Koraalriffen in Nederland
The accession of Bonaire, St Eustatius and Saba (the BES islands) to the Netherlands has considerably increased the government’s political responsibility for nature conservation. The islands may not have added greatly to the nature area of the Netherlands, but they represent a major addition in terms of ecological quality. The major features of the Dutch landscape now include not only dunes, heaths and field margins, but also Caribbean coral reefs and cloud forests.
Administratively speaking, much of the responsibility for nature policy lies with the islands’ local authorities (‘island governments’). However, ultimate responsibility for the outcome of the policies pursued lies with the Minister of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality (LNV). Responsibility for the process of developing new political relationships within the Kingdom lies with the State Secretary for the Interior and Kingdom Relations. In this report, which the Council has prepared on its own initiative, the Council proposes various ways in which the Nature Minister and the State Secretary for Kingdom Relations can fulfil their extended political responsibilities.
Recommendations for the short term
In the short term, civil service support, financial resources and knowledge are needed in order to support local nature policy through consultation, funding, information dissemination and regulation. Naturally, national government activities should be planned in consultation with the local government. Intensive political contact with the local government will therefore be required in 2009 in order to put the relationships on a sound and sustainable footing.
The Council believes that a minimum of five full-time posts are required on the islands collectively, plus increased budgetary funding. If the local government and the civil service wish to realise any more ambitious goals, greater capacity will be required. The nature conservation ambitions for the BES islands should be defined through consultation between the minister and the local government.
Recommendations for the longer term
For the longer term, the Council recommends cooperation amongst the four entities of the Kingdom (Nederland, Curaçao, St. Maarten en Aruba), in the form of, for example, an agreement on nature conservation and biodiversity. Such cooperation would serve as a vehicle for the consolidation of what has already been achieved by nature policy in the Caribbean.
The Council also recommends the establishment of a temporary BES Nature Taskforce with a view to aligning nature policy for the BES islands, other Dutch nature policy and European nature policy. The scope of the existing mechanisms for implementing and funding nature policy, such as the Rural Areas Investment Budget (Dutch initials: ILG), the Programme for the Conservation and Development of Nature Quality (OBN) and the Management Programme, should be broadened to include the BES islands. In view of the need for due care, this will require a somewhat longer-term integration strategy.
The Council proposes that, in 2009, the nature policy system for the BES islands should be compared with that for the European part of the Netherlands, with a view to determining the scope for integrating BES nature policy with the existing Dutch and European arrangements. In consultation with the island governments, the independent Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency could accordingly be asked to perform a special Nature Balance analysis. The proposed Taskforce could prepare the way for the necessary adaptations. Definition of the ecological baseline situation by means of a special Nature Balance analysis would also be useful in the context of the proposed evaluation of the BES Public Entities Act five years after accession.