Botswana recently participated at the 2016 International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Congress held in the City of Honolulu, Hawaii, United States of America. The congress was held from 1- 10 September 2016 under the theme “PLANET AT CROSS ROADS”, which reflected on the numerous challenges facing the conservation and preservation of planet earth. U.S President Barrack Obama marked the opening of the Congress by the announcement to expand the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, now the largest protected area in the world.
Events at the congress included High Level Dialogues, Conservation Cases Workshops, round table discussions, presentation of visual and concise conservation achievements by various organizations, training sessions which provided delegates with opportunities to enhance their skills and knowledge on various topics of conservation, Pavilions, Networking and social interaction.
A total of 106 motions were presented to the congress for consideration by the union’s democratic membership consisting of government and civil society members. Dynamic discussions on motions were centred on natural capital, marine protected areas, managing domestic markets to curb illegal wildlife trade and the rights and roles of Indigenous people in conservation, among others.
Some of the motions that were debated and went through that were of particular interest to Botswana included the following:
- Motion 003 which sought to prevent electrocution and collision impacts of power infrastructure on birds
- Motion 007 which sought to ensure closure of domestic markets for elephant ivory was of particular interest to Botswana. The support of the motion by the overwhelming majority, including Botswana demonstrated the desire of the world to end all forms of trade in ivory
- Motion 009 which sought to prevent hunting of captive bred lions and other predators
- Motion 10 on combating illegal poisoning of wildlife
- Motion 11 that called for greater protection of Pangolins
- Motion 26 that called for greater protection of protected areas against environmentally damaging industrial activities and infrastructure development
- Motion 29 that called for recognition and respect for territories and areas conserved by indigenous peoples and local communities overlapped by protected areas
- Motion 62 which called for integration of nature based solutions into strategies to combat climate charge
- Motion 63 on natural capital. This motion resonated well with the Gaborone Declaration for Sustainability in Africa (GDSA). • Motion 98 on energy efficiency and renewable energy for the conservation of nature
Botswana participated in the voting process which was done through a new electronic system introduced at the 2016 IUCN congress. What is of particular concern and surprise was news that Botswana had voted against motion 007. Botswana’s position regarding the closure of domestic markets for elephant ivory is very clear. Botswana has been working towards the very goal of the reduction and closure of markets for elephant ivory as well as rhino horn. Irrespective of whatever error, whether technical or human that might have occurred, Botswana would like to make known its position and reiterate its support for motion 007. Appropriate follow up will be made with IUCN to get answers where possible. Nonetheless Botswana is happy that the motion received overwhelming support.