Korallenriff in Sansibar (WIO Region) | Foto: A. Kubicek, ZMT

06/04/2021 | During the online Western Indian Ocean (WIO) Regional Science to Policy Dialogue, organised recently by the Nairobi Convention in collaboration with the Western Indian Ocean Marine Science Association (WIOMSA), ZMT contributed to the topics of Co-Design and Biodiversity Data Sharing. The contribution papers had been generated within the context of the MeerWissen Initiative.

The discussion paper “Co-Design as the basis for collaboration and science to policy uptake in the Western Indian Ocean region”, was presented by Ron Fluegel (GIZ) on behalf of the authors from the MeerWissen Initiative secretary, WIOMSA, ZMT and other partner organisations. The work across scientific disciplines, regions and societal groups is increasing and requires new methods and concepts regarding communication, institutional arrangements and funding opportunities. On a regional level, the Nairobi Convention and WIOMSA are already making efforts to improve the science to policy interface, but what co-design is and how to use it, is not widely known or intentionally practiced in the region yet. Co-Design, being described as an “Iterative and collaborative process involving diverse types of expertise, knowledge and actors to produce context-specific knowledge and pathways towards a sustainable future.” (Norström et al. 2020), is developed as an adaptive framework that aims at generating applicable scientific outcomes. Within this co-design strategy, it is proposed to jointly develop research projects and policies based on a common agenda and a shared vision.

The co-design and co-production involves scientists, regional decision makers, the private sector, non-government organisations as well as local and indigenous knowledge-holders. The importance of co-design in the context of marine research and management has been specifically emphasised by IOC-UNESCO in context of the UN Ocean Decade. In order to create the needed political interest and support, the paper suggests to develop a regional vision and guiding principles, to initiate short-term and long-term projects/programs aiming at building multidisciplinary capacities and to capitalize on opportunities provided in the UN Ocean Decade and other regional and global initiatives.

A regional and inter-sectoral working group was proposed which can facilitate the co-design process in finding a joint vision, exchange lessons learned and define criteria for future research topics within the region. It could support the reflection upon, as well as the implementation of existing guidelines, investigate funding opportunities for regional co-design approached and create awareness for the relevance of co-design in the research community as well as among decision-makers. The working group could work as an advisory body, agenda setter and motor to evaluate and apply methods for co-design, accessing external expertise and develop capacities.

The paper “Strengthening regional regulatory frameworks and national capacity for handling marine biodiversity data in the Western Indian Ocean” was presented by Christopher Muhando (IMS) and Hauke Kegler (ZMT) on behalf of several partners. Biodiversity data are elementary when it comes to the assessment of e.g. ecosystems, fisheries, but also the designation of protected areas or land use planning and that these data needs to be available to decision-makers more quickly than the slow publication process allows.

A regionally harmonized procedure for data collection, analysis, and provision can improve the use of data and facilitate their exchange across institutional or national boundaries. This includes training in data collection and taxonomy. Data use and data needs should also be discussed with other stakeholders through the project, e.g., in a co-design process that explicitly involves local communities, as they often have extensive traditional knowledge. The recommendations have also been included in the latest ZMT Policy Brief Fostering Marine Biodiversity Data Sharing for Decision-Making in the Western Indian Ocean.