By Shaun Hurrell
After five years of conservation in the Mediterranean, our latest publication “Together” shows how the region’s diverse cultures are committed to protecting its nature. Discover incredible species, motivating stories, complex threats, conservation successes and innovative ideas, as we share local solutions for nature conservation.
Imagine bee-eaters, cave salamanders, geckos, macaques, dragonflies, and pelicans for a flavour of the faunal diversity the Mediterranean Basin harbours – many found only in the region. Covering more than two million square kilometres, this biodiversity hotspot is also ranked as the third-richest in the world in terms of its plant diversity. Yet rapid economic development, an increasing human population, and 32% of the world’s international tourists are creating unprecedented pressures on its freshwater, marine and terrestrial habitats – compounded by lack of effective planning and management systems.
How can we best tackle these threats to the Mediterranean? By investing in local civil society organisations in developing countries and engaging local people in conservation – something that is a fundamental goal of the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF), who have invested $10.9 million in the region in the last five years.
Entrusted to be the dedicated Regional Implementation Team (RIT) for the Mediterranean, BirdLife International (and its national Partners) provide expert officers on the ground, guide funding to the most important areas and to the smallest of organisations, and have discovered surprising similarities and lessons when successfully connecting together even the most diverse cultures and countries.
After five years of conservation in the Mediterranean, Programme Officer for North Africa, Awatef Abiadh, has a unique perspective:
“Political turmoil in North Africa caused some collateral damage to protected areas and threatened fauna and flora. It also showed us there was a lack of harmony between local people and conservation. But since we started in the hotspot, we have contributed to the 180 degree change of conservation from ‘protect by punishment’ to ‘protect by involving more local people and civil society organisations’.”
Mediterranean conservationists have the same commitment to biodiversity.
“Despite diverse cultural, political and language differences, it turns out everyone faces the same conservation challenges”, says Sharif Jbour, Project Officer for the Middle East. “At last, I feel now the Middle East is part of the Mediterranean. CEPF has brought us together for the first time, and this legacy will bring a long lasting partnership between like-minded organisations to overcome common challenges ahead.”
According to Borut Rubinic, Programme Officer for the Balkans, conservation in his sub-region is often fighting not just for nature, but also a complex fight for human rights and against organised crime and high-level corruption.
“It is vital to ensure economic alternatives for local communities and ensure their involvement for any activities on the ground to be successful. This is why CEPF is so special.”
Liz Smith, Regional Implementation Team Manager for the CEPF Mediterranean Basin Biodiversity Hotspot, says:
“Stretching from Cape Verde to eastern Turkey, the Mediterranean Basin Biodiversity Hotspot is identified as one of the world’s 35 biodiversity hotspots – Earth’s most biologically rich, yet threatened, areas. But this politically turbulent region is also special because of its cultural diversity – necessitating a local approach to nature conservation that benefits both people and biodiversity.
Nature is local. Impacts are felt locally. The Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF) is tackling the threats to some of the world’s most critical ecosystems by investing in local civil society, so local people and organisations can continue to protect nature in the future.
As well as celebrating five years of investment in the region, we are also sharing important learned lessons and best practices in conservation. This feature aims to do both, and reveals some innovative project ideas to not only inspire future conservationists in the region, but to link them up with the now-experienced grantees for working together in future projects.
In the brochure, you will find incredible species, motivating stories, complex threats, conservation successes and innovative ideas. So embrace the cultural and biological diversity, connect, learn, continue to promote local conservation, and read on to discover more.”