wpeD.jpg (15094 bytes)

Issue 8, October 1999

Newsletter Index


A Need and Chance for Concerted International Action

Over the past three decades Africa has extended its agriculture areas by approximately fifty percent as a result of an increasing human population and with the objective of alleviating poverty. Consequently, Africa's rich and unique biodiversity is under growing human pressure. Many species are becoming rare and an increasing number of local and regional species are already extinct. As ecosystems become smaller and more fragmented, migratory animals find it more difficult to reach feeding grounds and reproduce.

Animals which are extinct and natural sites which have been destroyed, cannot contribute to the fight against poverty or to economic development. In the past years, some progress has been made by integrating conservation and sustainable use of wild animals in the economic and social structure of the people of Africa, concentrating mainly on some of the more popular and unique African species, such as elephants for instance.

There are, however, many other species, which may be interesting enough to deal with, not exclusively, but inter alia for sustainable use and economic development. E.g. migratory waterbirds and their wetlands could become a treasure for Africa if their conservation and use is handled in a sustainable and prospective manner.

The Convention on Migratory Species is one of the global UN-based conventions in the field of biological diversity. It stands for concerted and co-ordinated action to conserve and "manage" (this includes sustainable use) of wild animal species which regularly cross political borders.

When the Government of South Africa in 1997 invited the CMS Conference of the Parties (COP) to hold its 6th meeting in the year of the Convention’s 20th anniversary, the objective was to emphasise the importance of the CMS for Africa. Also, it was hoped that South Africa’s neighbours would join the Convention and contribute to its implementation.

However, until now, none of South Africa’s direct neighbours has acceded to the Convention or ratified the African-Eurasian Waterbird Agreement (AEWA). The following article is an attempt to briefly introduce the Convention on Migratory Species and emphasise its importance and potential for Africa.

Political impacts of animal migration

Many migratory species use different habitats for different phases of their life cycles. For instance, living in one environment for part of the year and reproducing in another, or concentrating in one area and dispersing over another. They have evolved to make use of different environments and exploit resources that are available only on a temporary basis. When they migrate, animals cross national borders. Borders not only separate countries, they also separate national legislation, interests and political priorities. Migratory animals are particularly vulnerable in international waters. The lack of national jurisdiction there makes it even more necessary for countries to assume their shared responsibility in the conservation of this common natural heritage.

The Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (also known as CMS or the Bonn Convention) aims to conserve and manage terrestrial, marine and avian migratory species throughout their range. It is one of a small number of intergovernmental treaties concerned with the conservation of wildlife and wildlife habitats on a global scale. Since the Convention's entry into force on 1 November 1983, its membership has grown steadily to include 65 Parties from Africa, Central and South America, Asia, Europe and the Pacific Region.

CMS has a unique role to play in focussing attention on and addressing the conservation needs of the 76 endangered species presently listed in Appendix I – including, among others, the Addax, Scimitar-horned Oryx, Grevy's Zebra, Mountain Gorilla, Hawksbill Turtle, Mediterranean Monk Seal, Lesser Kestrel, Blue Swallow and Slender-billed Curlew.

Appendix II lists migratory species that require or would benefit significantly from international co-operative Agreements under CMS. These may range from legally binding treaties to less formal memoranda of understanding. The more formal Agreements should provide for co-ordinated species conservation and management plans; conservation and restoration of habitat; control of factors impeding migration; co-operative research and monitoring; and public education and exchange of information among Parties. Parties to CMS work together to conserve migratory species and their habitats by providing strict protection for the endangered species listed in Appendix I of the Convention; by concluding multilateral Agreements for the conservation and management of migratory species listed in Appendix II; and by undertaking co-operative research activities.

The Bonn Convention in Africa

Twenty-one African countries are CMS Parties so far. The African fauna is a very rich one and includes many migratory species, many of them travelling from Europe and Asia. A significant step forward in this particular respect is the development of the African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbird Agreement (AEWA). The area of this ambitious agreement includes not only the whole African and European continents, it also spreads over parts of North America and Western Asia. Altogether, it covers 40 % of the earth’s terrestrial surface with 117 range states.

CMS is working in co-operation with other Conventions and with NGOs in relation to this Agreement. Largely for this reason the UNEP/CMS Secretariat has concluded a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Ramsar Bureau, setting clear terms of reference for further co-operation. A similar Memorandum has also been concluded with Wetlands International. All this adds to the already strong bonds between the Secretariat and the Interim Secretariat of AEWA, provided by the Government of the Netherlands. In this latter regard, the contribution of the Netherlands in pursuing the AEWA initiative, including its translation into action has been very significant. This is particularly the case for African countries where the main actions will be implemented.

Many of the African fauna species are migratory according to the CMS definition. Many come from Europe and Asia to spend the winter months in Africa, but many others are fully African species, which are migratory between different countries of the continent. Research is still needed to ascertain the distribution, migratory routes and conservation status of many of these species. CMS can help to co-ordinate the work needed between the Parties of the region. The AEWA is a good starting point if the respective African Range States become members and articulate their will to translate the relevant Agreement into action, in particular, to create joint projects with technical and financial assistance from industrialised countries.

More than 100 waterbird species listed in Appendix II occur in Africa and many birds and other species migrating through Southern Africa would qualify for listing and co-ordinated conservation among Range States as shared natural resources. The CMS and AEWA will facilitate wide contacts between Africa and Europe and the Parties from Asia over initiating cross-border co-operation for conservation, including the sustainable use of migratory waterbirds and their habitats.

