Seeding Africa's Prosperous, Healthy Future: Summit for Sustainability in Africa to Convene Leaders in Gaborone, Botswana

5/17/2012

Heads of State and Government from ten African nations to meet with global leaders from the private and non-governmental sectors on May 24-25.

Leaders to announce action-plan to design national growth strategies that place sustainability and natural capital at the center of economic planning and development

Gaborone, Botswana/Washington, DC. U.S. — The Government of Botswana, in partnership with non-governmental organization Conservation International (CI), today announced the Inaugural Summit for Sustainability in Africa, a landmark effort to establish a new development roadmap and launch partnerships that will chart a path toward sustainable development on the continent. The results-driven Summit, a first of its kind in Africa, is poised to convene ten African governments as well as leading businesses and institutions to highlight principles and successful demonstrations for future economic development. The outcomes will be reflected in what organizers envision as a concluding Gaborone Declaration.

Keynote speakers and featured participants who plan to attend the summit include the Heads of State and Government from the nations of Botswana, Rwanda, Liberia, Namibia and Mozambique. These visionary leaders will be joined by Ministers from Ghana, Kenya, South Africa, Tanzania, Ghana and Norway and global leaders from the private and public sectors as well as civil society, including the World Bank, U.N. Environment Programme, U.N. Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, World Vision, MacArthur Foundation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, The Coca-Cola Company, Walmart, Woolworths, and other key participants.

His Excellency the President of the Republic of Botswana, Lieutenant General Seretse Khama Ian Khama said, "The importance of this Summit, and the urgent need for commitment to a roadmap ensuring the sustainability of Africa's rich national capital cannot be overemphasized. With the expected high level participation of African leaders, representatives of big business, public financing institutions, and conservationists, I have no doubt that this historic Summit will chart a clear path for the African sustainability agenda."

Co-hosts of the summit include Conservation International co-founder, Chairman and CEO Peter Seligmann, Laurene Powell Jobs, Chair and Founder of Emerson Collective, and S. Robson Walton, Chairman of the Board, Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.

On Thursday morning May 24, the two-day event will begin with a welcoming address by His Excellency President Khama followed by plenary addresses by the participating heads of state including:

  • His Excellency Paul Kagame, President of Rwanda
  • Her Excellency Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, President of the Republic of Liberia
  • His Excellency Hifikepunye Pohamba, President of Namibia
  • His Excellency Aires Ali, Prime Minister of Mozambique

Designed to bring together African countries, their development partners and key stakeholders, the Summit will provide a forum for leaders to design strategies in the pursuit of environmentally sustainable economic development that is mutually beneficial to African nations and their investment partners. These participants believe the Earth and its natural resources are not just a factor in decision making, rather, part of the bedrock of economic development planning for human well being.

"There are countless examples of nations sabotaging both their sustainability and security by inadequately valuing the contributions that ecosystems and biodiversity provide to the health and wealth of the people," said Peter Seligmann, summit co-chair and CEO of Conservation International. "But the great nations of Africa still have so much realized and potentially renewable natural wealth which is vital for the well being of their peoples. So now, more than ever, we need strategies and partnerships that will strengthen the resilience and availability of Africa's natural capital — its watersheds, tropical forests, grasslands, fisheries, arable soil, biodiversity and pollinators — so that these goods and services are available to Africans and people everywhere in the future."

Identified in the United Nations Environment Programme's 2010 TEEB for Business report (The Economics of Ecosystem Services and Biodiversity) as a cornerstone of risk management planning, the term 'natural capital' is an economic metaphor for the limited stocks of physical and biological resources found on Earth, and of the limited capacity of ecosystems to provide ecosystem services. While still a relatively new concept, business, governments and multilateral organizations which understand the direct connections between healthy ecosystems and human well being are eager to develop new tools and strategies that will reduce risk and ensure flows from these natural assets.

