On 29th and 30th April 2024, the COMBO+ team in Uganda had a comprehensive engagement with the National Technical Committee on Biodiversity. The National Technical Committee on Biodiversity (also known as National Biodiversity Committee/ NBC) is one of the multisectoral statutory committees housed by the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) that provides technical backstopping services to the authority whenever required. The committee has 7 permanent members, representing a wide range of stakeholders and with an option to co-opt others depending on the subject matter. The current committee is chaired by Professor Joseph Obua.

The objectives of this engagement were to discuss with the statutory committee the activities being implemented by the COMBO+ project team, to continue building a critical mass for champions of the holistic implementation of the mitigation hierarchy, including biodiversity offsets where residual impacts exist, and to obtain feedback on some of the project activities and outputs. To this end, the COMBO+ project team presented on the role of biodiversity trust funds (using case studies such as BIOFUND in Mozambique, the Biodiversity Foundation and Tany Meva Foundation in Madagascar and the Uganda Biodiversity Trust Fund); the need for multi-sectoral collaboration; developing metrics for implementing the mitigation hierarchy and especially biodiversity offsets; biodiversity information products; and then case studies on implementing the mitigation hierarchy in Uganda.

As feedback from the engagement, the committee greatly appreciated the work being done by WCS, the COMBO+ team, partners and financiers particularly the Agence Française de Developpement (AFD) and the Fonds Français pour l’Environnement Mondial (FFEM). The committee pledged to continue championing for the holistic implementation of the mitigation hierarchy including offsets in Uganda not only for projects but at a strategic level in policies, plans and programmes. The members indicated that they are open to continue the discussion on the subject beyond this engagement including any further support the COMBO+ team may require from them as a committee or individually. The members called on the COMBO+ team to proactively engage other arms of government (i.e. the legislature and judiciary) in addition to the executive (cabinet, ministries, departments and agencies), as this is critical for building all round political support. The COMBO+ team was encouraged to consider engaging with the private sector and financiers particularly indicating to them the economic opportunities presented by upfront consideration of biodiversity and social impacts posed by proposed developments. The committee also promised to include the requests made by the COMBO+ team to the technical officers within NEMA though their Executive Director. Finally, the members promised to further explore the nexus between biodiversity conservation and economic development in Uganda and perhaps write a book or book chapter in collaboration with the COMBO+ team.