Course theory in a reality check

or

“How a role play by the International Academy for Nature Conservation (INA) helped coping with convention negotiations”

by Mr. Mamadou Welle – Senegal

Alumnus of the 39th UNEP/UNESCO/BMUB International Postgraduate Course on Environmental Management

From 29 May 2017 to 2 June 2017 I had the opportunity to participate to the 53rd standing committee of the Ramsar Convention in Gland, Switzerland. More than 100 delegates hailing from 50 countries, representatives of Ramsar’s six International Organization Partners (IOPs) and several independent observers attended this event. The Ramsar Convention on Wetlands of International Importance is an international treaty for the conservation and sustainable use of wetlands. It is named after the city of Ramsar in Iran, where the convention was signed in 1971.

The work was organized around regional meetings, subgroup meetings and plenary sessions. A series of documents, compiled by the Secretary General of the Convention, served as the basis for exchanges between the delegations of the contacting parties, observers and representatives of the IOPs. Issues relating to the structuring of the convention, management procedures, action plans and strategies for sustainable management of wetlands were discussed in depth. Regional meetings gathered every morning delegates of each region of the world. This helped them harmonize their positions and discuss relevant issues specific to their region. Draft resolutions were proposed, discussed, validated or rejected during plenary. The principle of consensus has been the rule for making decisions.

As it was the first time I attended such international meeting, the acuity of the issues, the diversity of participants and their commitments in defending their views could have been daunting.  Luckily it was manageable for me to deal with all raised points and to be a fair but determined negotiator on behave of my home country, and other West African countries, which are represented by Senegal  in the Ramsar committee. Actually I did not have to start from scratch! I felt rather at ease because I could fall back to the tips that I had received during the role play about international convention negotiations in the International Academy for nature Conservation (INA) on Vilm Island during the 39th International Postgradudate Course on Environmental Management for Developing and Emerging Countries during my time at CIPSEM!

The 13th conference of the Contracting Parties to the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands (COP13) will be held in Dubai, the United Arab Emirates from 21 to 29 October 2018.  Let’s make an appointment there!

International Nature Conservation on the Island of Vilm

An escape awaited with anxiety for the whole group of the 40th International Course on Environmental Management (EM40) to attend the module of “International Nature Conservation” at the International Academy for Nature Conservation Isle of Vilm, located in the Northern Part of Germany (Baltic Sea).  This trip began on a perfect sunny day in March, on platform 17 of Dresden’s Central Station. “The Isle of Vilm”, our destination, a wonderful biosphere reserve located on the Baltic Sea.

We were expecting about 8 hours by train ahead of us, but we knew it would be worth it, and we were not wrong, as we were welcomed by a wonderful sunset, slowly hiding in the Baltic Sea and some beautiful flower blooming along the pathway. The team in charge of the management of the Island introduced us about the historical background, features and rules to be observed by all the guests coming to the Vilm Island.  As a matter of fact, the Isle of Vilm (94 ha in area), was established as a nature reserve since 1936 and has been one of the core areas of the Southeast –Rügen Biosphere Reserve.

Some comments and reflection from 4 participants:

Benrina Demoh Kanu, Sierra Leone

The manner in which the concept of Protected Areas, trends, benefits and how the fact and figures were analyzed during the session was fascinating. During the session the participants get a clear understanding as to why we need protected areas, their benefits and also we were given the opportunity to decide whether the World Heritage Convention is a tool for conservation.

The most interesting thing was the fact that, years back, nature was protected mainly because of its intrinsic values and we see a shift from that dimension to protecting nature because of its economic, social, cultural and ecological arguments. Also there is a shift of paradigms from the former concept were in the central government runs the affairs of Protected Areas to an inclusive concept that caters for partnership and in most cases run with/for/by the people.

Therefore, our visit to the National Natural Heritage Center Rügen and the Jasmund National Park was a confirmation that Protected Areas do not only serve as conservation tool, but also soothes the soul.

Marle Aguilar Ponce- Honduras

The 2nd day of the module on “International Nature Conservation”, was very interesting, the Topic? Access and benefit-sharing (ABS) and marine nature conservation. Personally, ABS is a topic that I was looking forward to discuss with my colleagues, and I was sure that it will generate many questions and discussion; especially about the examples and case study generated during the presentation.

Although I could say that, the biggest prize, was the practice or play role on fish banks and sustainable fishing, letting us met, what I call “the dark side” of each one of us as representatives of fishing companies. But also leaves us with the task, of analyze our current situation in relation to the use and overexploitation of all our resources (and biodiversity), and the availability of these resources for our next generation.

Another thing that I really enjoyed of our trip in Vilm Island was the little but effective excursion trough the Island, and learning about its history and stories, emblematic species and fascinating characteristics like its particular forest and all the spectaculars landscapes that we could see from the Island.

Moussa Lamine, Niger

The theoretical lectures and practical exercises related to the concept of Biodiversity, the Convention on Biodiversity (CBD) and the negotiating processes at the conferences of the Parties to the Convention, were really impressive. To crown it all, the simulation game on biofuels gave a compressive understanding on how the negotiation processes are done in real life, even though we recognized that in real life negotiation and discussions process are more stressful and intensives.

Ahmed Said Sulaiman, Ethiopia

A short film on Teff (a fine grain grown predominantly in Ethiopia) showcasing the possibilities of exploring the benefit sharing gave an insight on the impact on development and conservation.

Another interesting theme was the Red List of species of IUCN and its application in conservation. It was surprising to know how little is known about the existing species. For example currently only 61,914 species have been assessed.

The role play game on marine nature conservation thought us how to intermarry the goals of sustainable resource use, while on the other hand facing competition from the market and at the same time maximizing profit. By practicing the game, we have learned that cooperation and communication among stakeholders can improve the situation and bring a win-win situation. It was also evident that short term thinking will serve only limited time, and flexible and forward decisions could help to avoid potential surprises in the future.

“Without any doubt, the stay of EM40 on the wonderful Island of Vilm was a spectacular learning and pleasant experience, Memories we will never forget’’.

Local water supply and climate change in Bolivia – role play

In an Andean Village, the traditional water supply system is failing due to changing framework conditions. How should the supply system be developed? How to take into account uncertainties and different interests? Prepared with individual background reading, our Environmental Management course participants represent different stakeholder groups in a meeting to agree on the future strategy for a water supply system.

The role play develops academic as well as practical skills and helps to recognise the complexity of negotiations and professional practice.