Triangular Cooperation in Ibero-America and the preservation of biodiversity

The contribution of this modality in this area is significant within the whole cooperation developed by the region since 2007.

Our life, health, nutrition and well-being depend, to a large extent, on what nature provides (Leibniz Research Network Biodiversity, 2022). While most of its services cannot be completely substituted and some are even irreplaceable (Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, IPBES, 2019), the way we are making use of it is compromising its ability to provide those services in the future.

Although measuring biodiversity is complex, and there is no single measure that can capture all of the changes, the majority of indicators show net declines over recent decades (WWF, 2020). For example, the global Living Planet Index (LPI), which tracks the abundance of almost 21,000 populations of mammals, birds, fish, reptiles and amphibians around the world, shows an average 68% fall in analyzed populations between 1970 and 2016 (WWF, 2020).

The most important direct driver of biodiversity loss in terrestrial systems in the last several decades has been land-use change, primarily the conversion of native habitats into agricultural systems (WWF, 2020). However, by using appropriate farming methods, agriculture can also significantly contribute to the protection and promotion of biodiversity (Leibniz Research Network Biodiversity, 2022).

Human health is also linked to biodiversity, as the latter provides food and medicines, regulates climate, protects us from heat, cleans pollutants from water, air and soil, can restore physical and mental health and regulates the dynamics of biological communities (including their pathogens), among other factors (Leibniz Research Network Biodiversity, 2022).

On the other hand, indigenous peoples and local communities play a crucial role in the sustainable use and conservation of biodiversity and ecosystems. Paradoxically, they have contributed the least to climate change and biodiversity loss and are suffering the most from its effects. Recognizing their rights over territories and resources is essential to maintain biodiversity (Leibniz Research Network Biodiversity, 2022).

In short, biodiversity protection is essential for human life. What is the international community doing in this regard? The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), which all Ibero-American countries have ratified, is the first multilateral treaty to address biodiversity as an issue of global importance. Likewise, South-South and Triangular Cooperation is also aligned with these commitments. Although the information available on the Ibero-American Integrated Data System on South-South and Triangular Cooperation (SIDICSS by its Spanish acronym) does not include a specific marker on biodiversity, an exercise was carried out to identify initiatives which main objective is related to its protection and those that could indirectly address this issue.

Thus, between 2006 and 2021, a significant number of exchanges tackle biodiversity and Triangular Cooperation is the modality that has the highest percentage of initiatives with this focus. Specifically, 76 were associated with biodiversity (33 projects and 43 actions) and 171 could indirectly be related to it, representing 5.6% and 12.7% of the total, respectively. In other words, if the percentages are added up, 18% of triangular initiatives in the period could have directly or indirectly contributed to biodiversity protection.

According to their objectives, 30% of triangular actions and projects on biodiversity focused on protected areas and a quarter on forest protection. However, they also addressed other issues such as genetic diversity, marine ecosystems and coral reefs, among others.

Those that indirectly focus on biodiversity were dedicated to improve environmental care, pollution reduction, sustainable production, integrated management of watersheds and water resources, and the sustainable use of natural resources.

Graph. Evolution of Triangular Cooperation initiatives in biodiversity in Ibero-America. 2007-2021

In units and percentage over the total

Source: SIDICSS, 2022.

As the graph shows, Triangular Cooperation initiatives that focus on biodiversity have been increasing, especially in the last decade, regardless of annual fluctuations. Even in 2020 and 2021, during the COVID-19 pandemic, and although there was a drop in overall cooperation, biodiversity projects increased and the percentage over the total raised to a remarkable 13%.

A huge number of strengthened capacities lie behind these figures. For example, Brazil and Germany have been supporting the development of Ecuador’s National Biodiversity Institute (INABIO by its Spanish acronym) since 2016, through a triangular project that in 2021 began its second phase. Its aim is to strengthen INABIO’s capacities in science, technology and innovation knowledge management and thus improve decision making. Among other things, work is being carried out on the bioinformatics platform developed to systematize information on the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity, and on data modeling.

May 2023


Source: SEGIB based on Agencies and Directorates-General for Cooperation, IPBES (2019), Leibniz Research Network Biodiversity (2022) and WWF (2020).

Photographs: Bilateral SSC project between Colombia and Costa Rica on ecotourism, biodiversity monitoring and environmental safety in the marine areas of both countries. Image Bank on South South and Triangular Cooperation in Ibero-America. SEGIB-PIFCSS. 2022.