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HTML Document Summary of the day

Symposium 'Biodiversity and development, a global heritage', 26/11/2015


The symposium ‘Biodiversity and development, a global heritage’ took place at  the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences (RBINS) on 26 November 2015 in the framework of the European year for development.  It was organised by the CEBioS programme and funded by the Belgian development cooperation (DGD, D2.4.). The organising committee included Hilde Eggermont (Belgian Biodiversity Platform, Luc Janssens de Bisthoven (CEBioS, Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences), Francesca Lanata (Botanical Garden Meise), Eva November (Royal Museum for Central Africa), Anne-Julie Rochette (CEBioS, Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences), Aline Van der Werf (Belspo) and Maarten Vanhove (CEBioS, Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences). The event was supported by the following partners: VLIR-UOS, ARES-CCD, The Shift, KLIMOS, BELSPO , Belgian Biodiversity Platform, National Focal Point for the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), The European Commission, the Royal Museum for Central Africa, Botanical Garden Meise.

The day included key notes by invited gifted speakers, as well as practitioners' stories by our own researchers and other Belgian actors about the reasons why biodiversity in developing countries should be protected and used or managed in a sustainable way, how to do that, and why, we, as an industrialised European country, have a duty and an obligation to support this process. Many aspects of ecosystem services offered by biodiversity were raised during the day, including cultural aspects and traditional knowledge, food security, carbon sink, water and housing, heating and the concept of ‘One Health’.

Various stakeholders presented their activities during the poster/booth session, including Universities (KULeuven, UCL, ULB, ULG-AgroBioTech; UMons), Research Institutes (RBINS, RMCA, Botanic Garden Meise, Bioversity international), NGOs (WWF, Natagora, Natuurpunt), associations (ELI-Scientific), the Belgian Cooperation (DGD, BTC) and researchers from the South.

The abstract booklet of the event, presentations and posters are available online. 

Ms. Camille Pisani, director-general of RBINS, gave an introductory word, thanking the participants for their high attendance and interest and urging all to debate freely about how to concile sustainable development and the conservation of biodiversity in developing countries.

The Belgian Minister for Development Cooperation, Mr. Alexander De Croo, gave an opening speech about the Belgian priorities in development cooperation regarding the environment, climate change and biodiversity. He emphasised the need for cooperation amongst all Belgian actors in this domain, as development without the conservation of biodiversity and vice-versa are no viable options in view of the ongoing biodiversity crisis in developing countries, especially in the least developed and the fragile states. He also stressed the need to better integrate non state actors such as the private sector to find together solutions within a green economy.  

Mr. Arnold Jacques de Dixmude from the European Commission (DG DEVCO) explained how the EU is coping with this issue through the B4life flagship Initiative, designed to protect ecosystems, combat wildlife crime and promote sustainable development and a green economy in developing countries.

Mr. Luc Janssens de Bisthoven, coordinator of the CEBioS programme reflected on our attitude towards biodiversity and development, the definition of capacity building, the way biodiversity is going ‘digital’ with e.g. the Clearing House Mechanism (CHM), and explained the programme of the symposium. He also referred to the long-term interventions RBINS  (lead: Eric Verheyen) is carrying out in Kisangani, DR Congo, in logistic and academic support of the newly created (with DGD funding) ‘Centre pour la Surveillance de la Biodiversité' (CSB) on the campus of the Université de Kisangani in a fruitful collaboration with several partners such as the Royal Musem for Central Africa, Botanic Garden Meise and VLIR-UOS.

Mr. Patrick Grootaert from RBINS gave an account about his research to understand and promote the sustainable consumption of caterpillars in D.R. Congo, while Ms. Roseline Beudels-Jamar (RBINS) explained the complexity of conservation efforts for large antelopes in the Sahara.

Ms. Marie-Anne Eurie Foro from UGent (Prof. Peter Goethals) reported about the VLIR-UOS Institutional University Cooperation in Ecuador, promoting capacity building in Higher Education about biodiversity. Mr. Pierre Duez explained the multiple conservation challenges encountered in his ARES-CCD project in Madagascar and the search for pharmaceutical compounds in local plants.

Mr. Bruno Verbist (KU Leuven, KLIMOS) gave a systemic account about the advantages of agro-biodiversity.

Mr. David Leyssens (The Shift) gave an account about the efforts of a unique stakeholders' coalition of companies and civil society organisations to contribute to a transition towards a more sustainable economy.

