Report on the GDSA South-South Exchange to Costa Rica is now available!

Earlier this year, the GDSA facilitated a South-South Exchange between the Governments of Rwanda and Costa Rica (with representatives from the South African government also attending); an overview of the exchange can be found here.

We are now pleased to release the report from this South-South Exchange, complete with forewords from Miguel Ángel Rodriguez, the Former President of Costa Rica and Dr. Edgar Guitérrez, Minister of Environment and Energy, Costa Rica and President of the 2017 UN Environment Assembly. 

Cover of the South-South Exchange report.

Cover of the South-South Exchange report.


In addition to capturing the lessons learned of the exchange in the report, we also captured the importance of South-South Exchanges more broadly in the video below (courtesy of Kalahari Images).

Many thanks to the entities and communities that made this trip possible, including the many individuals in Costa Rica who hosted the Exchange participants while in country. Thanks also to IUCN for assistance in Rwanda with logistical assistance prior to the onset of the trip and to Conservation International for hosting and funding the Exchange.

African Leaders Chart New Course for Sustainability at Fifth Anniversary Meeting of GDSA

Maun, Botswana (October 13, 2017) – Ministers from 12 African countries announced today a new commitment to sustainability during a meeting marking the fifth anniversary of the Gaborone Declaration for Sustainability in Africa (GDSA). The meeting also served to formally welcome Madagascar as a new signatory to the GDSA.

The GDSA is an African-led initiative that puts sustainability at the forefront of investment and economic development. Building on its progress over the last five years, a new Ministers' Statement announced yesterday calls for a renewed commitment to incorporating the value of nature in economic and social development decisions. Highlights include: 

• Madagascar officially joined the GDSA, bringing the total to 11 countries
• New governance framework, including a new Forum of Ministers that will further the work of the GDSA by ensuring close links among the GDSA countries in their move towards sustainability. Also, agreed to were joining guidelines, which now allow for a mechanism by which new countries can join the GDSA.
• Re-affirmation of the 11-country strong GDSA to the vision of an Africa where nature is managed sustainably to ensure human well-being, in accordance with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Paris Agreement

"As the five-year progress reports show, we are collectively on the right track, but we need to scale up our efforts," said Lt-Gen Dr. Seretse Khama Ian Khama President of the Republic of Botswana and and Chairman of the GDSA, at the opening of the two-day ministerial meeting. Urging the attendees to be ambassadors of the GDSA, the President described his hope that the GDSA would expand to more nations and non-State partners in the next five years. "The vision of the GDSA is to ensure that the nature on which we depend for our wellbeing is valued, respected, and managed, not just for our generation but for future generations as well."

"In supporting the continued success of the GDSA, the Government of Botswana will review its conservation funding componenets towards availing further funding for GDSA activities," said Hon. Tshekedi Khama, Minister of Environment, Natural Resources Conservation and Tourism, Government of Botswana at the opening plenary. He further noted that, in the future, the GDSA, "will tighten the bonds between member countries as we work together, for our common purpose and vision."

The opening plenary was addressed by Mr. Erik Solheim, Executive Director of UN Environment. Mr. Solheim discussed future areas of cooperation between UN Environment, Government of Botswana, and the GDSA and encouraged Africa to look at ways in which tourism and renewable energy could be used in the continent's development. 

Michael O'Brien-Onyeka, Senior Vice President, Africa Field Division at Conservation International said,"Conservation International is grateful for the opportunity to work with the Government of Botswana and the GDSA member countries in organizing the Secretariat and in helping the countries progress towards the visionary goals of the GDSA."

Ruud Jansen, Executive Secretary of the GDSA said,"The GDSA is as valid today as it was in 2012. The Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement have given the Declaration added value and urgency. We look forward to welcoming the member countries to Botswana to deliberate on how to take this action platform into the future." 

The outcomes of this meeting were widely covered in television, radio, and print media outlets in Botswana, Ghana, Kenya, and South Africa.

New GDSA policy briefs available online!

October 2017: The GDSA is pleased to release a new series of briefs, highlighting how the GDSA remains relevant to a range of sustainability issues in Africa! Available for download, the briefs focus on the following subjects:

  1. The importance of private sector sustainability in Africa and how the GDSA works in this space.
  2. The link between the GDSA and climate change mitigation and adaptation, especially in light of the Paris Agreement.
  3. A brief looking at how the GDSA an help countries make progress on their Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
  4. An updated look at what the GDSA is doing in the realm of natural capital accounting.

Interested in seeing the past briefs that the GDSA has produced? Check out this link on our website!

New GDSA case studies of implementation in Africa!

