Request for ceo endorsement/Approval Project Type:  the gef trust Fund

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Audit Clause

8 The Implementing Partner will provide the Resident Representative with certified periodic financial statements, with an annual audit of the financial statements relating to the status of UNDP (including GEF) funds according to the established procedures set out in the Programming and Finance manuals and in accordance with the Project Cooperation Agreement. The Audit will be conducted by a commercial auditor engaged by the Implementing Partner.

part ii: project justification

A. describe the project rationale and the expected measurable global environmental benefits:

9 Owing to its remote geographic location (480 km south of the Arabian peninsula and 240 km east of the Horn of Africa) and long isolation, Socotra has a remarkably high proportion of endemic flora and fauna – 310 plants, over 30 vertebrates, and numerous invertebrates. It is ranked among the ten most endangered island flora in the world, with spectacular plants such as dragonblood and frankincense.

10 For centuries, the archipelago has been largely inaccessible and the local people have developed a way of life and traditional practices that have led to the careful husbandry of natural resources. Only in the last decades have Socotris been exposed to external development options. Until very recently, there have been only low levels of threat to habitats and species. These threats are largely from over-use of natural resources, e.g. timber and fuelwood, water resources, over-fishing particularly of sharks and lobsters, and localised over-grazing linked to a move for people to become more sedentary. These threats remain relatively limited in terms of scale and distribution, and the delicate balance between the local population and natural resources, which preserved the islands’ biodiversity until present times, remains in place to a significant extent. However, the situation is changing rapidly and the main threats are arising from external pressures, as well as the foreseen changes in local societies. The opening up of the archipelago has resulted in significant immigration from the mainland, unplanned investments and constructions, and unscrupulous resource exploitation. These agents of change take two main forms: i. external investments and developments and ii. internal development progression of local communities. How the new development opportunities are managed will have a profound impact upon the future maintenance of Socotra’s biodiversity values.

11 At the same time, Yemen has embarked on a process of decentralized democratic governance, with the promulgation of the Local Authority Law in August 2000. The law seeks to restructure the distribution of budgetary resources between the local and central government thereby increasing local budgetary autonomy. It also consolidates local authority for planning, development, and administration into one elected body – the District Council. Local elections were held for the first time in 2001 and again in September 2006. The decentralization process and implementation of the Local Authority Law has been slow, with setbacks along the way. Nevertheless, there is evidence of strong and sustained political commitment to this major transformation of governance. After the 2006 elections the President announced a further step in the process – the replacement of appointed Governors and District Directors with elected officials. The decentralization process has attracted significant donor assistance and there is general consensus that the trend towards decentralized democratic governance will continue.

12 In 1997 the GEF funded a project called the Conservation and Sustainable Use of the Biodiversity of Socotra Archipelago. This UNDP-GEF project was the first of its kind and achieved remarkable success in documenting and bringing international attention to Socotra’s biodiversity (resulting in Socotra’s listing as Biosphere Reserve and its pipe-lining as World Heritage site). It gave birth to the Socotra Conservation and Development Programme (SCDP), which has continued to be funded by UNDP and bilateral donors since the GEF project closed in 2001 (US$7m 2001-2008). SCDP works in tandem with the Socotra branch of the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA), that gradually is taking over its activities, for which (human) resources are being allocated by the Government of Yemen (GoY) and SCDP.

13 SCDP-EPA has worked hard to ensure biodiversity values – including existing traditional uses and practices of the local Socotri communities – are taken into consideration as Socotra develops. The most important tool to guide decision-making developed by SCDP is a Conservation Zoning Plan (CZP) that was passed into law through Presidential Decree No. 275 in September 2000.

14 Despite the ongoing SCDP-EPA work and the existence of the CZP, development decisions are being made that threaten Socotra’s biodiversity. The Local Authority Law has yet to have a significant impact on spatial planning. The various constituents of the previous local administration – the Mamoors, line agencies and military – all remain influential on Socotra. Local government structures remain weak and most decisive development decisions are taken at the central level in Sana’a. A number of high profile cases have shown how difficult it is to mainstream biodiversity considerations into such a development decision-making process. These cases have also painted SCDP-EPA as being “anti-development” in its efforts to protect biodiversity values against powerful interests. While SCDP-EPA has successfully fought these cases, a strategy of reactionary confrontation cannot last forever. If the process of making ad hoc, unplanned development decisions continues biodiversity values will remain vulnerable to the agents of change – external investments and development, and the internal development progression of the local communities.

