The Global Taxonomy Initiative: Shortening the Distance between Discovery and Delivery

Australian Biological Resources Study
Environment Australia, Department of the Environment and Heritage, 1998
ISBN-10 (printed): 0 642 56803 0
ISBN-13 (printed): 978 0 642 56803 8

2. Actions needed to progress the Global Taxonomy Initiative

A number of sample projects are included in Annexe 2. The projects, although each one is real and necessary, are included also as examples of the range of projects needed to activate the GTI. The Annexe does not contain examples of capacity-building programmes as such (i.e. establishing functioning reference collections in developing countries), although the meeting recognised the scientific imperative of these types of projects as basic to the implementation of the GTI.

Recognising the fundamental importance of taxonomy in providing the basis for informed decision-making in conservation, sustainable use and benefit sharing-nationally, regionally and globally-the meeting suggested the following priorities:

  • That the GTI be formalised as an Umbrella Project, perhaps under the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), which would be accessible by all parties in collaboration with key institutions, and would be governed by a steering committee with broad global representation. Such a project would be staged, with a pilot project of $25M from 1999 to 2002. Included in this project would be a commissioned paper on the role of taxonomy in conservation, sustainable use and benefit sharing of biological diversity, and its linkage with the ecosystem approach (as defined by the Malawi meeting in 1998) and the cross-cutting theme of invasive alien species.
  • In order for the GTI to be prepared as an “Umbrella Project”, funds need to be made available urgently to commission a 2–3 month consultancy to prepare a draft project proposal. Developing the proposal would include bringing together a small workshop of interested parties. This workshop should invite a range of specialists, and operate at a range of scales. Choosing pilot taxonomic groups of significance is a key challenge in this first phase. Also essential is to undertake a focused needs assessment within developing countries. The CBD Secretariat Programme Officer, in conjunction with UNEP and other relevant Convention secretariats, should undertake such a needs assessment. The finalised GTI project proposal could be submitted to the Global Environment Facility of the World Bank (GEF) by a consortium of appropriate key nations.
  • That the CBD Secretariat Programme Officer (the appointment of whom was agreed upon in CoP Decision IV/1) should serve as the GTI project task manager, and that this position be filled as soon as possible, with the UNEP Executive Directorate taking a major role in expediting this action.
  • That UNEP provide a facilitating and coordinating role in the preparation of framework activities to formalise the GTI, including the preparation of a paper on the role of taxonomy in the implementation of the Convention. Preliminary activities required to build the most effective and flexible framework for implementing the GTI include the preparation of a pilot phase with regional meetings of experts to prepare detailed projects ensuring collaboration between developing and developed nations.
  • That the support of leaders of world taxonomic institutions is solicited. Such support is already evident, but closer linkage needs to be maintained among the CBD Secretariat (hence the need for the establishment of the Programme Officer), UNEP, other GEF implementing agencies and the key institutions. Establishment of a standing working committee on this issue may be a solution to the communication problem.
  • That regional initiatives, e.g. the Darwin Initiative and South African Biodiversity Network (SABONET), be used, with the GEF leadership, to build a formal GTI with support within the coordinated framework provided by the CBD.
  • That specific training initiatives be developed, for example following the European Union’s Large Scale Facilities Model which utilises a “mentor” approach. Career development through fellowships (like those offered by North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), Wellcome Foundation, etc.) which provide a commitment to engage the trainee as a permanent employee, is of critical importance. The GEF may be able to aid training through a skilfully constructed project context, emphasising training opportunities which lead to permanent career possibilities, and continuing to expand the taxonomic effort.
  • That a programme of wider public information on the importance of taxonomic activity be constructed. Such a programme should particularly target national decision-makers in relation to CBD activities in all countries. The need for this programme arises from the apparent lack of will by countries to fund basic taxonomic support, even where budgetary stringency is not necessarily an issue of importance.
  • That a project-based approach be used, and partnerships emphasised wherever possible. In the context of wide partnership approaches, rapid assessment methods may be a useful approach, but need careful application. The major aim must be to produce tangible results from larger projects in the shortest possible time frame. Existing protocols for taxonomic work should be made more widely available, and take a global approach.
  • That the GEF, based on recent advice from the CBD, include in its Operational Programme and Strategy clear and specific guidelines/criteria for prioritising taxonomic activities within existing and new GEF projects, in order that maximum effort is achieved in providing the information base required for the CBD.

A preliminary set of guidelines/criteria discussed during the meeting is set out in Annexe 1.