History of CAP

Twenty years of transition in the Council for the Africa Partnership (CAP)!


Barely two decades ago, in 1996 in the Ghanaian Capital, Accra, a group of CEOs and Presidents of eight newly recruited BirdLife Partners met to discuss the future of BirdLife in Africa and developed the framework of what was then an ambitious programme for the Partnership for the period 1998-2002.  They also agreed on a Council for the Africa Partnership that will govern the collective efforts of the Partner organisations to work towards achieving the BirdLife mission in Africa.

CAP 1999 in Burkina Faso

Many of these people had attended the historic meeting held on 13 August 1994 in Rosenheim, Germany where the metamorphosis of BirdLife International from an aging conventional International Council for Bird Preservation was witnessed. BirdLife was set up as a new revolutionary model for international organizations, which sought to truly empower the grassroots, rather than exploit them, to achieve the conservation of birds and biodiversity more generally, as a contribution and means to achieve sustainability in the use of natural resources.

A handful of the veterans of the first Africa Partnership are still engaged with BirdLife, including the host for both meetings, Prof. Yaa Ntiamoa-Baidu, President of the Ghana Wildlife Society. However, overall, the Partnership has grown and changed significantly. Now 20 years later, we share some of the key moments/highlights from the Partnership.


CAP 2007 in Kenya

Saving species

The birth of serious attention to species conservation in most Partners can be traced to the CAP meeting of 1998 in Zimbabwe.  During this meeting, an idea to pay attention to species conservation was discussed and captured in a proposal to build capacity and develop tools in the process of developing species actions.  The project was submitted to the Darwin Initiative for funding.  The work was championed by the RSPB, Nature Uganda, Conservation Society of Sierra Leone and BirdLife South Africa and led to the development of seven international single-species action plans in three years; the creation of the Africa Species Working Group; and a range of tools for the development of Species Action Plans that are still used today by BirdLife and other organisations on birds and other species. Partners are using the products to develop national Action Plans and are forging direct coordination mechanisms, e.g. for the White-winged flufftail (BirdLife South Africa, BirdLife Zimbabwe and Ethiopian Wildlife and Natural History Society). The Africa Species Working Group is spearheading BirdLife’s commitment to halt Vulture declines within the next ten years.


History of CAP

1996 - Ghana

1997 - Kenya

1998 - Zimbabwe

1999 - Burkina Faso

2000 - Tunisia

2001 - South Africa

2002 - Nigeria

2003 - Tanzania

2004 - World Conference

2005 - Cameroon

2006 - Ethiopia

2007 - Kenya

2008 - Argentina - World Conference

2010 - Botswana

2012 - Kenya

2013 - Ottawa

2015 - Ghana


CAP 2010 in Botswana

Protecting Sites and Habitats

At the inaugural CAP meeting, frizzle-haired Gary Allport was busy setting the groundwork for a ludicrously large, complex and ambitious site conservation and capacity-building project, for a fledgling and low capacity network.  The premise of this 10-country initiative was that credible NGOs could effectively partner with governments to deliver the conservation of all sites that are objectively determined to be global priorities for biodiversity.  The project was instrumental in rolling out the IBA programme across Africa and helped establish the Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) to guide in its implementation.  The project was instrumental in the transitioning of Partners that were hitherto bird watching and research organisations into credible conservation organisations run by professional staff. It introduced many BirdLife Partners to the concept of ‘advocacy’ and instituted the first site monitoring systems, which still run across the Partnership.

Empowering People for positive change

In 1999, at La Kompienga in Burkina Faso, the Partnership held their 5th CAP meeting, which placed emphasis on positively engaging local communities in a manner that benefits their livelihoods. Championed by the late Alice Bukholi of Tanzania and the building on the innovative Site Support Group (SSGs), which was later changed to Local Conservation Groups (LCGs) approach developed in Kenya, the Partnership set up an ambitious plan to institute local actions across all IBAs under serious threat in Africa. This information was later packaged into a proposal that was submitted to the Dutch government for two rounds of funding to seed Local Conservation Groups across the Partnership.

BirdLife and its Partners have already established more than 2000 Local Conservation Groups at Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas. The ultimate aim is for all 12,000 IBAs around the world to be looked after by community-based organisations with the commitment and expertise to conserve their sites and wildlife, and to use them sustainably for their own benefit and for the use and enjoyment of generations to come.

CAP 2012 in Kenya

Promoting Ecological Sustainability

This is a relatively new area of work that was explicitly captured in the BirdLife Strategy in 2013 and is still gaining momentum.  However, the Partnership has been engaged in supporting activities for much longer, with the crucial engagement around valuing biodiversity and ecosystem services and using this information in policy formulation reviews. A key turning point was the CAP meeting of 2008 in Nairobi, Kenya where policy and advocacy were the key highlights. An example of using economic valuations to safeguard an IBA in danger of irreparable damage in Uganda was shared, which sparked a series of cost-benefit analyses at key threatened sites.  This CAP meeting also established the Africa Sites Casework Task Force (ASCET) that has guided numerous campaigns to save IBAs in Danger.

The next CAP meeting will take place in Ghana in October 2015.  Three key areas will be explored in detail, namely the business and biodiversity nexus, saving vultures and protecting migrants.  We expect that transformative ideas, similar to those outlined above will emerge. 



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