15 There is now a clear need to internalize biodiversity considerations in an effective spatial planning process for Socotra that maximizes biodiversity benefits without compromising Socotra’s development opportunities. This will require a transformation of the current governance reality and more effective advocacy of the importance of biodiversity in the Socotra Local Authorities. An opportunity now exists to do this. An output of the UNDAF 2007-2011 is the operation of a National Decentralization Strategy, which includes an increase in the number of local districts producing participatory local plans and budgets.

16 This project will create a framework that internalizes biodiversity considerations into the ongoing development of Socotra. While it is recognized that trade-offs will be made and not all of Socotra’s biodiversity can be protected, the project will allow informed decisions to be made by capable strategic planners and local resource users that acknowledge the global and local benefits of biodiversity. While the final decisions of democratically elected representatives cannot be predicted, it is expected that the impact of this mainstreaming approach will be not only the maintenance of Socotra’s globally significant biodiversity values, but the maximization of biodiversity benefits.

17 The Socotra Archipelago is a globally significant centre of biodiversity ranked by botanists4 among the top ten islands in the world in terms of botanical diversity and well-known historically for its unique vegetation. The archipelago is the most important centre for biodiversity within the Horn of Africa biodiversity hotspot5, one of only two hotspots that are entirely arid, and characterized by concentrations of high endemism. BirdLife International recognises 22 Important Bird Areas within the archipelago, and it forms one of the world’s 221 globally important Endemic Bird Areas. The Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF) lists it as one of their 200 Ecoregions and it is also included in the regional network of important Marine Protected Areas. It was designated by UNESCO as a Man and Biosphere Reserve in 2003. In 2007, the World Heritage Site nomination file was cleared by UNESCO and is currently under evaluation by IUCN whose advice will be submitted to the World Heritage Site Council, who will decide in July 2008. The archipelago has such a unique assemblage of animal and plant species that it is often referred to as “the Galapagos of the Indian Ocean” and the application for inclusion in the World Heritage List states that:

The Socotra Archipelago is a unique living museum and a masterpiece of evolution featuring almost 300 endemic plants (36% of the total), over 30 endemic vertebrates, and more than 300 species of endemic invertebrates (among those so far described). In addition, each of the archipelago’s three inhabited islands exhibits its own high level of endemism rendering the archipelago as a whole even more significant”.

18 There is an extremely rich marine diversity that is still being studied. Its marine environment contains a combination of species originating from all neighbouring seas (Indian Ocean, Red Sea, and Persian Gulf) as well as the Pacific Ocean. It possesses well-preserved coral communities that exhibit a unique array of fish assemblages. To date 33 genera of hermatypic corals have been found. The living coral cover averages between 20-50% but rises to 80% in places. A survey of fish in 2002 showed 726 species as being present including 35 species of cartilaginous (Chondrichthyes) fish in 21 genera of 13 families. Three possible endemic species were recorded including an ophichthis-like eel which may be new to science.

19 Several endemic plant species are endangered. The endemic and monotypic Dirachma socotrana is considered Vulnerable by IUCN while Croton pachyclados survives only in one location6. Dendrosicyos is the only representative of the cucumber family to grow in tree form. Euphorbia abdelkuriensis grows only on Abd el Kuri. This endangered plant is an unusual Euphorbia, known for its spineless columnar stems, all linked by a single rootstock. In total, IUCN names 52 endemic Socotran plants in the Red List of Threatened Species7. Socotra’s plants have had important economic values for thousands of years. Frankincense from several of the eight endemic Boswellia species and dragon’s blood or cinnabar (used as a medicine and dye) from Dracaena cinnabari are the main gum-resins obtained from Socotra.

