Biodiversity science and Africa

Making the most of sustainability science – for Africa, coral reefs, conservation and people. This page brings together David Obura’s work as a Director of CORDIO, into global science-policy processes from 2019 to 2022, representing a transition in our work from coral reefs to the broader goals of sustainability science.

This work has been framed by the critical decade of action from 2020 to 2030 for global sustainability, compounded by the delayed negotiations around the post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework due to the global Covid-19 pandemic. Our objective is to try and bring the best of science to bear on the needs and priorities of Africa, and vice versa.

In the Anthropocene, it is no longer just about conservation and nature, but a fair and liveable planet for all. Coral reefs are valuable in their own right, but they also vividly show what we must avoid, and the often-hidden benefits of nature to people.

We hope this work helps to deliver on a safe and just planet for all, one that is both nature positive and people positive.



May 2020 – for CBD-SBSTTA in mid 2020, through Future Earth and the Earth Commission, produced an information document  CBD/SBSTTA/24/INF/9 and paper in Science magazine identifying the need for ambitious, synergistic goals for the GBF.

March 2022 – for CBD-SBSTTA and the GBF negotiations in Geneva, through bioDiscovery/Future Earth and GEOBON, produced an information document CBD/WG2020/3/INF/11 (also CBD/SBSTTA/24/INF/31) and a paper in OneEarth journal reiterating the need for an integrated approach to all targets and goals of the framework to address drivers of biodiversity decline, and the need for transformative change to do this.

June 2022 – for the final GBF negotiations in Nairobi, an information document CBD/WG2020/4/INF/2/Rev.2 comprised of six science briefs (also available at GEOBON as separate documents), focusing in on 4 targets, the monitoring framework and the need for a coherent ecosystem approach to Goal A and the area-based targets (Targets 1, 2, 3 and 10).  

Participated in a publication in Nature Ecology and Evolution on the foundations for an ecosystem goal and indicators supporting the monitoring framework of the GBF.



May 2021 – participated in the first joint report of the IPCC and IPBES on the nexus between climate and biodiversity, the key findings being that the two domains are so closely inter-related its not possible to address one without the other, so the GBF and the Paris Agreement must be closely aligned and integrated for implementation.

October 2021 – for COP26 in Glasgow, participated in an African-Union process developing four policy briefs on climate change for Africa, culminating in helping forge an African position on the ocean-climate dialogues into the future.




In the early months of 2020,CORDIO joined the Africa CSO Biodiversity Alliance (ACBA) to bring African voices into the GBF discussions to lobby for African priorities, resulting in a number of case studies, policy briefs and webinars, and engagement with the China CSOs.

Assisted ACBA develop a position document on key aspects of the GBF, including priority targets and goals. This to be used to help African non-state actors express common positions, and support the countries as a regional bloc in the CBD negotiations.

The GBF negotiations showed a clear need for more diversified science literature to support the development of GBF text and country positions, with two key items:

  • following the Nairobi GBF meeting in August 2019 the need for a more rigorous application of the Sustainable Development Goals in the theory of change of the GBF and the relationship between natural assets (nature goals of the SDGs), the benefits we extract and depend on (economic goals) and the social benefits that accrue (social goals), and the roles of knowledge and governance in managing these. See also this page on CORDIO’s website.
  • in the face of growing lobbies for narrowed attention to conservation targets without equal regard for people, predominantly disadvantaging the global south, the need for a more human approach to conservation and a ‘shared spaces’ approach to assure success in the GBF, for both nature and people. See also this page on CORDIO’s website.

    Coral reefs

    Coral reefs have been a flagship ecosystem within the CBD for two decades, their prominence bolstered by the commitment and focus of many CBD Parties and observers through the International Coral Reef Initiative. ICRI’s ‘ad hoc committee‘ on the post-2020 process shepherded a range of outputs, which CORDIO participated in, including: 

  • a number of statements and submissions at multiple steps in the OEWG process.
  • the identification of a set of recommended Indicators for the GBF monitoring framework, based on data aggregation by the GCRMN, other indicators such as on sedimentation/eutrophication and decision-support indicators such as the Red List of Ecosystems.
  • Through the International Coral Reef Society, contributed to development of a Policy paper ‘Rebuilding Coral Reefs: A Decadal Grand Challenge‘ on the coming decadal challenge for coral reefs, including its dissemination through the online International Coral Reef Symposium in 2021 and at a policy event at the in-person ICRS in 2022 to be held in Bremen, Germany.

    Earth systems and ‘nexus’ science

    Integrating all these together, in 2019 CORDIO joined the Earth Commission, which for 3 years has been working on identifying safe and just boundaries for key elements of the the earth system, including biodiversity. The framing of the Earth Commission’s perspective on a ‘safe and just corridor’ for our planet into the future is expressed in two publications led by two of its cochairs – Johan Rockström (2021) and Joyeeta Gupta (2021). Additional manuscripts are currently under review on multiple aspects of this work.

    In 2022 CORDIO also took on co-chairing of the IPBES assessment on the inter-linkages between biodiversity, climate, food, water and health (in short, the ‘Nexus Assessment‘). This assessment will identify future options in each of these sectors but linked across them all, to support a parallel assessment on the potential for Transformative Change, that will be needed to deliver on a safe and just future for humanity.


    This work represents the contributions of CORDIO’s Founding Director, David Obura, under its core commitment to science-policy processes and with support from Norad and other minor donors.