Japan Biodiversity Fund

Voluntary Peer Review

The overall objective of the Convention’s Voluntary Peer Review (VPR) process is to support Parties to improve their individual and collective capacities to implement the Convention more effectively through the preparation and implementation of National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plans (NBSAPs).

In 2015, further to the Conference of the Parties (COP) decision XII/29, the JBF organized an Informal Working Group comprised of 17 experts nominated by Parties from different regions to develop a methodology, in a participatory fashion, for the VPR process under the Convention. The resulting methodology was tested by Parties in Ethiopia and India in 2015 and 2016, respectively, before being piloted in Montenegro, Sri Lanka, and Uganda in 2017, 2018 and 2019. The pilot phase was led and implemented by the JBF, with the intention to transfer the now mature methodology to the Monitoring Unit of the Secretariat. To keep Parties and other stakeholders informed and to share results as well as to encourage Parties to volunteer to be reviewed, the JBF organized and implemented side-events on the VPR during COP12, COP13, and COP14. 

In 2018, decision 14/29 of the Conference of the Parties welcomed progress made in the development of a VPR mechanism and the positive results from the pilot phase and decided to include the VPR as an element of the multidimensional review approach under the Convention. The VPR process is transparent and inclusive, fostering mutual respect and understanding among peers, thereby creating an environment of trust, conducive to learning and to assessing implementation for the benefit of the country under review. 

In addition to providing a methodology for the national review of implementation, the VPR also assesses capacity-building needs, and therefore can contribute to the long-term strategic framework for capacity-building beyond 2020, with the potential to effectively improve collective and individual capacities for implementation at all levels of governance and within all sectors and stakeholder groups. A particularly strong emphasis is placed on raising awareness among authorities in the finance and planning ministries of the role that biodiversity conservation can play in achieving sustainable development.

The pilot phase of the VPR methodology was successfully implemented in Montenegro, Sri Lanka, and Uganda. The overall outcomes for the participating countries and reviewers are as follows:

The VPR in Montenegro was successful in observing and making recommendations on a large number of technical, institutional, biodiversity-related issues and processes at national and lower levels, including on links to related international processes. It also offered significant mutual learning opportunities for the reviewing team. Reviewers learned not only from the assessment of Montenegrin policy, but also from contrasting Montenegrin experiences with their domestic ones. The experiences are also particularly useful for the reviewers from the countries that may host a next VPR. Montenegro appreciated being a part of the VPR process. It has helped the country to better understand the status of implementation of its national biodiversity strategies. The VPR process also assisted in enhancing transparency in activities related to the development of the NBSAP and similar programs.

The VPR in Sri Lanka was structured around the NBSAP’s five national strategic objectives: 

  1. Ensuring long-term conservation for biodiversity;
  2. Promoting the sustainable use of biodiversity;
  3. Conservation of agri-biodiversity;
  4. Promotion of the equitable sharing of benefits from biodiversity; and
  5. Improving human well-being through the restoration and enhancement of key ecosystems.

The following four cross-cutting issues were also addressed: 

  1. Sharing of data;
  2. Awareness, communication, and outreach;
  3. Budget; and
  4. A mainstreaming strategy for implementing partner agencies.

The VPR process in Sri Lanka provided a valuable opportunity to enhance skills in relation to identifying gaps and prioritizing NBSAP targets according to existing financial and human resources. The experience gained through VPR additionally served to improve the process of peer review and will assist in carrying out future VPRs in other countries.

Uganda found that the VPR process was beneficial in terms of institutional capacity enhancement (awareness-raising, experience-sharing and lessons learned, especially among local governments), knowledge transfer and application of VPR knowledge, the country’s commitment through the Ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development, realization of the importance of evidence-based budgeting for and financing of biodiversity conservation, and the importance of inclusiveness and a multi-stakeholder (sectoral, institutional and disciplinary) approach in the NBSAP process and implementation.

For more details, please visit the VPR homepage.