Public urged to comment on strategic biodiversity draft white paper

Monday, July 11, 2022

Minister of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment, Barbara Creecy, has called for comments on the recently gazetted Draft White Paper on the Conservation and Sustainable Use of Biodiversity in South Africa.

The Minister published the White Paper in the Government Gazette 46687 (Notice No. 2252) on 8 July 2022 in terms of the National Environment Management: Biodiversity Act.

Creecy said the White Paper will be relevant in the historical, socio-economic, and environmental context of South Africa, and the aspirations and needs of the people.

“It is a new deal to ensure people will not only be living in harmony with nature, but that both people and nature will thrive,” she said on Monday.

Cabinet approved the paper in June 2022 for public comment, emphasising that “South Africa's biodiversity provides an important basis for economic growth and development, and is critical to people’s livelihoods”.

The draft White Paper gives effect to the recommendations made by the High-Level Panel of Experts (HLP) appointed in 2019 to review the current policies, legislation and practices on matters of elephant, lion, leopard and rhinoceros management, breeding, hunting, trade and handling.

The HLP recommendations provide a very clear way forward on how to address key sector challenges.

The HLP consulted widely, including with various spheres of government, wildlife industry stakeholders, conservation and animal welfare non-government organisations (NGOs), as well as traditional leaders, traditional healers, and communities adjacent to “big five” protected areas in North West, Limpopo, Mpumalanga, KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape.

“The HLP highlighted the importance of transformation of the sector, with empowerment and capacitation of communities living with wildlife, and recognition of their traditions and culture, as practiced through the traditional leaders and traditional healers.

“The HLP recommended the development of a White Paper for the Conservation and Sustainable Use of South Africa’s Biodiversity and indicted the need for a shift to an Africanised conservation approach that embraces the diverse cultures, traditions, and knowledge systems in South Africa, and values such as Ubuntu,” the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment said.

The HLP also emphasised the need for a more holistic approach to sustainable use, which ensures responsible and humane use of South Africa’s biodiversity, and the ending of poor and harmful practices, such as those associated with the captive lion industry.

“Importantly, a White Paper should also ensure transformation, with access and beneficiation by communities adjacent to protected areas, as well as for previously disadvantaged individuals.

“There is a need for us to do things differently. Through the White Paper, South Africa will adopt an enabling definition and understanding of biodiversity conservation that releases South Africa from the shackles of the past, and which emphasises the constitutional imperatives within the environmental right, but also which will improve the wellbeing of people consistent with Ubuntu,” the department said.

Furthermore, the White Paper will reshape ecologically sustainable use of components of biodiversity, in a manner which forefronts the responsibilities incumbent on use, including ensuring species persistence and the ecological integrity of ecosystems.

“Social responsibilities are also emphasised, by ensuring that continued benefits to people are fair, equitable and meet the needs and aspirations of present and future generations. Furthermore, in the case of animals, use must be humane and not compromise their well-being.

“In addition, the White Paper proposes to adopt a philosophical framing of Ubuntu for biodiversity conservation and sustainable use, emphasising an African approach that is consistent with the traditions, culture, knowledge and aspirations of African people in terms of defining their wellbeing.

The White Paper emphasises partnerships and adopting participatory and consensus approaches throughout the biodiversity sector, which will promote meaningful participation and influence of all stakeholders, with communal rather than individual outcomes.

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