Her Excellency Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, President of Liberia and a 2011 Nobel Laureate said, "Until now, we have not taken adequate account of our natural capital in our development planning, yet this is our great natural heritage, our gift and our responsibility to carefully manage for future generations. I am grateful to President Khama for convening such a diverse group of participants for these important discussions, as well as my peers and other esteemed leaders for their valuable support and participation. I fully believe that now is Africa's moment — now is the time for us to consolidate our potential."

Laurene Powell Jobs, a co-chair of summit discussions and founder and chair of Emerson Collective said, "We are approaching a crossroads in economic development between one path that leads toward traditional but unsustainable approaches to growth and production, versus a more holistic strategy which accounts for the critical role of Earth's natural life support systems that are key to lifting people out of poverty, alleviating hunger and improving our quality of lives It is at this crossroad that I believe we most need innovation, collaboration, and a willingness to think differently, which is why I am so optimistic about what changes this summit might inspire."

"Factoring the planet's multi-trillion dollar ecosystem services into policy-making can help save cities and regional authorities money while boosting the local economy, enhancing quality of life, securing livelihoods and generating employment," said Pavan Sukhdev, TEEB Study Leader and CEO of GIST Advisory who previously led the UN Environment Programme's Green Economy Initiative. "The African leaders who gather at the Summit for Sustainability in Africa recognize that they must get ahead of the curve on key social and environmental issues by enhancing their national policy recognition and response to their natural capital. In doing this, they will be able to reduce ecological scarcities such as freshwater availability and soil fertility and develop economic growth trajectories that result in equitable benefits for their people."

To advance the Summit's discussions and achieve actionable outcomes, a series of four panel discussions will address key questions and challenges, focusing on the following themes:

  1. the relevance of natural capital management to development in Africa, along with existing challenges and opportunities
  2. the lens through which these challenges are being viewed and addressed in private sector partnerships with governments and the public sector
  3. the knowledge, capacity and policy networks required to promote leadership and increase the momentum for change.

"Not only do we care about protecting Africa's environment, we hope to instill in its current and future business partners a core belief that our supply chains, customers, communities and shareholders will ultimately prosper if we reduce environmental risks to the continent by investing in Africa's renewable natural capital Whether we're talking about population growth, climate change, or resource scarcities, the risks are real," said Rob Walton, Chairman of Walmart Stores, Inc. and another co-chair of the event. "This Summit represents an important opportunity for us to explore and forge new partnerships that will support African and non-African interests alike. I am honored to be a part of it."

The Summit's emphasis on innovative public-private leaderships is part of a larger, global movement focusing on the value of ecosystem services and natural capital that enable food, climate, water, cultural, and health security as well as safeguard societies and supply chains. The Summit participants will discuss how best to value, account for and manage this renewable natural capital taking into account the impact it will have on long term development, poverty alleviation and economic prosperity in Africa and the world.

The plenary addresses and panel discussions will be webcast live via streaming video online for global audiences to observe, and the summit is expected to conclude with leaders announcing support for the ideals and actions outlined in a Gaborone Declaration, which will collectively highlight the need for new commitments toward the sustainable management of Africa's immense and globally important natural wealth. Leaders will then take these messages to the Rio+20 Earth Summit in Brazil in late June.

Seligmann added, "In all my years of working in conservation and sustainable development, never before have I seen such an important moment or momentum as we are seeing right now in this Summit in the heart of Africa. I am humbled and inspired to have so many key leaders join us in designing this new pathway to progress and I look forward to the constructive dialogues which will follow."

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Editor's Notes:


About Conservation International (CI)
www.conservation.org


For all press inquiries, please contact:


For the Government of Botswana

Mable B. Bolele
Media Relations, Ministry of State President
mbbolele@gov.bw  
(00267) 313 3048

For Conservation International

Kim McCabe
Vice President, News + Publicity
kmccabe@conservation.org
+1 (703) 341-2546
mobile:  +1-202-203-9927