October 2017: The GDSA is pleased to release a new series of case studies, highlighting the application of the GDSA vision in its member countries! Available for download, the case studies are two-page briefs on the following subjects:

  1. A look at the innovative Chyulu Hills REDD+ project in Kenya that has managed to connect nine different landholders, including four Maasai group ranches and two government agencies!
  2. Examining how a one-year pilot on mapping natural capital and ecosystem accounting helped inform decision-making in Liberia.
  3. A case study on how Conservation Agreements in Liberia have helped protect mangroves while creating 500 new jobs.
  4. Conservation Agreements helping to get three coffee washing stations Rainforest Alliance certified in Rwanda!
  5. The Sustainable Coffee Challenge works across the world to connect the coffee sector!
  6. A collaborative project between the GDSA, Conservation International, and the US NASA on ecosystem accounting.

Interested in seeing the past case studies that the GDSA has produced? Check out this link on our website!

Twelve African Nations to Chart New Course for the Gaborone Declaration for Sustainability in Africa

GABORONE, BOTSWANA: Ministers from 12 countries who are signatories to the Gaborone Declaration for Sustainability in Africa (GDSA) will convene in Maun, Botswana from October 11th to the 13th to attend the Fifth Anniversary Celebration and the Forum of Minister's Conference on the Gaborone Declation for Sustainability in Africa at Cresta Maun. The Ministers Forum will be opened officially by His Excellency the President of the Rebublic of Botswana Lieutenant General Dr. Seretse Khama Ian Khama who is expected to address GDSA Member States and encourage their renewed commitment to incorporate value of nature in economic and social development decisions. 

The Gaborone Declaration for Sustainability in Africa culminated from the 2012 Summit for Sustainability in Africa, held in Gaborone. At this summit 10 countries reaffirmed their commitment to implement all conventions and declarations that promote Sustainable Development. Those 10 signatories are: Botswana, Gabon, Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Mozambique, Namibia, Rwanda, South Africa and Tanzania. 

The GDSA Ministers Forum - a transformative platform for achieving sustainable development – will be meeting to draw up a new five-year strategy to reinforce sustainability and natural capital as the centre piece of economic planning and development across member states. The ministers will also review the progress made since the Gaborone Declaration was signed and also assess governance protocols and guidelines for new members to join the GDSA. Additionally, the meeting will serve to formally welcome Madagascar and Uganda as two new signatories to the GDSA. 

The gathering also marks 5 years after the establishment of the GDSA, and is inspired by the recognition of the opportunities, risks and rewards that come with increased investment and commitment to sustainable management of Africa's rich natural capital. 

Ruud Jansen, Executive Secretary of the GDSA said, "The GDSA is as valid today as it was in 2012. The Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement have given the Declaration added value and urgency. We look forward to welcoming the member countries to Botswana to deliberate on how to take this action platform into the future." 

Michael O'Brien-Onyeka, Senior Vice President, Africa Field Division at Conservation International said "Conservation International is grateful for the opportunity to work with the Government of Botswana and the GDSA member countries in organizing the Secretariat and in helping the countries progress towards the visionary goals of the GDSA, especially in such areas as ecosystem mapping, payment for ecosystem services, REDD+ activities and conservation agreements."

Photo by Benjamin Drummond.

Photo by Benjamin Drummond.

About the Gaborone Declaration for Sustainability in Africa (GDSA)

Initiated as a regional action platform in May 2012 by 10 African countries (Botswana, Gabon, Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Namibia, Mozambique, Rwanda, Tanzania, and South Africa), the GDSA approaches sustainability through incorporating the value of natural capital in public and private policy decision-making, generating data, sharing best practices, and building capacity to support policy networks as well as pursuing inclusive sustainable production in such areas as agriculture, fisheries, and extractive industries. 

Botswana is the designated Secretariat for the GDSA, with the President of Botswana - Lieutenant General Dr. Seretse Khama Ian Khama as Chair. In December 2014, the Government of Botswana delegated the functions of the Secretariat to Conservation International (CI) until December 2018. 

A number of regional and global platforms have endorsed the GDSA. These includes the African Ministerial Conference on the Environment (AMCEN), the United Nations Environmental Assembly (UNEA), and the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting. 
Important Links and Contacts:

  • Press inquiries, please contact:
    • For the Government of Botswana: MENT_PR@GOV.BW
    • For the GDSA Secretariat: Ruud Jansen (GDSA Executive Secretary),, +267 71 632 563
    • For Conservation International: Jenny Parker McCloskey (VP Media),, +1-917-763-3263
  • Journalists Requesting Credentials: All press must be approved by the Government of Botswana to attend the meeting. To apply for press access, please contact

The GDSA Secretariat five year report: celebrating five years of progress towards sustainability

September 2017: The GDSA Secretariat is pleased to release the five-year report on the GDSA Secretariat. This review outlines the GDSA operating model, provides analyses of the outcomes that have resulted from the GDSA Secretariat’s work under the three GDSA commitments, and describes lessons learned over the GDSA’s five-year lifetime.

