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29 July 2014

Policy relevent biodiversity data for sound decision making in Africa

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To sustain ecosystems and biodiversity, we must manage them effectively. But how can we manage, what we cannot measure?
 
Biodiversity data is critical to make informed policies and sound science is necessary for sound decision making. All too often, policymaking is impeded by a lack of adequate and accessible data, exacerbated by poor coordination between countries. The Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF) is an international, inter‐governmental partnership dedicated to making information on the world’s biodiversity accessible to governments, researchers and the public everywhere. Cities have the opportunity to change that through the tools and mechanisms offered by GBIF, at the very least in so far as local government biodiversity data is concerned.
 
Georgina Avlonitis, Node Manager of ICLEI Cities Biodiversity Center’s Local Government associate node for GBIF, recently travelled to Benin to represent local governments at the 5th GBIF African Regional Meeting (1-5 July), which was held in Cotonou, Benin this year. Here data managers and curators from around Africa gathered to discuss and agree on a strategy to best mobilize Africa’s biodiversity data. On the second day, the JRS-funded workshop was held by the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI), with a focus on mobilizing policy and decision-making relevant biodiversity data to ensure that the use of biodiversity data contributes towards informed and sustainable decision-making whilst contributing towards country level socio-economic developmental objectives. All nodes worked together on agreeing on a set of priorities based on regional needs that would help with the proactive collection, collation and management of biodiversity data.
 
Also present was GBIF’s Executive Secretary, Donald Hoburn who, addressing an audience at the launch of Benin’s biodiversity data publishing portal on the third day of the meeting, said: “The more data we have, the more we can understand. GBIF helps countries to work together to share data, tools and expertise. This combined network already includes data for every country in the world… As a result, we can see that efforts in many countries combine to help us all gain access to essential information on biodiversity at local, national, regional and global levels… We are here today because we are collaborators in an important task.”
 
Perhaps the greatest challenge of our time is to usher in a new era of sustainable development; one in which human well-being and social equity are meaningfully improved, while ecological scarcities and environmental risks are reduced. The process is complicated, yet amoung the diversity of actors working towards this cause there is almost unanimous recognition of the essential role that data will play in the post 2015 Millennium Development Goals framework. For more information on local government data publishing, please contact georgina.avlonitis@iclei.org.
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