulation when biofuels talk is involving the main producer countries like Indonesia and Brazil, the opposer of biofuels production – Saudi Arabia (main fossil fuels producer) and free riders such as the United States and Tuvalu – a very-very small island country that might face sinking due to climate change as a result of biofuels production practices.
Negotiation skills, wording the talks, emotional statements, creative compromises, building up pressure…were among the things we practiced and learned. Another main thing we learned was that every country has its interests and the delegations try to defend them – as it is well said in JFK above quote.
Further, we watched the movie “Guardians of the Earth”, a movie on UNFCCC – COP21 (Paris Agreement) which pictured clearly the above described negotiation processes. An interesting point, raised from a Bahrain young woman negotiator in the movie, was that all the international nature talks and negotiations were not about nature but but on economic interests of each country. Above all, we understand the great responsibility of the delegates to defend their country’s interests as well as the chairman – the president – the secretariat to come to such consensus and agreements. Last but not least, the importance of NGOs and other parties that influence these talks is also something that we can’t diminish.
I believe that among us the participants of CIPSEM 77th International Short Course, – there are possible future leaders of our countries. Thus, with the skills we learned, the knowledge we gained and the senses we built up through this course, we would be empowered to negotiate more reasonable in an international event and manage the ecosystem and the earth in a better way.
“Let us never negotiate out of fear. But let us never fear to negotiate” – John F. Kennedy

5
The “CBD-COP decisions on biofuels” negotiations – simulation chaired by Dr. Axel Paulsch (photo by Mr. Yew Aun Quek)

From Dresden to Wisconsin – an alumni story

I joined the 71st International Short Course on Ecosystem Management – Biodiversity Conservation and Ecosystem Services (SC71) as a coordinator of conservation projects at a local NGO in Azerbaijan – IDEA (International Dialogue for Environmental Action). I managed projects on the Caucasian leopard (Panthera pardus ciscaucasica), European bison (Bison bonasus), as well as anadromous fish species.
The course helped me broaden my network, I got to know a number of young conservationists from around the world, each very influential in their countries or regions. It helped me share my skills and more importantly, learn from their experiences in their countries, as well as field realities. Additionally, I was happy to find out about alternative and new conservation strategies that others have implemented, which helped them to eliminate or reduce problems in their countries/regions. Learning from experienced speakers with different backgrounds helped me understand what a human being is capable of doing, which affected my view of the world around me and I returned home with even higher ambitions. My participation in the course helped me develop professionally towards my goal of becoming a leader in the field of conservation in my home country.

IMG-20170907-WA0106
The SC71 course in the Botanical Garden of TU Dresden.

In August 2018, I was proud to join the SILVIS Lab as a Doctoral Research Assistant at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the US. I am currently working on a project funded by NASA – studying land cover and land use changes that have happened in the Caucasus region over the last half century. I am using remote sensing to evaluate how land use change has affected habitats and distribution of wild mammal species in Azerbaijan. You can now contact me through: rizayeva@wisc.edu

IMG_80451

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

by Ms. Afag Rizayeva (SC71 alumna)

 

Nature calls EM-41 !!! Arrival on Isle of Vilm

Within the module of Conservation and Restoration Ecology, the flagship excursion of CIPSEM EM-41 to the International Academy for Nature Conservation (INA) at the Insel Vilm started on May 13, 2018. The moment CIPSEM fellows stepped onto the island, the joyous faces were apparent and the excitement was at its zenith.

DSC_3452

Ms. Kathrin Bockmühl, Scientific Officer at the INA, welcomed the fellows, provided an overview of INA’s work in nature protection at the national and international level since 1990, and briefed on sessions planned on biodiversity conservation and governance for the cohort. It started with an introductory talk by Ms. Gisela Stolpe and Dr. Horst Korn on biodiversity conservation and ecosystems services, and the UN-Convention on Biodiversity (CBD). With an objective of giving hands-on experience of CBD conferences, a simulation exercise on decision-making was conducted. The fellows represented CBD State Parties including regional unions, small island countries and NGOs, and deliberated on drafting decisions regarding the use of biofuel. Also, a session on Access and Benefit Sharing (ABS), with an Ethiopian case study provided important insights into the importance of sharing the benefits arising from the utilization of genetic resources. The exercise provided interesting impressions on importance and challenges of global treaties concerning biodiversity conservation.

