3rd Regional Coordination Meeting: Stakeholders seek synergy of action to safeguard protected areas in West Africa

The 3rd meeting of the West African Regional Coordination of Protected Areas, held from July 18 to 20, 2023 in Cotonou, Benin, was designed to enable conservation professionals from the West African protected areas region to discuss the current challenges impacting biodiversity conservation and the adaptation measures to be promoted in order to ensure the continuity of protected area management operations

Organized by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) through the Regional Governance of Protected Areas-PAPBio C2-Governance project, this 72-hour meeting provided an opportunity to diagnose the situation of protected areas in order to find common, effective and sustainable solutions applicable by all member countries for the sustainable management of protected areas in West Africa. Opening ceremony held on July 18, 2023

Meeting opening

During the opening ceremony on July 18, 2023, Dr. Arsène Sanon, Coordinator of PAPBio and representative of the Regional Director of IUCN-PACO, noted that “our protected areas in West Africa are subject to major threats. Worse still, the current context, characterized by an interweaving of security, humanitarian, economic and community crises, further compromises our conservation efforts, and even undermines the very existence of these conservation areas and the biodiversity they contain”. Colonel Justin Dossou Azakpan, representing Benin’s Director General of Water, Forests and Hunting, agreed, nothing that protected areas risk being further affected if nothing is done. “In a context of generalized insecurity in Sahelian countries, protected areas are likely to be even more affected by attacks from unidentified armed groups. These will exacerbate the current causes of the loss of wildlife diversity, which are the discontinuity of interventions, the lack of sustainable funding, and the inadequate technical and operational capacities of conservation players…”, he added

Group picture

The meeting was attended by over forty participants, including General/National Directors of protected area administrations from ECOWAS member states and Mauritania, West African protected area managers, members of the regional coordination and monitoring mechanism for West African protected areas, PAPBio project operators and members of the Regional Steering Committee (RSC) of the PAPBioC2 Governance project. For the latter, innovation and working in synergy with modern methods and tools are essential to overcome the problems undermining protected areas in West Africa. To this end, experiences need to be shared in order to take appropriate measures for an effective fight. “The regional mechanism for the coordination, management and monitoring of protected areas in West Africa is intended to be a network of professionals committed to the conservation of the region’s protected and conserved areas. To achieve this, the network will have to promote the pooling of experience and knowledge on protected areas, to make a substantial contribution to improving regional and sectoral policies, and to lead advocacy in favor of protected areas and biodiversity conservation”, explained Dr. Arsène Sanon.

At the end of the three days of discussions, concrete recommendations will be formulated for safeguarding protected and/or conserved areas in West Africa.

As a reminder, as part of the European Union’s (EU) Regional Indicative Program (RIP) in West Africa 2014-2020 (11th European Development Fund), the program to support the preservation of biodiversity and fragile ecosystems, environmental governance and climate change in West Africa (PAPBio) has been selected. Component 2-PAPBio is implemented by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN-PACO).

Presentation of meeting