20 The most widespread vegetation type is a distinctive species-rich open deciduous shrubland found on the coastal foothills and the limestone escarpments. Two endemics, Croton socotranus and Jatropha unicostata, are the main shrubs present and are the most abundant plants on Socotra. Succulent trees, such as Euphorbia arbuscula, Dracaena socotranus, and Adenium obesum spp. sokotranum and emergent trees, such as Boswellia spp., Sterculia africana var. socotrana, and Commiphora spp. are also present (Davis et al. 1994), along with scattered Dendrosicyos socotranus and Ziziphus spina-christi. Grasses and herbs develop after sufficient rainfall. On the limestone plateau and upward to the middle slopes of the Hagghier Mountains there are areas of semi-deciduous thicket dominated by Rhus thyrsiflora, Buxanthus pedicellatus, Carphalea obovata, and Croton spp. The higher montane slopes support a mosaic of dense thickets, dominated by Rhus thyrsiflora, Cephalocroton socotranus, and Allophylus rhoidiphyllus with the emergent dragon’s blood tree (Dracaena cinnabari), low Hypericum shrubland, and in many areas anthropogenic pastures. Open rocks are covered by lichens and low cushion plants, including an endemic monotypic genus of Umbelliferae Nirarathamnos asarifolius and several endemic species of Helichrysum.

21 The unique biodiversity of Socotra has evolved in response to, and is controlled by and adapted to, two critical factors:

  • Isolation: Socotra is one of the most isolated pieces of land of continental landmass origin, probably having become detached from present Dhofar, Oman as a fault block during the Middle Pliocene some 3.5 million years ago, in the same set of rifting events that have opened the Gulf of Aden. Owing to its remote geographic location (480 km south of the Arabian peninsula and 240 km east of the Horn of Africa) and this long isolation, Socotra has developed a remarkably high proportion of endemic flora and fauna. It is suggested that some of the endemic species are relics of an ancient flora and fauna surviving in the Haghier massif which is considered by some geologists8 not to have been submerged since the Mesozoic. It is ranked among the ten most endangered island flora in the world. As with many isolated islands, the ecosystems evolved with no terrestrial mammals except bats (and possibly a shrew). This is important as it means the fodder vegetation lacks defences (such as thorns) and soils may be susceptible to compaction from introduced cloven-hoofed ruminants. It also raises concerns regarding alien invasive species.

  • Climate9: Biodiversity on Socotra is controlled not only by its geographical isolation, but more importantly by climate, especially rainfall levels. Rainfall depends on the Red Sea Convergence and the Monsoonal Inter Tropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ) – the mechanisms that create the monsoon winds. Rain falls on the island during May – September in the higher parts when the ITCZ passes over the island on its northward migration, while a second, weaker wet season occurs during October-November as it returns south. Rainfall varies across the three main geographical terrains with mean annual rates between 150 mm on the coastal plains to more than 600 mm in the mountains. Yet rainfall is sporadic and there can be years without rain and annual periods with no precipitation and extreme aridness. Dew is an important source of water in the high mountains, providing locally up to 2/3 of the total precipitation. Plant species found here have evolved morphological and physiological adaptations to cope with this dry climate and fierce monsoonal winds, e.g. Adenium socotranum has a special cell sap cycling within the caudex which prevents overheating. The succulents display several morphological adaptations – plant bodies are globular or columnar, with reduced surface areas that decrease transpiration; glaceous wax surfaces and microanatomical epidermal emergences reflect radiation. Umbrella-shaped shrubs form dense thickets, with all plants reaching the same height, a structure that protects them from strong winds10. Although well adapted to the harsh climatic conditions, the biodiversity of Socotra is likely to be less resilient to stress.

22 The natural ecosystem of the archipelago is largely intact and well preserved, not least because if its careful husbandry by the local populace and its isolation. Socotri people have developed strong traditional rules to protect the terrestrial and marine natural resources they are so reliant upon. Local village councils enforce bans on cutting of live trees (unless with the agreement of the village council and for valid reasons), establish marine sanctuaries where no net fishing is allowed and set monthly “rest” period for all fishing grounds.

