NGOs unite to support HK Government conservation action
Hong Kong's environmental NGOs (envNGOs) are not exactly known for singing the praises of Government. Having long served as the environmental watchdogs in a city that prioritized economic development, very often to the detriment of important habitats, species and our wider quality of life, this is hardly surprising. So why, for the first time ever, did 25 envNGOs come together to sign a joint statement congratulating the Government on Thursday last week?
In short, the Hong Kong Government has submitted its application to extend the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) to Hong Kong, back-dated to 9 May. This is important because the CBD requires member states to protect biodiversity, use natural resources sustainably, and equitably share the benefits that derive from it. Thus far 192 countries have signed up to the CBD including China, which was the first signatory.
The CBD also has a highly transparent reporting structure that allows anyone to monitor the performance of member state against those requirements. In Hong Kong, where biodiversity conservation has never been a high priority, adoption of such a framework opens up a host of new possibilities for improving conservation.
One of the key elements is that under Article 6 of the CBD each country must develop "strategies plans and programmes for the conservation and sustainable use of biological resources" otherwise known as a Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan (BSAP) and "integrate the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity into relevant sectoral or cross-sectoral plans, programmes and policies".
Each BSAP is drafted according to the biodiversity (different countries contain different habitats, which in turn support different species), and capabilities (rich countries generally have more resources to allocate to conservation) of the member country. To date China has submitted two BSAPs and 11 other reports. Owing to its former status as a British colony, Hong Kong has never been included in China’s plans and reports to the CBD, hence the need for the new extension.
Hong Kong has no comprehensive framework for sustainable development. Under the CBD Hong Kong must create such a framework for biodiversity conservation (the BSAP) and integrate it into the broader policy and planning process. Once the BSAP is completed, the CBD requires regular progress reports that are published on the CBD website.
In 2009 Hong Kong-based public policy think tank Civic Exchange began working with a range of experts from academia, the Government, consultants and environmental NGOs to draft a strategic framework that could form the backbone of a BSAP for Hong Kong. This is presented in the format of a typical strategic plan.
Rather than developing a detailed action plan it sets out a mission, vision, and strategic objectives, and some initial suggestions for actions that would help to achieve those objectives. A deadline has been set for each action and objective, and a set of headline indicators, which will be reviewed each year to determine progress, completes the framework.
The second clause of the ecoNGOs' joint statement calls on the Government to make use of this framework when drafting its BSAP. A positive reception from the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation (AFCD) staff who will have the responsibility of writing Hong Kong's BSAP, has opened the door to future co-operation.