Japanese Government Joins Fund To Protect Biodiversity Hotspots

Conservation International
Thursday, 6 June 2002

Action to Benefit World's Most Threatened Plant and Animal Species

The Japanese government announced today its most significant contribution ever to support private conservation groups by joining the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF), a major endeavor to preserve Earth's most critically endangered and biologically richest regions.

In announcing its participation, the Japanese government has affirmed its commitment to the health of the environment.

"Biodiversity conservation is one of the most critical issues facing the world today," said Hon. Mr. Hiroshi Ohki, Japan's Minister for the Environment. "The CEPF approach enables local people in developing nations to create and implement projects for a healthy environment and to prosper economically. That is why the Japanese government has chosen to be a participant in this very focused initiative."

The CEPF, a joint initiative of Conservation International, the Global Environment Facility, The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the World Bank and the Japanese government, aims to invest at least $150 million over five years in biodiversity hotspots-highly threatened regions where more than 60 percent of terrestrial species diversity is found on only 1.4 percent of the Earth's surface.

Each CEPF member organization has pledged to commit $5 million annually over five years to the fund, which provides financial support, technical expertise, field knowledge and information to nongovernmental organizations, community groups and private sector partners working to conserve biodiversity in developing countries.

"The biodiversity hotspots are in a state of emergency and this is our last chance to save them," said Jorgen Thomsen, CEPF's Executive Director and Senior Vice President at Conservation International, the managing partner of the fund. "By engaging local people in biodiversity conservation, we ensure the best chance of success at protecting the environment for future generations."

The partners, who share a common vision that conservation and economic prosperity are linked, made the announcement in Bali, Indonesia at the IV and final preparatory meeting for the World Summit on Sustainable Development that will take place in Johannesburg, August 26- September 4, 2002. More than 3,700 people representing governments, nongovernmental organizations and the private sector are participating in the Bali meeting.

"Humanity's immediate health and long-term well-being are indivisible from that of other species and systems sharing and shaping our planet," said Mohamed T. El-Ashry, CEO and Chairman of the Global Environment Facility. "We are living proof that biodiversity matters. CEPF is helping to focus world attention on our most critically endangered and biologically richest areas, such as Sumatra."

Sumatra, one of the world's most urgent conservation priorities, will receive $10 million in grants through CEPF, the largest portion of the $58.1 million approved for disbursement this year. Home to more than 10,000 plant species, mostly in lowland forests, the Indonesian island of Sumatra is part of the Sundaland biodiversity hotspot. It is the only place where elephants, rhinoceros, tigers, clouded leopards and orangutans are all found.

The eight other hotspots selected for current funding are Brazil's Atlantic Forest, the Cape Floristic Region in South Africa, Choco-Darien in Colombia and Ecuador, the Guinean Forests of West Africa, Madagascar, Mesoamerica, the Philippines and the Tropical Andes.

The funds will be distributed in mostly small- to medium-sized grants to local grassroots groups, including nongovernmental organizations, universities and local communities who work toward biodiversity conservation in these hotspots.

"Local people who depend on natural resources for their livelihoods will be the real beneficiaries of the CEPF funding," said Ian Johnson, World Bank Vice President for Environmentally and Socially Sustainable Development. He warned that Sumatra's lowland forests could be lost by 2005 if deforestation trends continue. "We have to act quickly," he emphasized.

According to figures from a nationwide government survey, Indonesia lost some 50 million acres of forest from approximately 1985 to 1997. Since then, CI and other experts believe another 12 million acres or more may have been lost.

Since the Fund was launched in August 2000, the CEPF Donor Council has approved more than $69 million in grant resources, divided among the nine priority areas in Asia, Africa and Latin America.

For more information, or to contact Conservation International, see their website at: www.conservation.org

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