By Blerina Gjeka
Situated within the tropics, Cambodia is a hub of biodiversity with a vast range of plants, mammals, birds, fish and reptile species. Its lush forests are home to many endemic plants and ecosystems as well as to several endangered species, such as the Tiger and the Asian Elephant. Biodiversity is not only a source of food and livelihoods for the people of Cambodia, it also represents important social and cultural values deeply imbedded in their way of life and traditions.
The Government of Cambodia recognises the social, economic and environmental value of biodiversity and ecosystems, and has undertaken important policy reforms in support of sustainable natural resources management. The country has increased its Protected Areas territory to 41 percent of the total land area; however, habitat loss and deforestation remain important challenges.
In response to the request of the Ministry of Environment, Cambodia joined the Biodiversity Finance Initiative (BIOFIN) as the 31st member country through the financial support from the Government of Norway.
National and international partners recently gathered in Phnom Penh to kick off the implementation of BIOFIN in the country. Through this initiative Cambodia will assess its current biodiversity expenditures, policies, institutions and financial gaps as well as plan for long-term solutions to leverage resources and develop capacity in biodiversity management and conservation.
Addressing the meeting, H.E Chan Somaly, Deputy Secretary General of the National Council for Sustainable Development (NCSD) emphasised the importance of the initiative to address challenges in biodiversity management and help mobilise financial resources contributing in this way to the implementation of important national policies currently in place.
She invited all participating government agencies, civil society organisations/development partners and the private sector to work together ensuring synergies and effective coordination for sustainable biodiversity and development results.
“UNDP will continue to work closely with the government and other actors to strengthen investment in biodiversity management, which means better investing in the country’s sustainable growth,” said UNDP Country Director Nick Beresford. He highlighted the initiative as a useful methodology to build the business case for increased investment in biodiversity management and capture at the same time compelling economic evidence to integrate biodiversity into national programmes and policies.
The first phase of BIOFIN in Cambodia will continue until the end of 2020. This phase will include the undertaking of three different assessment of policies and institutions, expenditures and needs and the work will culminate with a Biodiversity Finance Plan as a main tool to identify and prioritise biodiversity finance solutions to reduce the biodiversity finance gap.
The plan will help leverage internal and external financial resources from public, private and the donor community. BIOFIN recognises the important role of women and men as agents of change and promotes a participatory and gender-responsive approach to all activities and results. At the same time the initiative supports sustainable development finance contributing in this way to the national development plans and SDGs.