GDSA Secretariat visits East African member countries

February 2018: The Gaborone Declaration for Sustainability in Africa (GDSA) Secretariat arranged to visit three of its East African member countries in February 2018 including Uganda, Rwanda, and Kenya. As per the current GDSA Secretariat work plan (presented and agreed to with the Focal Points during the October 2017 Focal Points Meeting) and aligned with the Maun Ministers’ Statement (October 2017), the Secretariat undertook these trips to re-engage with the member countries and understand their priorities in terms of implementing the Declaration.

As such, the objectives of the trip were to engage on issues such as resource mobilization and joint program implementation opportunities. In addition, the trips were designed to ensure action on key points of the Maun Statement.

During the trips, the GDSA Secretariat succeeded in meeting the countries' Focal Points as well as their colleagues from a range of ministries and agencies. In Uganda, the Secretariat also met with the Minister of Water and Environment as well. When possible, the Secretariat worked to meet with non-government actors as well, including potential donors and civil society.

A report has been produced and summarizes the key meetings held in each of the three countries along with the next steps agreed to with those member countries. This report can be accessed here.

UN Environment and Government of Botswana sign MOU to implement work under the Gaborone Declaration

NAIROBI, 9th March 2018: The Permanent Representative of Botswana to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) H.E John Moreti and the Executive Director of UNEP Mr. Erik Solheim, signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the Government of the Republic of Botswana and the United Nations Environment Programe (UNEP) on Cooperation in the Field of Sustainable Development and Poverty Eradication within the context of implementing the Gaborone Declaration for Sustainability in Africa (GDSA).

The MoU, among others, provides a framework to facilitate collaboration between UN Environment and the GDSA signatory countries in pursuit of sustainable management of natural capital for sustainable development and poverty eradication.

"The MoU between the Government of Botswana and UN Environment offers the best opportunity to map out concrete collaboration," said H.E. John Moreti following the signing. "This will help actualize the vision of our leaders, who recognize the clear linkage between the natural resources of our continent and sustainable development planning."

The signing ceremony, which took place in Nairobi at the UN Environment headquarters, was witnessed by the GDSA Deputy Executive Secretary Mr. Disikalala Gaseitsiwe of the Government of Botswana. "This signing ceremony has taken place during a time in which there is growing interest and momentum in the GDSA. We welcome this new commitment for progress under the GDSA and look forward to working closely with UN Environment," he said.

During the signing ceremony, the two signatories noted the progress made by the GDSA in supporting sustainable development programs in member countries and expressed the hope that the momentum so far generated could be maintained. 

"Being an original signatory of the 2012 Gaborone Declaration, UN Environment has been on a journey with the GDSA countries since the very beginning. It is wonderful to see this genuine commitment by UN Environment to continue working with us moving forward, especially following their presence at last year's GDSA Forum of Ministers meeting in Botswana," said Mr. Ruud Jansen, Executive Secretary of the GDSA.

The Gaborone Declaration for Sustainability in Africa (GDSA) is an initiative initiated by ten African countries that came together in May 2012 for the Summit on Sustainability in Africa, to discuss the future of Africa in preparation for the Rio+20 UN Conference on Sustainable Development. The summit resulted in the Gaborone Declaration, in which countries committed to the following:

  • Integrating the value of natural capital into national accounting and corporate planning and reporting processes, policies, and programs;
  • Building social capital and reducing poverty by transitioning agriculture, extractive industries, fisheries, and other natural capital uses to practices that promote sustainable employment, food security, sustainable energy and the protection of natural capital through protected areas and other mechanisms;
  • Building knowledge, data capacity and policy networks to promote leadership and new models in the field of sustainable development and to increase momentum for positive change.

Currently, the GDSA has 13 member counties including the Kingdom of Lesotho who recently joined as an associate member.

Momentum grows in Uganda for the Gaborone Declaration for Sustainability in Africa (GDSA)

Kampala, Uganda (October 20th 2017): Over the last two days, the Government of Uganda has hosted a delegation from the Gaborone Declaration for Sustainability in Africa (GDSA) Secretariat, including representatives from Conservation International and the Government of Botswana.

The Gaborone Declaration for Sustainability in Africa (GDSA) is a regional action platform initiated in May 2012 by ten African countries to bring together like-minded countries as they progress towards sustainable development; the GDSA has since grown to encompass 13 member countries. The Government of Uganda expressed interest in joining the GDSA in 2013, appointing a GDSA Focal Point within the Ministry of Environment and Water in 2015. Since that time, the Government of Uganda has participated in GDSA events as an Associate Member country and this week’s visit by the GDSA Secretariat adds to momentum for Uganda to join as a Signatory Country.

“The Gaborone Declaration is a Commitment of like-minded people in the quest for realizing sustainability in the implementation of global and regional commitments,” said Mr. Paul Mafabi, Director Environment Affairs, Ministry of Water and Environment. The last two days have provided the platform for further discussion on how Uganda can participate, and also provide information on opportunities it can pursue in terms of partnerships and financing.

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. The Government of Botswana is the designated Secretariat for the GDSA but works closely with Conservation International (CI), having delegated the Secretariat functions to CI in December 2014.

“The GDSA Secretariat works to mobilize resources and build new partnerships that help our member countries achieve their sustainability targets,” said Mr. Ruud Jansen. “We look forward to working with the Ministry of Environment and Water, as well as with other Ugandan ministries, to help build momentum around key priority areas for the Government – providing a critical value add to Uganda’s ongoing efforts in this realm.”

“The last two days have been a good opportunity to increase dialogue between our countries,” said Mr. Disikalala Gaseitsiwe of the Government of Botswana who serves as the GDSA Deputy Executive Secretary. “It has been very constructive to hear about the areas where Uganda has been made progress and think about how other countries can learn from the Ugandan experience.”

Members of the GDSA Delegation included representatives from Vital Signs and the Sustainable Coffee Challenge. Vital Signs is a monitoring platform that provides support to the Government of Uganda on several projects including strengthening reporting on greenhouse gas emissions under the Paris Climate Agreement and an integrated national resource management initiative in Karamoja. Regarding the Sustainable Coffee Challenge, this is an industry-wide coalition to drive transparency as well as increase investments and collaborative efforts in the sector. “Recognizing the government’s ambitious targets to quadruple production by 2025, there is an opportunity to bridge the link between the public and private sector interests in coffee to achieve these targets in a sustainable manner,” said Mr. Niels Haak, Senior Manager for Sustainable Coffee from Conservation International.

The Directorate of Environment Affairs, of the Ministry of Water and Environment, working with key Ministries, Agencies and Civil Society participated in the consultative process.

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

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 (, 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 ( 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.