In February 2019, during a workshop organised by UNESCO and the World Heritage Centre, entitled Cross-Border Cooperation for Effective Management of World Heritage in Africa, senior staff from SMFG made a joint presentation with Colonel Cécé Papa Condé, the Director General of CEGENS, on “Transboundary Collaboration for the Conservation of the Nimba Mountains – the Experience of Guinea”. See Nimba Info, edition 41 of May 2019. Following this workshop, the presenters of the case study drafted an article based on the presentation, available in French here.
Transborder collaboration for the conservation of the Nimba Mountains region has experience periods of greater and lower activity since 2001, the years when the first efforts of today’s current collaboration began for real. Among the factors that contributed to the success of such collaboration are:
- The desire by the highest authorities – such as ministers and presidents – expressed in declarations and signed agreements that permit joint activity on the ground,
- The commitment and dynamism of the directors of the respective management authorities and their field staff, who accept at times personal sacrifices and difficult working conditions, and do not accept to remain inactive because of inadequate resources,
- The full participation of representatives of traditional authorities, who are responsible for local people who in turn are the ultimate protectors or threats to protected areas,
- The participation of and political and moral support from local political authorities, for example préfets, superintendents and mayors, who mobilise the forces of public law and order to bolster the efforts of the management authorities in border areas where these latter authorities have a particularly strong need for a clear and accepted framework for law enforcement,
- Active partners like NGOs – and foremost Fauna & Flora International (FFI) – and mining companies which not only contribute financially but also, and more importantly, support the collaborative process logistically and with data and other technical contributions, and
- Flexibility, which has permitted Guinea to allow collaboration to evolve organically, opportunistically and efficiently on the ground, led by field personnel, without heavy planning or bureaucracy.
The success of transboundary collaboration must start with honest dialogue that does not seek to accuse but allows each party to express how it sees the situation, while remaining open to other perspectives and to changing its own opinions. The same is true for involving mining companies in protected area and biodiversity conservation: they are too easily considered the enemies of nature but can make important contributions if their activities are conducted in compliance with appropriate environmental standards, and if they commit to supporting conservation and sustainable development in and around their areas of intervention.
Finally, to support conservation, it is better to have modest but continuous material and financial support, than a feast followed by famine. It helps nothing to set up large structures, with regular meetings and work plans that try to do everything, if resources are not assured. The success of a modest but effective initiative is the best guarantee of its continuation in future.