In this respect, the accession or ratification of African countries not yet Party to CMS and the relevant Agreements is urgent as underlined by the Governing Council of UNEP, which at its last three sessions, appealed to "all States that had not yet done so to sign, ratify or accede to those conventions and protocols in the field of the environment to which they were eligible to become parties".

The African Dimension of the international Biodiversity Framework

CMS and its related Agreements, as well as the Ramsar Convention, are closely related to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). They all complement the implementation of CBD in their special fields. They belong to the "competent international instruments" through which the Parties to the CBD are called upon to "co-operate with other Contracting Parties" ... "in respect of areas beyond national jurisdiction"... . Ramsar has been acknowledged as a lead partner in the implementation of activities under CBD related to wetlands.

As already mentioned, 65 countries are Party to CMS, with Kenya and Tanzania among the latest to accede and some other African countries in the process of joining. A number of projects are being implemented, or are in the process of development in Africa, with technical and financial assistance from the Convention and from other sources. It should be stressed that membership of CMS and its Agreements tends to attract more sponsors. CMS hopes that the extremely rich fauna of Africa and its large array of migratory species will increasingly benefit from the legal instruments which CMS provides, to ensure the international protection these species need, including their sustainable use by the respective Range States.

The CMS has a unique role to play in focussing attention on threatened migratory species. Many are not dealt with adequately by other global conventions concerned with wildlife conservation due to limitations in their scope or taxonomic coverage. Moreover, the obligations of the CMS are more direct than many other multilateral instruments regarded as vehicles to protect wildlife. For example, CITES seeks to restrict international trade in endangered species, but unlike CMS has no legally binding provisions that directly impact on harvesting within a country. Other conventions such as CBD, Ramsar and World Heritage Convention focus on ecosystem conservation whereas CMS provides for the entire package of tools for transboundary conservation, co-operation and harmonisation. Membership in CMS would therefore strengthen the suite of international and national legal measures African countries have undertaken to conserve their fauna. In addition, the participation of African countries in programmes designed to assist the conservation of migratory species would enhance these countries’ international standing.

The various Agreements concluded between Range States are suitable, flexible and unique tools with which to establish networks for research, monitoring, conservation measures, as well as regional priority-setting and sustainable utilisation of domestic resources. Also CMS recognises traditional subsistence hunting by indigenous people and may serve as an appropriate international legal instrument for the regulation of species, should their numbers cause increasing damage to the environment and conflict with human needs.

Facing the new millennium

This year's CMS Conference will decide the Convention’s strategic direction for the next five years and determine the budget for the next three, as well as consider proposals to amend the appendices. The delegates will certainly be mindful that the Conference will be the last to take place in the 20th century and that their decisions will set the course for the Convention as it too prepares to face the challenges of the new Millennium.

Arnulf Müller-Helmbrecht
Executive Secretary
UNEP/CMS Secretariat

The African-Eurasian Waterbird Agreement (AEWA)

Government experts from 100 countries and almost all international NGOs specialising in wildlife and ecosystem conservation will meet from 6-16 November 1999 in Somerset West near Cape Town, South Africa. They will, in the framework of the Convention of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS/Bonn Convention) review the progress made in the past three years in improving international co-operation for the conservation of migratory animal species and decide on a comprehensive work programme for the coming 5 years.

A major new tool for the implementation of CMS is the African-Eurasian Waterbird Agreement (AEWA), a semi-global Agreement which includes 170 species of migratory waterbirds in 117 countries of Africa, Europe and Western Asia. The Agreement enters into force on 1 November 1999 and just 7 days later the 1st Meeting of the Parties will take place in Cape Town in conjunction with the CMS Conference of the Parties. Even before the Agreement enters into force formally, it has become a success story. Under the scheme of this comprehensive and very sophisticated Agreement some 20 projects for research, monitoring and comprehensive work including larger transboundary measures have already been developed and will soon be implemented. The most important project of this kind is a programme which coordinates transboundary research and monitoring projects as well as the development of conservation measures in 14 countries of West Africa. This project will be implemented through Wetlands International with active support from the Netherlands.

The meeting in Cape Town will establish the Agreement’s decision-making structures, which will guarantee the active implementation by the Parties and the effective coordination of all the activities of scientists, conservation experts within and between the Range States of the bird species. The Agreement is also important for two reasons:

1. It aims to develop a new branch of mutual assistance - technical as well as financial - between the industrialised countries in Europe and the countries of Africa, the Middle East and Central and Eastern Europe, all of which share the migratory waterbirds as their common natural heritage.

2. Migratory waterbirds represent the largest group of animals, which are used for subsistence and recreational hunting. The AEWA provides the instruments to protect the common interest of all users and conservationists in improving the conservation status of those species, which need to increase their numbers in their entire migration range.

The AEWA is the most important implementation tool linking Africa with Europe and parts of Asia in an effort to improve and initiate comprehensive cross-border co-operation in conservation, including sustainable use of migratory waterbirds and their habitats. It has the potential to become the most valuable instrument for research, monitoring, priority-setting and funding of conservation measures, including habitat conservation, harmonisation of legislation, capacity-building, training, raising public awareness, etc. The AEWA has been developed on the common understanding that these waterbirds are a shared resource of all the countries reaching from the Arctic regions down to Southern Africa.

For further information on COP6 and AEWA, contact the CMS Secretariat at:
Tel: (49)-228-815 2401, Fax: (49)-228-815 2449.
E-mail: cms@cms.unep.de
Website: http://www.wcmc.org.uk/cms