In 2012, the Seychelles began work on its second NBSAP (“NBSAP 2”). The project was financed by UNDP-GEF and is being executed by Seychelles Ministry of Environment, Energy and Climate Change (MEECC). Three major NBSAP-related studies were undertaken:
- Integrating a financing strategy and Aichi Target aligned action plan,
- Developing a capacity assessment and strategic action plan, and
- Challenges in climate-related biodiversity adaptation and mitigation.
Developing NBSAP 2 also involved rigorous national level workshops, during which stakeholders reviewed and adopted the NBSAP 2 work plan, outlined the implementation framework, and identified barriers to financial mobilization, among other activities. In early 2014, the draft NBSAP 2 was sent for a final review and endorsement by key government departments. During this period, the draft NBSAP 2 was also submitted to the NBSAP Forum and the CBD Secretariat for peer review. During this peer review stage, systemic deficiencies were noted in the draft NBSAP 2. It was withdrawn from the government approval process and the Seychelles NBSAP Team initiated a major re-think. The Seychelles team found the NBSAP 2 peer review process extremely useful in pointing out gaps, weaknesses and inconsistencies. It made the NBSAP team think carefully about the presentation of the document and its wider linkages to global conventions. This best practice highlights the steps that were taken to revise the NBSAP 2 to align with international reporting standards.
Several challenges were encountered during implementation of the first NBSAP (1998), including inadequacies in administration and coordination. For example, the NBSAP Coordination Unit was not formed. The NBSAP was subsumed under the Environmental Management Plan of Seychelles 2000-2010 (EMPS). Biodiversity issues were one of the ten thematic areas addressed in the plan, and thus greatly diluted. In addition, the EMPS, unlike the NBSAP, did not directly relate its activities to the implementation of the Seychelles’ international commitments under the Rio Conventions. Most critically, the administration and adaptive management mechanisms intended for EMPS governance were not well implemented. The NBSAP 2 was prepared with these challenges in mind.
Although, at a much better standing as compared to the first NBSAP, the draft NBSAP 2 had several gaps. It was prepared against the backdrop of a new strategic planning document, the Seychelles Sustainable Development Strategy 2012-2020 (SSDS). The SSDS made a more concerted effort to mainstream biodiversity issues into different sectors of the Seychelles economy. Similar to the EMPS, biodiversity issues were a small part of a multi-sector development framework.
In the final phases of NBSAP 2 development and review, the Seychelles also decided to pilot the Biodiversity Finance (BIOFIN) Initiative. The BIOFIN project assists participating countries in transforming national biodiversity targets into costable action units, thus, enabling a team to implement their respective NBSAPs and achieve Aichi Targets. The Seychelles BOFIN team had the key responsibility for mainstreaming biodiversity financing within the Government budget. They encountered difficulties in reconciling the draft NBSAP 2 format with the format of BIOFIN methodology.
The peer review highlighted inconsistencies between the draft NBSAP 2 and CBD guidelines pertaining to Aichi Target alignment, and the BIOFIN methodology. These included:
(1) A sectoral approach, due to NBSAP 2’s alignment with the SSDs plan, rather than alignment with Aichi Biodiversity Targets. The later approach is an internationally accepted framework that encourages better reporting by countries against international commitments under the Rio Conventions.
(2) Too many proposed targets, many of which were difficult to implement and monitor. They were not structured using the ‘SMART’ format to enable effective monitoring and reporting. SMART means - specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound.
(3) Little prioritization and strategic sequencing among the targets, with a general absence of timelines.
(4) Gaps in biological information, e.g. analyses of critical ecosystems, key biodiversity areas, protected area gaps, and lack of existing spatial data. This resulted in challenges to developing robust, realistic and targeted actions to critical areas.
(5) Lack of an expected study on ecosystem valuation, which led to poorly defined linkages between critical ecosystems and human well-being, and challenges in making a business case for increased investments in biodiversity.
(6) Identification of priority ‘projects’, many of which were crosscutting over Aichi targets, but did not align well within Aichi targets.
The action taken: suggested reformulating the Seychelles NBSAP 2 to make it Aichi-aligned and to address as many of the points that were raised through the peer review process as possible. This reformulation also included the development of costed strategies and action plans, as determined through the BIOFIN Costing process.
The stages of reformulating the Seychelles NBSAP2 included:
(1) Preparing a draft structure for an Aichi-aligned NBSAP 2, using the peer review comments and framework, and relevant sections of the Seychelles Fifth National Report. The revised structure included all the elements that were noted by the peer reviews as missing, except the economic valuation baseline. This latter will be completed during NBSAP implementation.
(2) Reformulation and regrouping of the NBSAP 2 strategy, objectives, targets and action plan to align with the Aichi targets, without significantly altering the expected NBSAP 2 outputs. The original draft outputs represented the result of extensive consultation. This required extensive sorting of the targets and objectives, without losing sight of the original NBSAP 2 direction.
(3) Realignment of all ‘projects’ (sets of activities) to Aichi targets. Finer resolution was provided for projects and activities to facilitate accurate costing (using the BIOFIN methodology). The costing will be worked on in detail by the BIOFIN environmental economist and used to develop a more detailed but parallel NBSAP 2. .
(4) Providing local stakeholders the opportunity to review the realigned NBSAP 2, and ensuring that the revised document still contained the previously defined projects and activities, and thus continues to represent their interests. The NBSAP team ensured that stakeholders retained product ownership and thus continued to support its implementation.
(5) Re-submitting the revised NBSAP 2, reflecting the suggested changes, to the NBSAP Forum for a second peer review.
Aligning an NBSAP with the Aichi Biodiversity Targets and the BIOFIN methodology is not without its problems. Primarily, national strategic documents are normally aligned by sectors, not Aichi targets. Therefore, an Aichi-aligned NBSAP diverges from the preferred government format, by favoring international reporting frameworks over national ones. International commitments must be kept in mind from the beginning stages of the revision process, when developed an Aichi Target aligned NBSAP. Second, environmental NGOs prefer dividing an action plan into groups of activities or 'projects,' as this approach produces activity clusters that can be easily presented to donors. An action plan that is comprised of a long list of activities may not be donor friendly. If a funding opportunity arises, this approach requires selecting from the list to put a project together, which takes extra work and carries the risk of neglecting important activities. Last, targets, and the surrounding suite of activities, should be structured using the ‘SMART’ format to enable effective monitoring and reporting, and should also be costable to ensure effective implementation.
The Seychelles NBSAP 2 Team regards its NBSAP Forum peer review experience as extremely positive. The peer review process greatly assisted the team by pointing out gaps, weaknesses and inconsistencies within the draft NBSAP 2, in particular regarding the Seychelles need to report against Aichi Targets under its international commitments to Rio Conventions. This effort successfully aligned the Aichi Biodiversity Targets to the Seychelles’ national targets and actions. A finer resolution has been given to the NBSAP 2 activities that accompany the Seychelles national targets, to allow accurate costing.
The concept of an NBSAP Implementation Unit within the SSDS Secretariat was also considered as a highly innovative best practice. The Unit will be responsible for an annual symposium to review NBSAP implementation progress. Climate change concerns were also effectively incorporated into the NBSAP. This was possible due to good preparation and the incorporation of a climate change adaptation and mitigation baseline study. The costing of actions and sub-actions will be worked out in detail by the BIOFIN team in due course; however, these results will not be reflected in the revised NBSAP 2. They will be used to develop a more detailed NBSAP 2. that represents the BIOFIN outputs.