23 Until very recently, there have been only low levels of threat to habitats and species. These threats are largely from over-use of the natural resources, e.g. timber and fuel wood tree species, water resources, over-fishing particularly of sharks and lobsters, and localised over-grazing linked to a move for people to become more sedentary, but they remain relatively limited in terms of scale and distribution, and the delicate balance between the local population and natural resources, which preserved the islands’ biodiversity until present times, remains in place to a significant extent.

24 However, the situation is changing rapidly and the main threats are arising from external pressures, as well as the foreseen changes in local societies. With the opening of the airport in July 1999, the archipelago became easily accessible after centuries of virtual isolation. This has resulted in significant immigration from the mainland (e.g. the population of Hadibo has increased 10-fold in the last decade), unplanned investments, construction, and unscrupulous resource exploitation. These agents of change take two main forms, 1) external investments and developments, and 2) internal development progression of local communities.


The Challenge of Accountability and Participation to Improve Democratic Governance

25 Political commitment is often identified as the most significant constraint which underlies implementation of mainstreaming frameworks11. This is certainly the case for Yemen. With the slowdown in the reform process between 2000 and 2005, Yemen made limited progress with public sector reform and decentralization over the period of implementing its first Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (2003-2005).

26 Tackling the issues is complicated by a): continued reliance of the state on oil revenues, which weaken the accountability link of the state to its citizens; b) strength of traditional power structures that do not owe primary allegiance to the State and norms that are not necessarily consistent with internationally accepted human rights norms; and c): centralist tendencies that use valid claims of lack of capacity at the local level to delay meaningful decentralization, which would bring power closer to the people.

27 As a result of the implementation of delayed economic reforms in July 2005 and in particular by confronting the task of reforming Yemen’s governance systems, the situation has begun to slowly improve. Moreover, elections have been held, Councils perform their work and national consultations are held annually to discuss problems of decentralization. Most commentators and experts agree Yemen is on a path towards strengthened decentralized democratic governance, but this is not a short-term project. The World Bank categorises Yemen as a Fragile State, but also recognises it as a gradual reformer12. Governance experts in Yemen developing the National Decentralization Strategy expect the strategy to be implemented over 10-15 years. There will be progress (such as the President’s recent announcement that elected officials will head local district councils), but also set backs (such as the recent establishment of the Urban Planning Authority, a deconcentrated body outside the Local Authority Law structure which has responsibility for land registration, among other things).

Weak Decentralised Governance on Socotra

28 To integrate Socotra’s biodiversity considerations into the mainstream of development planning, there first has to be a “mainstream”- and integrated, island-wide strategic planning process. Presently Socotra faces a unique situation whereby biodiversity management functions are in fact much stronger than the existing district-based development planning process itself. The various constituents of the previous local administration – the Mamoors, line agencies and military – all remain influential on Socotra and there is no island-wide planning or decision-making authority. Local government structures remain weak and most significant development decisions are taken at the central level in Sana’a. A number of high profile cases have shown how difficult it is to mainstream biodiversity considerations into such a development decision-making process.

29 There are a number of factors that contribute to the weak local governance situation on Socotra. Firstly, the physical distance between the Hadramout Governorate on the mainland and the two district councils on the island causes barriers. Governorates generally are reluctant to devolve planning, budgeting and implementation responsibilities to districts. However, in the case of Socotra and its two districts, these functions have been devolved, yet PEM capacity at the district level remains limited, despite the efforts made by DLDSP, and will require continued development. It is also important to note that the geographic separation of the island from the main land (400 km) contributes to the inability of the Governorate headquarters in Mukalah to provide responsive capacity support to Socotra’s two districts

30 Secondly, the Local Authority Law (LAL) is not always implemented consistently. A number of deconcentrated entities sit outside the decentralized local government structure. The Ministry of Finance’s Accounting Unit is one such entity (see Annex 1) carrying out all financial management functions on behalf of the district local authority and in violation of the spirit of the LAL. Therefore, administrative responsibilities have been passed to the district councils without fiscal control. Furthermore, Central Authorities as in the case of water (as seen in the case of the EPA), electrification and agriculture are operating on the island through de-concentrated branches that function outside the local authority system and with very limited coordination with it. By virtue of its superior implementation and delivery capacity and the fact it has been the main vehicle for donor support for the past 10 years, the EPA has become the proxy local governance structure on Socotra. It has taken on service delivery that should be the remit of the local district councils (such as health care and education) and is beyond the normal mandate of EPA. In addition to the inconsistencies within the local government structure, due to Socotra’s historical strategic importance, the military also still has an important influence over decision-making.