Ms. Francesca Lanata (Botanical Garden Meise) explained the strong involvement of the Botanical Garden Meise to promote botanical gardens in Central Africa and the conservation of plant diversity.

Ms. Eva November (RMCA) detailed the efforts of the Royal Museum of Central Africa to promote capacity building, research and conservation of culture and nature in Africa. Mr. Jos Snoeks went into more details regarding the unique fish collections, databases and field research of the RMCA.

Mr. Daniel Pauly from the University of British Columbia gave a lecture about the dwindling marine fish stocks worldwide and how governments fail to report in an appropriate way about the importance of this dramatic decrease, with huge consequences for food security and marine biodiversity.

Ms. Marie-Lucie Susini (CEBioS) gave a comprehensive account about the capacity building intervention modalities by CEBioS, and introduced two grantees of the Belgian Global Taxonomy Initiative (Imane Rahmouni (Université Mohammed V- Souissi, Maroc) and Longin Ndayikeza (Université du Burundi, Faculté des Sciences)). They provided a concrete witness account of how they felt about capacity building (see the summary on

Ms. Loko Yêyinou Laura Estelle from the Polytechnic University of Abomey (Benin) talked about her passionate search for the biodiversity of termites in Benin, the identification of resistant yam tubers, and how it contributes to food security.

Mr. Richard Kock from the Royal Veterinary College, University of London presented his 'out of the box' thinking about the multiple links between economy, biodiversity and infectious diseases.

Mr. Pierre Meerts (Université Libre de bruxelles) gave an account on the huge metal pollution caused by the mining sector in Katanga (R.D Congo) and how research about metal tolerant plants can contribute to stabilise pollution due to wind and erosion.

Mr. Brendan Coolsaet (Université catholique de Louvain) offered an interesting jurist’ perspective about the importance of genetic resources, their utilisation and their fair and equitable sharing of benefits, and the protocol of Nagoya.

Mr. Jean-Louis Doucet (Université de Liège) explored the potential for biodiversity conservation in central Africa for industrial logging, protected areas and community forests.

Mr. Luc Brendonck (KU Leuven) presented an alarming account of the current and future ‘water stress’ Africa is undergoing. He gave some of examples of his VLIR-UOS projects in Africa, e.g. in Zimbabwe, South Africa and Tanzania, where the ecological quality of surface and groundwater is analysed as a function of damming. This will help to formulate policy and management recommendations for a better conservation of freshwater biodiversity (presented by Luc Janssens de Bisthoven due to unforeseen absence).

At the end of the afternoon, a debate moderated by the VRT journalist and Africa specialist Mr. Peter Verlinden highlighted the main tensions between economy and ecology, development and nature conservation and offered further insights into this topic. The debaters were François-Xavier de Donnea (Club du Sahel et de l’Afrique de l’Ouest (OCDE), Virunga Foundation (UK)), Richard Kock (Royal Veterinary College University of London, United Kingdom), Yêyinou Laura Estelle Loko (Polytechnic University of Abomey, Benin), Philippe Mayaux (European Commission, DEVCO), Daniel Pauly (University of British Columbia, Canada), Koen Stroeken (UGent) and Nicolas Van Nuffel (CNCD-11.11.11 ).

The lunch time, as well as the closing drink and the poster/stand session offered the possibility to network across sectors. This symposium was meant as an awareness raising and rallying moment in view of the European year for development and the Sustainable Development Goals, recently accepted at the United Nations General Assembly.

Despite the security situation in Brussels, 170 participants were counted. This is a proof that biodiversity and development can mobilise people!

This event was a lively dialogue around the need to conserve and sustainably use the biodiversity of the planet and in particular of developing countries, a metaphor for the support of life, essential for all of us and future generations.


  • Avoid working in compartments, where biodiversity remains a minor and separated issue;
  • Raise biodiversity in development cooperation to be a major part for development solutions;
  • Understand the society, the people and their link to biodiversity where development cooperation takes place;
  • Approach health issues in a holistic way, acknowledging the existing links between infectious diseases, biodiversity and economy;
  • Think, identify, formulate and plan in a participative and transparent way, involving all concerned stakeholders;
  • Stimulate the private sector to contribute in finding solutions for promoting biodiversity and development in terms of new technologies, waste recycling, value chains, consumption patterns, ecological footprint, green economy and the digital revolution, be aware of greenwashing practices;
  • Better communicate the biodiversity crisis in developing countries and the huge consequences for now and future generations in North and South;
  • Link biodiversity with climate change and with the issue of land reforms;
Release date 02/12/2015
Contributor Anne-Julie Rochette