Executive Summary – Biodiversity White Paper

South Africa is one of the most biodiverse countries in the world. However, global change, including climate change, habitat loss and transformation, invasive species, pollution, overharvesting (and illegal harvesting), continues to result in ongoing loss of biodiversity, ecological degradation, and decline of the ecosystem services from biodiversity and ecological infrastructure. Legislation, regulation, and implementation is, therefore, required to guide government, the private sector, and traditional and indigenous communities, in biodiversity conservation and sustainable use. For these purposes, the White Paper Policy on the Conservation and Sustainable Use of South Africa’s Biodiversity was developed to achieve the following:
(a) To provide an overarching policy context for biodiversity legislation, regulation, and implementation;
(b) clarity of the approach to biodiversity conservation and sustainable use, drawing from the Constitution, Ubuntu, and giving prominence to gender equality;
(c) a re-imagined and context specific, localised approach, to addressing the aspirations and needs of our people;
(d) effective transformation of the biodiversity sector; and
(e) equitable socio-economic development based on our rich biodiversity, and the broad values and benefits from ecosystem services for human well-being and livelihoods.

The White Paper is in terms of the provision of section 24 of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996 (“Constitution”), and takes cognisance of relevant legislation across all spheres of government, as well as key applicable international commitments and obligations that South Africa has signed and ratified. Other rights such as dignity, equality, culture, and property are also taken into account. The White Paper promotes conservation and the sustainable use of biodiversity, in line with the National Environmental Management Act, 1998 (Act No.107 of 1998), and its subsidiary legislation, and is guided by a clear set of principles.

The White Paper sets forth the following vision: “A prosperous nation, living in harmony with nature, where biodiversity is conserved for present and future generations, and secures equitable livelihoods and improved human well-being”. The White Paper is aspirational and advocates for activities that enhance the well-being of people and nature at the same time. The approach identifies the path, out of unsustainable practices, toward a world where all people have a high quality of life, a voice, and a nurturing earth supporting them. As such, the policy sets out the following impact statement: “Thriving People and Nature”.

This vision and impact are based on by a set of principles which:

(a) Derive directly from the Constitution and give clear effect to all of the components of the environmental right in the context of biodiversity conservation and sustainable use;
(b) acknowledge the significance of equity in sustainable use of wild resources and the need guide transformation to achieve equity;
(c) emphasise important ways in which we need to think about, and approach biodiversity conservation and sustainable use; and
(d) acknowledge the role of good governance and strong institutions in managing conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity.

The policy objectives and outcomes give direction for the future of the sector and the country, promoting a new approach that underpins a progressive understanding of biodiversity conservation and sustainable use, with a strong localised context through adopting the principles of Ubuntu.

The policy objectives are structured to achieve eight goals, summarized as:
(a) Goal 1: Biodiversity conservation and sustainable use is transformative;
(b) Goal 2: Integrated, mainstreamed, and effective biodiversity conservation and sustainable use;
(c) Goal 3: Biodiversity conservation promoted;
(d) Goal 4: Responsible sustainable use;
(e) Goal 5: Equitable access and benefit sharing;
(f) Goal 6: Enhanced capacity;
(g) Goal 7: Biodiversity economy transformed; and
(h) Goal 8: Promote the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity globally.

Each goal is unpacked further into key outcomes outlined below:
(a) Globally respected aspirational and progressive policy on biodiversity conservation and sustainable use that catalyses rural socio-economic development;
(b) expanded land under conservation, promoting livelihoods and well-being;
(c) inclusive and equitable biodiversity economy and beneficiation of ecosystem services;
(d) integration and cooperation across sectors and levels promotes successful strategies;
(e) increased sustainability, such that socio-economic development enriches rather than degrades biodiversity;
(f) ecological integrity and resilience enhanced in and out of protected areas;
(g) Strengthened, rationalised and representative protected and conservation area system;
(h) equitable and fair socio-economic development;
(i) improved ecosystem services;
(j) ecosystem-based adaptation enhances climate resilience;
(k) increased resilience to anthropogenic disturbance;
(l) sustainable harvesting of natural resources;
(m) biodiversity mainstreamed across sectors to promote conservation, including habitat retention and restoration;
(n) production and consumption transformed to ensure sustainability;
(o) genetic and biological resources leveraged to benefit the people, country, and the world;
(p) localised biodiversity value chain beneficiation improves livelihoods and well-being of previously disadvantaged communities;
(q) ecologically sustainable use of components of biodiversity drives socio-economic growth, and national GDP;
(r) the participation of diverse groups, especially those previously excluded from participation, in the biodiversity sector is promoted and supported by Government;
(s) responsive and adaptive biodiversity management enhances conservation and use;
(t) holders of traditional knowledge and practices benefit equitably; and
(u) South Africa is a leader on the African continent in the conservation of biodiversity and is instrumental in advancing African agenda in international biodiversity fora.

These white paper outcomes, taken collectively, will achieve the following strategic outcomes for South Africa:
(a) Policy certainty and a strong policy base for biodiversity conservation, equitable growth in the biodiversity economy, and socio-economic development in the biodiversity sector;
(b) coherent and effective biodiversity conservation practices protect South Africa’s unique biodiversity, so that it benefits current and future generations;
(c) integrated environmental, social, and economic elements of sustainable development secure responsible sustainable use;
(d) protected areas and other conservation areas contribute strongly to ecologically sustainable rural development;
(e) invigorated process for the transformation of the sector, with nature-based access and benefit flows for equitable and inclusive socio-economic growth and development; and
(f) South Africa remains a leader in biodiversity conservation with a strong international reputation, and promoting African coherence and unity.

In summary, this White Paper will set South Africa on a strong path of sustainable development based on rich biodiversity and the valuable ecosystem services provided. It emphasises the importance of the biodiversity sector to the South African economy, as well as to people’s livelihoods and well-being. This is underpinned by strengthened conservation of biodiversity heritage, restoration, rehabilitation, and rewilding of our natural landscapes, and a robust evidence base for effective decisions on, and responsible practices for, sustainable use. The outcome of this will contribute strongly to the achievement of a broad range of the Sustainable Development Goals, as well as the Goals encapsulated within the National Development Plan, the Africa Agenda 2063, and key relevant Multilateral Environmental Agreements that South Africa has signed and ratified.

This White Paper will take into consideration and be relevant to the historical, socio-economic, and environmental context of South Africa, and the aspirations and needs of its people: It is a new deal to ensure people will not only be living in harmony with nature, but that both people and nature will thrive.

Full document: https://static.pmg.org.za/draftwhitepaperonconservationsustainablesabiodiversity.pdf