31 Spatial planning on Socotra faces unique challenges that require careful attention:

  • Socotra is traditionally a nomadic society and there is no concept of “ownership” beyond that of stock animals. Land is communal and belongs to the tribe and this is overlain by an additional, complex deed of use of natural resources to other tribes (a primitive form of concession) where a set of traditional arrangements applying to seasonal grazing rights and use of natural resources is in place. As people are becoming more sedentary and taking up new activities, developing land, or selling it to outside interests, the issue of land tenure is becoming increasingly difficult. While land is communal, the strongest man in the tribe can sell it without providing benefit to other tribal members and without compensating other tribes for lost traditional natural resource use, thereby causing conflict within and between tribes. Such loss of traditional resource use in turn is placing greater pressure on the land to which displaced tribes have access.

  • Several European horticultural companies have shown their interest in Benefit Sharing Agreements to commercialise succulents and Begonia’s originating from Socotra. However, in the absence of an Access and Benefit Sharing (ABS) framework for Socotra, the GoY lacks the expertise to negotiate such agreements and there is no mechanism to transfer resulting financial resources to Socotra. Such a framework would help local communities see the value of biodiversity, create greater security of tenure and contribute to local government revenues to improve service delivery.

Ineffective Mainstreaming Tools

32 While donor assistance has been provided for the development of conservation planning tools, they are increasingly ineffective. This may be due in part to the weak planning “mainstream” (see above), but is also due to weaknesses with the tools themselves.

33 The first effort to develop a tool for island-wide spatial planning was not successful. Despite being endorsed by Ministerial Decree in 2004, the EU-funded Master Plan has failed as a mainstreaming tool. Of the 8 projects requested by the GoY only the roads component has been implemented - and only partially and to an environmental standard below that envisaged by the EU (e.g. no EIA has been carried out). Although the Master Plan was developed as a participatory project, it was developed outside the local government structure. It is an example of over-investment in a planning tool without ensuring adequate institutional anchorage.

34 Another important mainstreaming tool – the Conservation Zoning Plan - was also developed outside the local government structure. Article 6 of the Presidential Decree implementing the CZP gives power for its application to the Environment Protection Council (now the EPA) and the Ministry of Construction and Housing and Urban Planning (now Ministry of Public Works and Roads). The limits of this arrangements were demonstrated when a contract for the construction of roads was approved without any reference to the CZP – by the Ministry of Public Works and Highways! One road in particular was planned to go straight through a Nature Sanctuary Zone. The EPA was unable to enforce the CZP. Only when SCDP and SCF focused international attention on the issue and the GoY felt its reputation to the conservation of Socotra’s biodiversity was at stake, was the road re-routed by order of the President, but not before 16 km of road approaching the nature sanctuary had been constructed.

Engagement of Local Communities in Decision-Making Process

35 The ability of local communities to engage in sustainable forms of development is significantly hampered by a number of factors. Having been isolated from the outside world for such a long period of time, Socotri society has no experience of organizing and operating effective community management groups, and has limited capacity to be involved in local government. Similarly, civil society has no means of taking part in the planning process and locally-based NGOs, which could help empower the local populace, were lacking until very recently. This situation is exacerbated by the heavily bureaucratic government procedures for forming NGOs in Yemen and requiring them to re-license every three years. Recent work by the SCDP and SCF has begun to change this and a small number of NGOs and CBOs have been formed and are being supported. While the SCDP has a mandate to build local capacity, including NGOs, it has concentrated on working with established organisations and has not systematically prioritised NGOs. The difficulty of building NGO capacity appears to have been under-estimated and only the SCF is currently working to remedy this.

36 A number of specific barriers have been identified:

  • No collective voice: Nominally the Local Councils of Hadibo and Qualansiyah are elected to represent the local communities’ interests within the planning process, but it is clear that the capacity of these is so limited that they cannot provide an effective voice amongst other competing interests. The rudimentary nature of the current NGOs also means that independent special interests cannot be heard effectively.

