The Caucasus Protected Areas Fund was launched at the Ministerial Conference on "Nature Protection in the Caucasus" in Berlin on March 9 and will provide much needed long-term financial sustainability for protected areas in Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan.
The Caucasus is located at a biological crossroads, where species from Central and Northern Europe, Central Asia, the Middle East, and North Africa mingle with unique species found nowhere else. Within a relatively small area, the altitude ranges from Europe's highest mountains (over 5,000 meters) to below sea-level areas along the shores of the Caspian Sea. As a result of such tremendous variations in altitude, the Caucasus Ecoregion includes 9 of the world's 11 major climatic zones, from arctic to subtropical.
But although the region's protected areas have the greatest biological diversity of any temperate forest region in the world, with more than 6,500 species of vascular plants, they face a critical funding shortage.
Developed in collaboration with the German government, World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), and Conservation International (CI), the fund will provide up to 50 percent of the basic annual operating costs of protected areas that have been identified as having the highest biodiversity.
The Government of Germany pledged $6.12 million toward the fund's endowment through the KfW Development Bank (KfW), while CI's Global Conservation Fund (GCF) – which finances the creation, expansion, and long-term management of protected areas – pledged a $3 million contribution to the endowment of the trust fund, and WWF Germany committed $600,000 for the same purpose.
"Effective collaboration among international NGOs, donors, and governments is essential for sustained success in conserving biodiversity," says Dr. Claudia Loy, Vice President Europe, KfW Development Bank. "The Caucasus Protected Areas Fund will not only make a significant contribution to conserving biodiversity in this most important region, but will serve as a model for developing similar sustainable financing mechanisms in the future."
The Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund
- a joint initiative of CI, the Global Environment Facility (GEF), the Government of Japan, the MacArthur Foundation, and the World Bank - has already made significant investments in the region, and has committed a further $300,000 to support the operational costs of the trust fund for two years.
These initial commitments of $9.7 million provide a strong basis for the fund to achieve its goal of a core endowment of $50 million.
"Investing alongside a partner with common objectives and a similar approach was critical to both the GCF and KfW commitments for the Caucasus Protected Areas Fund," says CI Senior Vice President for Conservation Funding Jorgen Thomsen. "It represents a milestone in a partnership that has involved developing financing mechanisms for protected areas in Madagascar, South America's Guyanas, and now the Caucasus in the past 18 months."