Mxolisi Sibanda has spent close to 20 years working as a natural resources management and conservation expert in the UK and Africa. As an Adviser in the Climate Change Section of the Commonwealth Secretariat, he leads the Secretariat’s work around the Commonwealth Call to Action on Living Lands. He shares some insights about his work below.
Tell us a little about yourself and how you came to work at the Secretariat.
My background training is in biological sciences. I enjoyed ecology the most, so I developed my career in natural resources management and conservation leadership. Over the last 20 years, I have worked on biodiversity, climate change and development issues in east and southern Africa, the UK, and recently my remit was widened to cover Commonwealth countries in the Pacific and Caribbean regions.
During this time, I have been fortunate to have roles that have covered project or programme development, policy, communications, programme management, gender, monitoring and evaluation, and research positions– this has given me a well-rounded grounding. Prior to joining the Commonwealth Secretariat, I worked with World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) in the UK, as an independent consultant in East and Southern Africa, and as a field researcher at Matobo National Park in Zimbabwe.
What key project are you working on now?
I currently lead the Commonwealth Secretariat’s work programme around the Living Lands Charter - A Commonwealth Call to Action on Living Lands (CALL), an agreement adopted by leaders at the 2022 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting held in Kigali, Rwanda. It aims to support and accelerate integrated actions to address biodiversity loss, land degradation and climate change on lands across the Commonwealth, meeting the targets set under the three Rio conventions: the UNFCCC, UNCCD and CBD.
In the tradition of environmental stewardship and leadership demonstrated throughout the history of the Commonwealth, the Living Lands Charter recognises the interlinkages between these crises. The agreement calls for urgent action to preserve life as we know it and to deliver on the Sustainable Development Goals for all humanity. There are ample opportunities to do all this with thoughtful nature-based solutions.
How does the Commonwealth Climate Finance Access Hub support the Living Lands Charter and the CALL?
The Commonwealth Climate Finance Access Hub (CCFAH) is a flagship programme created in 2016 to enhance access to climate finance. To date, it has delivered over US$250 million across 16 countries. Currently, there are significant funding gaps across the three Rio conventions. These require financial investments of nearly US$ 1 trillion per year to enable countries to fully implement targets, as committed in their Nationally Determined Commitments (NDCs), Land Neutrality targets and National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plans (NBSAPs). The CCFAH provides a tested mechanism to fill that need.
Besides, many CCFAH advisers are not only climate finance specialists, in addition to being experts in relevant fields such as biodiversity, agriculture, land restoration, forestry and social development. This means we have a strong network of knowledgeable professionals who can support access to finance, while also integrating technical, policy and capacity building elements from these other fields.
Today is International Day for Biological Diversity. With many Commonwealth countries adopting the CALL, can you share with us a message for the day?
The Commonwealth covers a quarter of the world’s mega-biodiverse countries across all continents. This day should remind us of the value of and our responsibility to, nature. The Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework provides an agreed framework for doing so, whether we are in government, business, local communities or individuals.
Examples of the kind of action needed abound in the Commonwealth. Namibia is a leader in establishing protected areas such as parks and reserves. Gabon, which only joined the Commonwealth last year, is leading in forest conservation. Since the adoption of the Commonwealth Living Lands Charter, the Commonwealth Secretariat has also supported southern African countries with the development of Zambezi River programme, funded by Climate Investment Funds (CIF). We are also developing our work to link nature, climate change and human health. This covers financing supported by CCFAH as well as supporting the building of climate resilient health systems.
However, more could be done to accelerate and scale up these solutions, for example, around land use planning and management, restorative agricultural practices, improved livestock rearing, wetland conservation and afforestation. We will continue to work with our partners and countries to find the most effective and appropriate solutions.
- Josephine Latu-Sanft Senior Communications Officer, Communications Division, Commonwealth Secretariat
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