Interview with Ms. Marcela Andino Ramos, Deputy Director, and Mr. René Larenas, Director of Governance, CONGOPE, Ecuador.
nrg4SD: CONGOPE has recently joined nrg4SD. Could you share with us a brief history of your organization and your main lines of work?
CONGOPE: CONGOPE (for the acronym in Spanish) is the Consortium of Provincial Autonomous Governments of Ecuador. The institution was established by the Organic Code of Planning and Finance, with the purpose of giving support at a national level to provincial, municipal and parochial governments.
CONGOPE’s main activity is to strengthen the competencies of its members by giving them technical support and capacity building while accompanying and advising them on the articulation with the national government for the development of public policies. For the past eight years, since the approval of the new Constitution, we have worked to include the vision of subnational governments in the development of laws. Even though our Constitution establishes decentralization issues, it is still necessary to have a totally decentralized vision throughout our governments. One of the issues mentioned by regional governments is that we do not have an adequate financial or administrative autonomy
Although the COTAD (in Spanish), the Organic Code of Territorial Organization, establishes that governments are autonomous and decentralized within the framework of national regulations, the Ministries always try to establish their vision of hierarchy as a mandate vision. This year, fortunately, regarding environmental issues, the person in charge allowed us to open spaces to have another kind of vision and work. Many efforts are coming from the provincial governments to work on their environmental competencies, related to biodiversity and climate change issues and also as environmental authorities.
nrg4SD: As co-organizer of the International Conference on Biodiversity “A Territorial Rights based Approach to Biodiversity”, held in Azuay in June 2018, you moderated several panels, including “From Eco-Democracy to action: bottom-up strategies and participatory dialogue”. Could you share some of the actions that are being developed by CONGOPE to strengthen this multi-level articulation and dialogue with civil society?
CONGOPE: As an organization that partners with subnational governments, the actions come more from them than directly from CONGOPE. What we mainly do is to promote, guide and accompany subnational governments in their efforts and articulation within their own territories. Although we have National spaces for articulation with civil society organisms or Ministries, I believe our most important action is to promote real spaces of eco-democracy and citizen participation from and within the provinces. It is established in our Constitution that all provinces must have adequate spaces for participatory dialogue, and we can say that, formally, they do exist, but their real impact still hasn’t reached its full potential. That is why from CONGOPE, we try to strengthen these local processes and give support to the community and civil organizations for them to understand the world of public management, which sometimes has a difficult language to understand.
At a national level, I would highlight the efforts of collaboration between the Ministry of the Environment and subnational governments, in which spaces for dialogue on issues such as biodiversity and climate change have been developed. But what we want is for this processes to not depend on the will of the person in mandate, but to be truly institutionalized, so that all provincial governments can carry on that role by themselves and to become real autonomous decentralized governments, not only as a label.
nrg4SD: The 2014 report of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) states that the Aichi Biodiversity Targets are far from being achieved and efforts must be re-doubled for their success. What is your assessment in regards to the progress made by CONGOPE’s members concerning the Aichi Targets and the global biodiversity agenda? Could you mention any example or experiences that help the localization of these goals?
CONGOPE: Our first impression is that the Aichi Biodiversity Targets and the CBD have not been properly introduced and promoted within Ecuador. We have had a closer relationship with the development of the New Urban Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), but not with the Aichi Targets. However, as the provincial governments have management competences on environment issues within their territories, we can mention many actions that end up contributing in the line of the Aichi Targets. I would highlight some experiences on the conservation of native species, like for example, the spectacled bear.
Another example is the recovery of tropical forests around the country, like the case of the province of Pastaza, which has declared under protection more than two million hectares of forest. Another initiative worth mentioning is the creation of the Consortium to tackle Climate Change in the Coastal Range, between the provinces of Santa Elena, Manabí and Guayas. Although this may seem as isolated experiences, we believe Ecuador is as mega-diverse country and has a special responsibility. Our culture already embraces biodiversity as part of our economic development. In fact, a considerable part of the economic activities in Ecuador is related to biodiversity. It is estimated that 40% of the economically active population is involved in the biodiversity field. So, we do work on these issues but we still need to align them with the Aichi Targets and the global biodiversity agenda.
I would also like to highlight that, despite there is a very strong extractive activity and worrying vision in some areas of the country -like for example, little attention to ecological limits, the protection of our mangroves, or the anthropogenic pressures on our ecosystems- there is a commitment from most of the provincial governments and a large part of the population to work on these issues with a high level of environmental awareness coming from the communities.