As of July 2017, the GDSA has grown to 12 countries, whose boundaries house 306 million people, 15.3 billion metric tons of carbon stocks, and 3,500+ threatened plant, fish, bird, and mammal species. The GDSA has been endorsed by the African Ministerial Conference on the Environment (AMCEN) – who in 2016 encouraged their member states to join the GDSA – and the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting. The GDSA has worked with 20+ partners across the GDSA member countries and entities managing over USD$118 million in projects have publicly linked their work to the GDSA. These entities have used the GDSA as evidence for a need or demand for their work, or have indicated that the GDSA has provided the mandate for action.

The cover of the GDSA Secretariat five year report.

The cover of the GDSA Secretariat five year report.

The report notes that awareness of the GDSA is relatively high. Over one-third (40%) of all Convention on Biological Diversity and Global Environment Facility focal points in sub-Saharan Africa are aware of the GDSA. Furthermore, most of these focal points in GDSA countries feel that the GDSA has “promoted progress in the implementation of sustainable development in Africa.”

The GDSA member countries have made significant progress towards implementing their GDSA commitments compared to non-GDSA countries in Africa. In 2012, GDSA and non-GDSA countries were equally likely to have ongoing natural capital accounting (NCA) initiatives. However, by 2017, GDSA countries were significantly more likely than 37 other countries in Africa to have initiated work on NCA. Moreover, 11 of the 12 GDSA countries explicitly link their NCA work to the GDSA, noting that the work fulfills the GDSA commitments.

Want to know more about the progress of the GDSA in the last five years? Be sure to read the report here.

The GDSA joins the Natural Capital Coalition

August 2017: The GDSA has joined the Natural Capital Coalition, a unique global multi-stakeholder collaboration that brings together leading initiatives and organizations to harmonize approaches to natural capital. The Natural Capital Coalition is the author of the Natural Capital Protocol, which is a framework designed to help generate trusted, credible, and actionable information for business managers to inform decisions. In brief, the Protocol aims to support better decisions by including how we interact with nature, or more specifically natural capital.

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The GDSA has written about the Natural Capital Protocol in the past and even attended the launch of the Protocol at the 2015 World Forum on Natural Capital.

Moving forward, the GDSA hopes to work together with members of the Natural Capital Coalition to promote mainstreaming of natural capital into private sector decision-making in Africa.

In the immediate future, the GDSA - together with Birdlife - is organizing a breakfast dialogue on natural capital and the private sector at next week's Responsible Business Forum in South Africa! Participants and panelists - from the NGO, academic, and private sector - will discuss and learn about opportunities for the private sector to become more involved in sustainability programming.

For more information on the Natural Capital Coalition, visit:

Linking Business, Nature, and Sustainability: GDSA discussions on sustainability in business

This blog post was written by Adam Fishman, a Fellow at Conservation International.

August 2017: In response to the increasing importance and prevalence of private sector engagement with sustainability issues in Sub-Saharan Africa, the GDSA convened a discussion in Gaborone, Botswana. The workshop, hosted at Barclays Bank, brought together corporates from key industries operating in the country to start a dialogue on the state of sustainability in Botswana and establish common ground for mutually-beneficial actions. Participants included CEOs, CSOs, and other corporate engagement staff from the tourism, financial, and extractive industries in addition to officials from government ministries.

Key Points from the Workshop

Opening remarks by GDSA and Barclays staff set the objectives for the roundtable and outlined how Barclays is tackling issues of environmental sustainability, social welfare and financial inclusion. The keynote presentation focused on the business case for sustainability, highlighting reasons for the GDSA’s focus on large-cap companies; detailing how and why businesses can become and are becoming more engaged; and reviewing tools and frameworks for reporting on sustainability, linking to international agreements such as the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The keynote acknowledged the GDSA’s role as a platform for cross-sector and cross-country knowledge-sharing, but also GDSA partners’ experience with data collection and analysis.

In the discussion that followed, participants built understanding around reasons behind shifts toward sustainability, whether for public perception benefits, compliance with regulations, or as part of core business strategy, and shared steps that have already been taken in their respective companies. Some participants acknowledged that their natural capital dependency was direct and inextricably linked to their business, and that sustainability initiatives in operations not only help attract and retain talent, but also mitigate waste management issues whilst reducing costs. There was consensus agreement that multi-stakeholder public-private partnerships are critical to implementing corporate sustainability objectives as well as achieving public policy goals. During the discussion, participants brainstormed early ideas on where and how businesses operating in Botswana could partner with the national government on initiatives that go beyond regulatory compliance. Finally, it was agreed that there is a need to scope where and how private sector actors can help governments achieve sustainability pledges per their adoption of the SDGs and submission of Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) under the Paris Agreement. Doing so serves to localize the SDGs and helps connect global agreements to national policies.

