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MEA Bulletin - Guest Article No. 102 - Thursday, 21 October 2010
Streamlined reporting by Pacific Island countries to the biodiversity-related MEAs
By Melissa Jaques*
In 2007, the Australian Government, in consultation with the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP), commenced a project to streamline reporting by Pacific Island countries to the biodiversity-related multilateral environmental agreements (MEAs).

The objective of the project is to reduce the burden of national reporting for Pacific Island countries to the biodiversity-related MEAs by reducing duplication, and making the reporting process simpler and less resource-intensive.

The primary achievement of the project has been the development and trial of a consolidated reporting template to five of the biodiversity-related MEAs:

Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD)
Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES)
Convention on Migratory Species (CMS)
Convention on Wetlands (Ramsar)
World Heritage Convention (WHC).

The template represents a practical example of how national reporting can be streamlined. It is consistent with requests made by Contracting Parties to the Secretariats of the CBD, CITES, CMS and Ramsar Conventions to explore options to harmonise national reporting.

The model streamlines the separate reporting requirements for the five biodiversity-related MEAs into one template. This means that Parties would develop only one national report per reporting period and this report would serve as the national report for any of the five biodiversity-related MEAs to which that country is party.

The primary benefits of this are a reduction in the amount of time spent undertaking national reporting to these MEAs, and a simplified structure that reduces duplication while still communicating progress and achievements in implementing MEAs. This could be particularly useful for countries with resource constraints or with small environment agencies.

The questions in the template are based on the existing reporting requirements for each of the MEAs. The questions seek information on national legislation, strategies, policies and activities undertaken to implement the biodiversity-related MEAs, as well as an overview of the status, trends and threats to biodiversity.

The template was developed in early 2008 and trialled in eight countries in the Pacific over 2008­­–2009: the Cook Islands, Fiji, Kiribati, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, the Solomon Islands, Tonga, and Vanuatu, to ‘road-test’ its suitability for use in the Pacific.

The results of the trial were positive. The countries that participated noted the benefits of using a consolidated reporting model, particularly in terms of the reduction in the amount of resources, staffing and funding that would be required to undertake national reporting using this model. It was also seen as a valuable mechanism to bring focal points and government officials together to discuss work that they are undertaking or have undertaken in relation to the biodiversity-related MEAs, to share experiences and to identify synergies in work programs relating to the biodiversity-related MEAs.

Summary of key achievements

2007
Options to streamline reporting by Pacific Island countries to the biodiversity-related MEAs put forward to SPREP Members at 18th SPREP Meeting for consideration.
SPREP Members agreed to the development of a consolidated reporting template for Pacific Island countries to five biodiversity-related MEAs.

2008
Consolidated reporting template to the biodiversity-related MEAs drafted in consultation with SPREP, Pacific Island countries, the United Nations Environment Programme - World Conservation Monitoring Centre (UNEP-WCMC) and Australian Government agencies.
Draft template trialled in four Pacific Island countries (Fiji, Samoa, Cook Islands and Kiribati) to test the viability of the model.
Side-events conducted on the ‘Harmonisation of National Reporting’ at the 9th Conference of the Parties to the CBD and 10th Conference of the Parties to the Ramsar Convention to inform Parties of the project.
Report on outcomes of the trial of the template tabled at the 19th SPREP Meeting.

2009
Draft template sent to the biodiversity MEA Secretariats for comment.
Feedback received from the biodiversity MEA Secretariats and incorporated into a revised draft of the template. 
Trial expanded to Tonga, Vanuatu, Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands using revised draft.
Work commenced to develop template in Adobe LiveCycle software as an interactive PDF.
Australian Government presented project as a possible option to streamline reporting for Members of the Association of South-East Asian Nations.
Progress report on project tabled at the 20th SPREP Meeting.

2010

Template finalised in Adobe LiveCycle software.
Webpage on the project developed and launched on the website of the Australian Government Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities.
Information document submitted to the 15th Conference of the Parties to CITES to inform Parties of the project.
Project brought to the attention of Biodiversity Liaison Group (BLG).
Request received from BLG for further information on the project.
Update provided to the MEA Secretariats on the project.
Fact Sheet and CD on project produced for distribution at international fora.
Articles on project published in newsletters and bulletins.
Final report tabled at 21st SPREP Meeting. 

Summary
While the template has not been formally endorsed by the governing bodies of the MEAs, the project provides a valuable case study of a streamlined reporting approach that can be used to guide future discussion and action on this issue. Overall, feedback received on the template and concept from the MEA Secretariats and agencies such as UNEP and UNEP-WCMC has been positive.

It is clear from the results of this project that there are benefits to be gained from standardising information and the way it is collated, analysed and presented across the biodiversity-related MEAs. In addition to facilitating the process of reporting for Parties, a consolidated reporting model could facilitate information exchange and provide easier access to information for MEA Secretariats and other stakeholders, as well as resulting in a more efficient use of MEA resources.

Work has progressed to communicate and promote outcomes and lessons learnt from the project. This aims to ensure that the achievements of the project can be used to guide future discussion at the international level on activities to streamline and harmonise national reporting to MEAs.

All information on this project as well as the draft template in both Microsoft Word format and as an interactive Adobe PDF is now available on-line at http://www.environment.gov.au/about/international/reporting/
*Melissa Jaques works in the Australian Government Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities in Canberra. The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and do not represent nor reflect the official position of any government or organisation.
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