The afternoon of the second day started with the theme of marine nature conservation and a role-playing game called Fish Banks Ltd. was simulated. The aim was to realize the challenges of managing resources sustainably in a common pool resource setting. Dr. Chrtistian Pusch talked about the importance and challenges in fisheries and marine national parks management in today’s global scenario with case studies on German exclusive economic zones.

As expected, we could not leave the island without a guided walking tour on local biodiversity including the famous last remnants of beech forest in Germany, untouched for about 500 years. With a cloudy sky and pleasant temperature (with mosquitoe clouds as well unfortunately), we walked through the circular trail learning about the beech forest and ecology of several associated species. Thanks to our excellent facilitators Ms. Kathrin Bockmühl, Dr. Katharina Stein and Dr. André Lindner.

DSC_3736

The fellows also visited the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve Southeast-Rügen to learn about the ongoing conservation programs in the biosphere reserve. Later, we arrived at Jasmund National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site inhabited by beech forest. All the fellows were delighted with the beautiful views of Baltic Sea and had the pleasure to see the largest chalk cliffs in Germany called the Königsstuhl or King’s chair.

Words are missing to describe the extraordinary week we had. Special thanks to Ms. Kathrin Bockmühl who opened the doors of this beautiful place for the CIPSEM EM-41 fellows. The excursion at the Insel Vilm was a unique experience, which we will remember for its extraordinary landscapes, beech forest and the knowledge acquired to manage ecosystems and biodiversity. The experience will be engraved forever in the memory of all the fellows.

by Mariela Yapu Alcazar (Bolivia) and Dhruv Verma (India)

Excursion to the Botanical Garden of TU Dresden

As a part of the programme of the 71st UNEP/UNESCO/BMUB International Short Course on Ecosystem Management – Biodiversity Conservation and Ecosystem Services, our diverse group from 21 countries (mainly from the tropics and subtropical areas) had the experience to visit an important place for tourists, scientists and environmentalists alike: The Botanical Garden of TU Dresden. With an extension of three hectares, the garden is home of around 10,000 species of native and exotic plants, that had been well preserved and managed by specialized gardeners, volunteers and dedicated scientists since 1822. Today the scientific head of the Botanical Garden is Dr. Barbara Ditsch, a woman with great knowledge and passion regarding plant conservation and management and to whom we are deeply grateful for sharing her knowledge and warm hospitality.

During this pleasant excursion, we could find a variety of native and endangered plants included in the red list of Saxony as Arnica montana; medicinal and toxic herbs as Colchium autumnale, tropical and subtropical aquatic, carnivorous or ornamental plants as Victoria cruziana, Nepenthes sp. and orchids respectively, as well as perennial plants and deciduous trees from Europe, temperate Asia, North America and the Mediterranean region. Also our excursion was warmed up with the visit into three wonderful and well managed greenhouses showing the tropical and subtropical regions, and even the humid weather of the Amazon or the warm and dry weather of Madagascar desert.

New concepts of conservation and plant management have been provided to our pool of knowledge, where we could learn that The Botanical Garden of TU Dresden is working with the aim to integrate several innovative proposals towards an important topic in this decade: “Ecosystem services”. In which it is relevant for the ex-situ plant conservation and for the local animal diversity (e.g. providing habitat for 120 bees that have been recorded here and in its surroundings), but also providing a harmonic space for tourism, education and research (estimated 100,000 guests/year), highlighting the multiple roles of botanical gardens within urban areas. This experience had contributed both in our cultural enrichment and also in our professional knowledge, in which the majority of us will be very glad to bring this innovative and multidisciplinary idea of conservation for our countries.

DSC_0043

by Vanessa Wätzold Ospina (Colombia)

71st UNEP/UNESCO/BMUB International Short Course on Ecosystem Management – Biodiversity Conservation and Ecosystem Services getting of the starting blocks

The end of the summer break marks also the beginning of a new CIPSEM course year and we are happy to welcome the participants of the 71st UNEP/UNESCO/BMUB International Short Course on Ecosystem Management. We are looking forward to spend the next weeks with our guests from Ethiopia, Nepal, Bolivia, Rwanda, Brazil, Philippines, Indonesia, Costa Rica, Cambodia, Guatemala, Myanmar, Zimbabwe, Thailand, Ghana, China, Peru, Madagascar, Azerbaijan, Ukraine, Bhutan, and Colombia.

(Photos: T.Karp)