Next Steps

The roundtable closed with participants enumerating the way forward and identifying where the GDSA can play a supporting role in relation to existing sustainability initiatives, decision-making tools, and reporting mechanisms. Participants agreed that there is scope to build on existing initiatives and partnerships to collectively break silos. All agreed that there is a need for additional meetings and awareness-building, complemented by further analytical work. Those in the room called for circulation of a list of topics for discussion, agreeing that those who are particularly invested or interested in a certain area can host. Participants were enthusiastic at the prospect of collaboration, as few had previously engaged outside of their own industries.

The GDSA would like to thank participants, and extend its sincerest appreciation to Barclays Bank for hosting the discussion.

GDSA Co-organizes South-South Exchange to Costa Rica

July 2017 - The GDSA, together with Conservation International (CI) and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) hosted a high-level South-South Exchange on Payments for Ecosystem Services (PES) to Washington D.C. and Costa Rica. The overall aim of this exchange was to expose Government and non-Government officials of Rwanda to success stories elsewhere. Costa Rica is the poster-child of PES, and has a long history of having implemented a successful PES scheme on the national level. Two Government officials from South Africa joined as GDSA ambassadors as well as to facilitate cross-continental learning.

Trip participants with the CEO of Conservation International, at CI’s headquarters in Washington D.C.

Trip participants with the CEO of Conservation International, at CI’s headquarters in Washington D.C.

The South-South Exchange took place between June 26 and July 2, 2017. It was an intense one-week program, entailing a day at CI’s headquarters in Washington D.C., where the delegation was welcomed by the CEO of CI, and learnt more about CI’s work on PES and within Rwanda. The remainder of the week was spent in Costa Rica and included high-level meetings in San Jose with the former President Miguel Ángel Rodríguez and the current Minister of Environment, Edgar Guitérrez. The final three days were spent in the field to see PES in action, and to learn about the challenges and benefits of implementing PES.

The overarching objectives for the exchange were to:

  1. Provide a solid base of information on various topic relevant to PES from experts in the Cl headquarters in Washington D.C.;
  2. Expose the delegation to the institutional structures and financial mechanisms that Costa Rica has developed for implementing national conservation policies, as well as the role of the government in guiding this process;
  3. Expose the delegates to the research, valuation techniques, and job creation programs for PES and the economics of natural capital; and
  4. Expose participants to the political and institutional processes to implement innovate solution to landscape management.

The overall outcome of the trip was extremely positive and the participants had learnt a wealth of information. This trip will directly inform Rwanda's ongoing work in PES, which were highlighted as a priority action area by the government during the GDSA road show in 2015. 

More information about the GDSA's work around PES can be found on this page; read more about Rwanda here.

World's first species diversity accounts for Uganda

This blog post is an edited version of a post that originally appeared on the IDEEA Groups's blog, and is reproduced here with their permission.

Gorillas in Bwindi National Park, in southwest Uganda. © Levi S. Norton

Gorillas in Bwindi National Park, in southwest Uganda. © Levi S. Norton

In March 2017, Uganda - a GDSA member country - published the world's first species diversity accounts. The work was conducted by the Ugandan Government, the UNEP World Centre for Monitoring Conservation (UNEP-WCMC), and the IDEEA Group. This is an important step in natural capital accounting and future work on this topic may help countries begin to mainstream biodiversity information into their decision-making. 

In many countries, economic development threatens biodiversity. At the same time, however, biodiversity and the associated natural capital can provide significant opportunities for development such as through expanded wildlife based tourism and sustainable harvesting of natural products.

The accounts published by Uganda, together with partners, create a clear and credible evidence base to understand the extent of human and economic impact on species biodiversity in Uganda. This is a world-first application of the System of Environmental-Economic Accounting – Experimental Ecosystem Accounting (SEEA-EEA) framework to compile species accounts at the national level.

The report provides significant insights into the state and trends in ecosystems and biodiversity for Uganda that will be used to assess national progress towards the objectives of Uganda’s National Development Plan (NDP II), its National Biodiversity Strategy Action Plan (NBSAP II), and various international commitments (e.g. Aichi targets and SDGs). At a program and sector level, the report identifies cost-effective actions that can help to re-establish and sustain valuable natural capital assets in ways that support positive social development outcomes.

Interested in more information? Be sure to read the report here.