Gaborone Declaration Pioneers Commitment to Value Natural Capital as New Path for Sustainable Development

5/25/2012

Landmark two-day Summit for Sustainability in Africa, co-hosted by the Government of Botswana and Conservation International, creates new roadmap for green economies; Ten African nations voice support for value of natural capital in national accounting

(Gaborone, Botswana) - The Government of Botswana, in partnership with Conservation International (CI), announced late Friday the endorsement of the Gaborone Declaration by ten African countries and numerous public and private sector partners from within and outside Africa. The Declaration, a set of concrete principles and development goals that soundly move the value of natural capital from the periphery to the center of development planning, is the culmination of discussions held over the two-day Summit for Sustainability in Africa, a first of its kind on the continent.

Among nations’ agreements were two key conclusions: first, leaders reached unanimous consensus that the historical pattern of natural resources exploitation has failed to promote sustained growth, environmental integrity and improved social capital and has even worse, been counter productive;  second, they agreed that the value of natural capital, or the wealth of benefits and services provided to people by biodiversity and ecosystems such as watersheds, forests, coral reefs, and grasslands, must be fully accounted and integrated into national and corporate planning and reporting practices, policies and programs.

The Gaborone Declaration also reaffirmed African nations’ commitments to implement all existing conventions and declarations that promote sustainable development and additionally assured that the ten countries present will commit to annual reporting on their natural capital accounting efforts.

His Excellency Ian Khama, the President of the Republic of Botswana and co-host of the summit, was a driving force behind the commitment to annual reporting and announced countries’ endorsement of the Gabarone Declaration at the close of the event’s second day.  “I am particularly delighted that we leave this Summit with a strong and robust commitment to give life to the good ideas that came from the debates, and to scale up the commitments contained in the Gaborone Declaration across the whole African continent and indeed the wider world,” he said.

Read the Declaration here: http://bit.ly/KKdKDH

An addendum Communiqué to the Gaborone Declaration called attention to what leaders described as “the limitations of GDP as a measure of well-being and sustainable growth that values environmental and social aspects of progress”.  It also invited governments and their accounting bodies to, among other goals, “Develop science-based methodologies on an experimental basis for ecosystem accounting as a complement to GDP and corporate performance.”

Natural capital accounting, which incorporates the financial value of ecosystem services and biodiversity to countries’ measures of economic strength, is a relatively new way of viewing the balance sheets of governments and businesses. By incorporating the value of ecosystem services such as water provision, climate regulation, soil fertilization or plant pollination into these balance sheets, governments and businesses will be able to see a more holistic and accurate picture of natural and national wealth.

Leaders did concede that there are still major differences between African countries in terms of expertise and adequate data to implement natural capital accounting into their national account strategies and therefore agreed that improved data collection along with sharing of best practices would be key to building these countries’ capacities.

Peter Seligmann, CEO and Chairman of Conservation International and co-host of the Summit singled out President Khama and his administration’s leadership and expressed his appreciation and admiration for what he described as the deep and personal engagement of all the nations and partners involved.

“What we have achieved has been a statement that really underscores the importance of valuing natural capital and the endorsement of ten key nations in committing to the valuation of natural capital as a means for making intelligent decisions about the future land use of their territories and their nations for the well being and benefit for all their citizens. This is a very big deal, a very big moment and a big step forward. It is truly a beacon on the hill for the rest of societies and it will be held up on top of that hill in Rio de Janeiro.”

While still a relatively new approach, business, governments and multilateral organizations which understand the direct connections between healthy ecosystems and human well being hope the support of the Gaborone Declaration will set in motion broader, global strategies that will reduce risk and ensure flows from these important natural assets. To accomplish this, Summit participants attending the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development next month will leverage the newly signed Declaration as a roadmap and example of what can be accomplished, as African nations unify and work together in the pursuit of aligned development goals.

The World Bank’s Vice President for Sustainable Development, Rachel Kyte, who also participated in the Summit, congratulated leaders for their strong commitments to action.  “African leadership on sustainable development makes complete sense. The natural wealth of the continent and its peoples can sustain Africa and the world. First to use natural capital accounting to make long term plannning and investment decisions, Africa acts while others talk.”

The Gaborone Declaration also marks an important step in paving the way toward mutually beneficial partnerships between governments and businesses. Heads of State and Government from the nations of Botswana, Liberia, Namibia and Mozambique were joined by Ministers from Rwanda, Gabon, Ghana, Kenya, South Africa, Tanzania, and Norway as well as global leaders from the private and public sectors and civil society in endorsing it. These leaders, representing more than 50 governments and institutions, included notable partners such as the World Bank, U.N. Environment Programme, U.N. Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, World Vision, MacArthur Foundation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, The German Development Institute, The Coca-Cola Company, Walmart, Woolworths, ArcelorMittal and others.

Dr. Charles Owubah, a Regional Vice President of World Vision East Africa, also expressed support for leaders’ commitments in Gaborone. "We cannot continue to neglect the value of natural capital accounting; and we cannot continue to under-value its utility to building resilience among vulnerable communities in Africa."

A final note of emphasis was placed by President Khama as he concluded the Summit, urging participants to follow through on commitments. “This meeting will not be of any value to our peoples if we fail to achieve the objectives that formed the core of this Summit, that is, integrating the value of natural capital into national and corporate accounting and planning. We must continue building social capital and reducing poverty by transitioning agriculture and extractive industries to practices that promote sustainable employment and the protection of natural capital, while building the knowledge, capacity and policy networks needed to promote leadership and increase momentum for change.”

The plenary addresses and select Summit speeches can be viewed online at:  http://bit.ly/KKdKDH

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Editor’s Notes:
Summit Website: http://www.conservation.org/ssa
Event photos: available for download and use by media with provided credits: http://smu.gs/LCN382
About the Government of the Republic of Botswana:  www.gov.bw
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 or mobile:  +1-202-203-9927

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