  • No mechanism for making inputs into development planning: In addition but related to the above, local communities have no formal mechanism through which they can make inputs to the planning process. This is compounded by the fact that the planning process, such as it is for the island, is complicated, fragmented and confused.

  • No experience to judge long-term value and appropriateness of development ideas: The prolonged isolation of Socotra means that local people do not always have all the necessary information when making development choices. They see the short-term economic gains, but have no means to balance these against longer-term costs such as loss of access to natural resources and land.

  • No models to compare alternatives: The main development paradigm often translates into “big is better” and while local people often express dissatisfaction with this, they have no alternative models of development with which they can counter external proposals.

Resource Users’ Perceptions of Local Biodiversity Benefits

37 Although SCDP and SCF have been working with local communities for nearly 10 years, perceptions of the local benefits that can be derived from biodiversity remain tentative at best. The earlier example of the road construction infringing the CZP provides a good example. Even though the CZP was developed in a highly participatory manner, local communities did not immediately support the enforcement of the conservation zones.

Despite the success of the EPA and its supporters in preventing the road from passing through the nature reserve….considerable….damage has been done to the EPA and the project. Residents of Qalansia are convinced that the EPA and the project have denied them the road they have been demanding for the sake of a conservation area. They have not accepted the argument that the Socotra Archipelago Master Plan road alignment is the best one for the development of Qalansia Town and many residents of Qalansia. The lobby for the coastal road has succeeded in making the argument seem to be the classical one of conservation against development. This is a distortion of the facts on the ground, but is already damaging the support of a considerable number of local leaders for the Conservation Zoning Plan. A core issue here is the degree to which local leaders have a sound understanding of the relationship between the WP and the economic development of the island. The construction of the road through the nature reserve, a prime potential tourist attraction on the door step of Qalansia Town, did not seem to be seen as damaging to their interests in any way. This indicates that the significance of eco tourism for the town's economic development was not recognised and/or that the damage the road would have caused to the tourist asset was not understood. Both failures of understanding are of concern and indicate that the project and EPA has much to achieve despite the exemplary information and awareness programme carried out to date 13.

38 The attraction of big investments with immediate returns to a few may continue to outweigh the long-term, dispersed benefits of more sustainable investments. This will particularly be the case when development decision-making is opaque and easily influenced by well-connected investors. The linkages between sustainable utilisation and security of benefit are not immediately evident and need to be addressed.

39 Many projects (including GEF projects) try to address the problem by generating immediate direct local benefits. Often these benefits have little connection to the project’s biodiversity objective and therefore they are not effective, regardless of how successful the activities are. As a result, local communities only cooperate with the project because they hope to benefit directly from the project rather than from the outcomes of the project. This contributes to a culture of dependency and raised expectations that can have a negative effect on biodiversity values once project support ends. Real sustainability will only be achieved when the costs and benefits (including the opportunity costs) are internalised within decision-making systems and local communities have security of tenure over the whole suite of resources so that they can calculate the relative values of these and make appropriate trade-offs (e.g. medicinal plants vs. grazing).

40 Enticing behavioural change through income-generating activities (so called “win-win” opportunities) is also problematic. As has been identified in previous studies, income-generating activities - in particular ecotourism – are generally not able to act as a substitution for livelihood sources/opportunities lost by enforced changes in resource use. In the context of poor local communities, such income is regarded as complementary to the range of available opportunities, not substitutional. In countries with an underdeveloped tourism sector and infrastructure, ecotourism rarely thrives, due to structural constraints beyond the control of a project14.

41 The SCDP’s community mobilization and development component does not sufficiently assess the link between its community assistance and biodiversity outcomes, or how such assistance can be used to foster increased support for biodiversity mainstreaming15. This strategy struggles to achieve sustainability as it becomes increasingly difficult to “buy-off” local communities as they move along their development trajectories. Once the SCDP ends, the EPA is unlikely to be in a position to continue to provide support to the water, health and development sectors, and ultimately depends on its coordination – facilitation role to remain authorative.

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