A year in review: the GDSA Secretariat 2017 activity report

January 2018: The GDSA Secretariat is pleased to release our 2017 activity report, highlighting the activities and progress made by the Secretariat last year in serving our member countries. The Secretariat had a productive year, key highlights of which included:

  • Producing USD$43.5 million in funding proposals, and securing USD$7.5 million in resources, together with partners.
  • Working together with CI and the U.S. NASA to initiate a four-country project on ecosystem accounting.
  • Organizing the first GDSA South-South exchange together with CI and IUCN
  • Hosting the inaugural Forum of Ministers meeting as well as a GDSA Focal Points meeting.
  • Releasing 19 GDSA publications, increasing our Facebook likes by 660%, and increasing our number of unique website visitors by 48%

The coming year promises to be just as busy as 2017; as always, we look forward to working together with our member countries and partners to promote sustainable development across Africa!

Cover page for the 2017 GDSA Secretariat Activity Report.

Cover page for the 2017 GDSA Secretariat Activity Report.

A snapshot of the report's summary page.

A snapshot of the report's summary page.

Lesotho joins the GDSA as an Associate Member

January 2018: The GDSA Secretariat is pleased to announce that the Kingdom of Lesotho has joined the GDSA as an Associate Member. Associate Members are countries that have formally requested to join the GDSA and have identified a Focal Point for Secretariat communications.  

With Lesotho joining the GDSA, the number of member countries rises to thirteen member states. This number is expected to rise in 2018, following the approval of joining guidelines by the GDSA Forum of Ministers in 2017. Five additional African countries have expressed interest in joining.

Looking forward, the GDSA Secretariat will work together with Lesotho's Ministry of Tourism, Environment and Culture to kickstart work under the GDSA. A visit to Lesotho by the Secretariat is tentatively planned for later this year.

Grasslands in southern Africa. ©Rod Mast

Grasslands in southern Africa. ©Rod Mast

Linking the SDGs and nature: a new conceptual tool

Natural systems support our food production, clean our water, regulate our climate and safeguard the Earth’s diverse species – and by doing so, support many aspects of human well-being. “Essential” natural capital refers to areas where nature provides this crucial support. However, there is little guidance for countries on how to manage natural ecosystems to meet the needs of current and future generations.

As countries are considering how to achieve their commitments under the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) to the Paris Agreement, it is critical to consider how to maintain the essential natural capital needed for sustainable development and a healthy climate.

To better articulate the link between the SDGs and nature, Conservation International (CI) has been working on a range of conceptual studies that seek to define and describe which of the SDGs depend directly on nature. In addition, and to inform this conceptual research, CI, Vital Signs (www.vitalsigns.org), and the Gaborone Declaration for Sustainability in Africa (GDSA) – held a workshop in July 2017 to discuss how nature contributes to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) from the perspective of national government representatives. The workshop, held in Nairobi, brought together participants from six GDSA countries (Botswana, Kenya, Namibia, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda). These participants came from a range of entities, including Bureaus of Statistics, Finance and Planning, and Ministries of Environment.

Informed by the workshop, in this document, CI presents a conceptual tool which uses nature as a lens to identify links between international commitments in sustainable development (the SDGs), climate (Nationally Determined Contributions under the Paris Agreement) and biodiversity (the Aichi Targets). This tool is designed as a starting point for enable countries to identify links between nature and their individual national development plans.

Interested in using the tool? The tool can be downloaded HERE from the GDSA website.

For more information on this tool and related work, please contact Rowan Braybrook (rbraybrook@conservation.org). This document should be cited as Conservation International (2017) Linking development, climate, and biodiversity commitments: A conceptual tool. Arlington, VA. 

The GDSA at the World Forum on Natural Capital

December 2017: This month in Edinburgh, the GDSA joined hundreds of delegates from across the world at the World Forum on Natural Capital to discuss and build momentum towards the incorporation of natural capital into business decision-making. While GDSA representatives attended the last forum as well, this year's attendance was different as the GDSA worked to not only increase participation from the African continent but also to ensure that various panels and plenary sessions had GDSA input as well. More specifically, the GDSA was involved as follows:

  • We worked to increase participation from the African continent, with representatives from four member GDSA countries attending the conference.
  • Our Executive Secretary spoke in the opening and closing plenaries as a 'stream lead' on green economies.
  • Our Technical Director spoke on two separate panels about innovative financing mechanisms for conservation as well as on policy frameworks for mainstreaming natural capital.
  • The GDSA was one of several institutions to facilitate a government dialogue, which was co-hosted by the Scottish and Dutch Governments.
  • And finally, the GDSA was one of 25 signatories on the Natural Capital Coalition-led Combining Forces on Natural Capital statement (download the statement here).

GDSA member countries: progress on implementation

In 2017, the GDSA Secretariat initiated a series of reporting and monitoring efforts, all aimed at helping to capture progress under the GDSA. As part of these efforts, the GDSA Secretariat undertook, for the first time, a systematic assessment of the GDSA member countries on their progress to date on the GDSA action statements. Over the course of two months, the GDSA member countries were asked to voluntarily report on their progress on five outputs which had been agreed upon during the 2015 road show visits by the GDSA Secretariat to the member countries. Four member countries (Mozambique, Madagascar, Rwanda, and Uganda) submitted complete and government-approved reports (see below). A further four countries (Botswana, Gabon, Ghana, and Namibia) submitted partially complete or draft reports which were not made publicly available but the information submitted has been included in a summary report which is available on the GDSA website.

Moving forward, voluntarily national-level reporting will become a regular activity of the GDSA Secretariat.

Summary report available online: GDSA (2017) National progress under the GDSA: Five years of progress towards sustainability. Gaborone, Botswana. 

GDSA invited to speak at the launch of the Lancang-Mekong Environmental Cooperation Centre!

November 2017 (Beijing): Last week, the GDSA Secretariat was invited to travel to Beijing for the launch of the Lancang-Mekong Environmental Cooperation Centre (LMEC). Specifically, the GDSA was asked by the China ASEAN Environmental Cooperation Centre (CAEC, which hosts the LMEC) in the Ministry of Environmental Protection to share our experiences of the GDSA as a multi-country action platform. Furthermore, the Secretariat - represented by the GDSA Executive Secretary - was asked to reflect on the mission and strategy of LMEC and share some thoughts on ecosystem management.

The launch and workshop on freshwater management was attended by the Lancang–Mekong basin states (China, Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand and Viet Nam) and the Lancang-Mekong Water Resources Cooperation Centre (Secretary General Prof Dr ZHONG, Yong).

Moving forward, the GDSA Secretariat looks forward to ongoing discussions with the CAEC on joint endeavors in Africa, and in supporting ongoing sustainability programming, both in Africa and in Asia.

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!