Protecting Nature's Hotspots for people and prosperity

CEPF Niche for Investment

Caribbean Islands

CEPF Niche for Investment

CEPF’s niche for investment in the Caribbean Islands Hotspot was formulated through an inclusive, participatory process that engaged civil society, donor and governmental stakeholders throughout the region, and is based on an analysis of information gathered during the profile preparation process. While information from all countries in the hotspot has been compiled, this section focuses on determining where CEPF can add the greatest value in the following countries currently eligible to receive CEPF funds as both signatories to the Convention on Biological Diversity and World Bank client countries: Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Grenada, Haiti, Jamaica, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines. In addition, the Bahamas and Barbados are included as priorities for CEPF investment because of their eligibility to receive GEF funds specifically.

Analysis and consultations conducted during the profile process demonstrate that the Caribbean Islands Hotspot is at a crossroad in its development trajectory. With few exceptions, most countries in the hotspot have built economies classified as middle income that are heavily reliant on ecosystem services, particularly for tourism, agriculture and fisheries. The region’s ecosystems provide vital freshwater resources, help to mitigate the impacts of hurricanes, regulate local climate and rainfall, prevent soil erosion, produce hydroelectricity and yield locally consumed non-timber forest products. Additionally, the hotspot spans more than 4 million km2 of ocean and has many thousands of kilometers of productive coastal and near-shore habitats. The coastal and marine environments are essential for the tourism and fisheries sectors. Both terrestrial and marine ecosystems host unique assemblages of flora and fauna of high global importance.

However, this profile also reveals that these island ecosystems are particularly fragile, finite and under significant pressure. Economic policies have failed to fully consider the importance of protecting and maintaining the provision of ecosystem services. While significant strides have been made in enacting environmental laws and establishing protected area systems, their effective implementation has fallen far short. As a result, environmental degradation is taking a toll in several respects. Agriculture and fisheries are declining, in part due to environmental degradation. The provision of freshwater to meet growing populations is a serious concern. Furthermore, the region has among the highest numbers of globally threatened species in the world. Its key biodiversity areas top the world’s list of AZE sites, which the international conservation community has agreed are the most urgent site-level conservation priorities globally. The wholesale degradation of Haiti serves notice to the rest of the Caribbean community of the risk of environmental mismanagement, as the impacts have resulted in the country topping the hemisphere’s lists for poverty, human deprivation and disaster risk.

The advent of climate change and its disproportionate impacts on the islands of the Caribbean, combined with continued population growth, emphasizes the importance of maintaining what intact ecosystems remain, of strengthening their resilience and of restoring degraded ecosystems. This imperative is not only critical for maintaining biodiversity but also has clear implications for the future welfare of the people of the Caribbean.

Several opportunities exist to leverage support for the kind of approaches that will help lay a foundation for a more sustainable economic base and future. Responsibility for natural resource management in the Caribbean lies primarily with national governments, which, together with international donors, are investing significant resources in natural resources management and conservation. However, the complexity of the challenge requires that civil society in all its various forms, from national environmental groups to small community-based organizations, must also fulfill a vital role as key advocates of and stewards for biodiversity and the benefits it provides for people. Civil society groups need to effectively participate in environmental management if current donor and government efforts are to be successful, and if the hotspot is to set a development path that fosters environmental sustainability. While the need for a robust civil society sector is high, the profile finds that the sector lacks the full set of capacities to fulfill its role to the extent required, for example, with respect to possessing strong technical expertise on the key issues and to forging successful working relationships and strategic alliances within the environmental community and with other sectors and stakeholders.

Given this backdrop, the CEPF niche will be to support civil society groups so that they can serve as effective advocates, facilitators and leaders for conservation and sustainable development of their islands. The need for such leadership is urgent. Civil society groups are in a unique position in the Caribbean to fulfill this role, as they have significant knowledge of and experience with the biodiversity held in individual key biodiversity areas and conservation corridors, and they can bridge local development aspirations with longer term conservation goals. In several islands, civil society groups have been the key advocates for development approaches that are environmentally sustainable, particularly for mining and tourism development. Their biological expertise, field experience and leadership role for environmental sustainability puts them in a unique position to help preserve their environment. As a result, CEPF will empower and enable civil society groups to engage in strategic conservation efforts, as well as participate in and influence broader development planning and policy agendas.

The profile identifies strategic points of entry where civil society can play a critical role through four closely linked strategic directions detailed below:
  1. Improve protection and management of 45 priority key biodiversity areas.
  2. Integrate biodiversity conservation into landscape and development planning and implementation in six conservation corridors.
  3. Support Caribbean civil society to achieve biodiversity conservation by building local and regional institutional capacity and by fostering stakeholder collaboration.
  4. Provide strategic leadership and effective coordination of CEPF investment through a regional implementation team.
This portfolio also includes special emergency support to Haitian civil society to mitigate the impacts of the 2010 earthquake. This support was approved separately by the Donor Council in March 2010 and has been incorporated as a fifth strategic direction, Provide emergency support to Haitian civil society to mitigate the impacts of the 2010 earthquake.

Guiding principles that underpin this strategy rest on the need for CEPF to focus on those outcomes that can have the greatest impact on conservation in the insular Caribbean. CEPF aims to leave a legacy whereby the hotspot’s most important biological sites and corridors have been strengthened so that they continue to sustain rich and diverse habitats, provide vital ecosystem services for the people of the Caribbean, and are better prepared to withstand looming threats from global climate change.

To ensure the greatest incremental contribution to the conservation of the global biodiversity values of the Caribbean Islands Hotspot, CEPF investment will focus on 45 of the highest-priority key biodiversity areas, many of which are embraced by six conservation corridors. Many of these key biodiversity areas are coastal and dependent on the health and resilience of the adjacent marine environment and as such, CEPF will adopt the 12-nautical-mile territorial sea definition established by the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea as the outermost limit for CEPF attention and investment. This means that conservation actions pertaining to a coastal key biodiversity area can include, as necessary, the belt of ocean measured seaward from the coastal nation and subject to its sovereignty. It should be noted that while the territorial sea definition is based on political, rather than biological, criteria, it also aims to assist sovereign nations to protect their marine resources.

All of the 45 priority key biodiversity areas contain globally important biodiversity, and all are important for the provision or regulation of ecosystem services to local human populations. Yet these same areas face a range of threats, including incompatible development and agricultural initiatives, invasive species and unsustainable use. While all are urgent priorities for conservation action and need investment and management attention, they also have a high potential for conservation success and present excellent opportunities for CEPF investment.
Document: The Caribbean Islands Ecosystem Profile, January 2010
English (PDF - 1.63 MB) / Français (PDF - 2.6 MB)