International Conference on Valuation and Accounting of Natural Capital for Green Economy (VANTAGE) in Africa

3 - 4 December 2013

United Nations Environment Programme headquarters, Nairobi

IISD Coverage on the Conference:






An economic perspective on ecosystem management is essential for decision makers who invariably have to struggle with resource constraints and conflicting choices while designing and implementing development policies. Trade-offs between ecosystem services and sometimes between the constituents of human well-being can potentially better be resolved by adopting an economic approach. For example, accounting of the change in natural capital and valuing those changes for effective mainstreaming of nature into development decisions have both been widely embraced by policymakers.

The outcome document of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20), held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 2012, entitled, "The future we want", highlights the importance of the green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication. The need for broader measures of progress to complement conventional indices, such as gross domestic product (GDP), was also emphasized at Rio+20 and is a significant issue in the ongoing discussions on the post-2015 development agenda.

African countries have increasingly recognized the critical importance of valuation and accounting of natural capital. At the Summit for Sustainability in Africa, held in Gaborone in May 2012 prior to Rio+20, the leaders of ten African countries and representatives of various public and private sector organizations in Africa adopted the Gaborone Declaration, which outlines a set of specific principles and development goals, according full consideration to the value of natural capital in development planning processes. By adopting the Gaborone Declaration, the leaders of the ten African countries and other participants at the Summit recognized that the historical pattern of exploitation of natural resources has led to an unsustainable growth path, and that there is a critical need for the value of natural capital, or the wealth of benefits and services provided by biodiversity and ecosystems, to be fully accounted for and integrated into national development planning processes

It is in this context, and particularly to address the above-mentioned needs highlighted at Rio+20 and in other international forums, that the Ecosystem Services Economics Unit of the Division of Environmental Policy Implementation of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has begun work under the Valuation and Accounting of Natural Capital for Green Economy (VANTAGE) programme, with particular focus on the following three aspects:


1. Economic Valuation

Valuation of ecosystem services and biodiversity provides an effective tool to assist decision makers and policymakers in designing cost-effective response policies that integrate ecosystem services into everyday decision-making processes. Valuation helps by: (a) capturing some of the “out of market” services; (b) resolving trade-offs and clarifying alternative courses of action; (c) clarifying conflicting goals in terms of the political, social and economic feasibility of policies; (d) enabling extended cost-benefit analysis; (e) enabling the integration of natural capital accounting into development planning processes; and (f) strengthening environmental impact assessment and making the appraisal criteria for such assessment more acceptable, transparent and credible.

2. Accounting

Accounting of natural capital and ecosystem services helps in assessing the impact of economic growth on environment and internalizing the impact into a decision-making framework. Accounting also provides indicators for the economy and society, which in turn helps in achieving the elements of a green economy.

3. Policy Linkages

Valuation and accounting together provide useful information for guidance in developing policies on how to use natural capital efficiently and a credible rationale for a conservation and development mix. Valuation helps in integrating ecosystem services into economic production and consumption choices, while comprehensive accounting for ecosystems suggests a direction towards sustainability. Accounting of natural capital also helps in addressing sectoral issues such as poverty alleviation.


Under the VANTAGE programme, a series of country-based pilot studies on ecosystem services assessment have been carried out by applying valuation and accounting methodologies to test scientific findings, including in Chile, South Africa, Trinidad and Tobago, and Viet Nam through the GEF-funded project for ecosystem services (ProEcoServ), in Senegal through the MDG-Fund project for the improvement and valorization of forest ecosystems (PASEF), and in Senegal and other selected countries as part of the United Nations Collaborative Programme on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Developing Countries (UN-REDD). Furthermore, UNEP, through the Ecosystem Services Economics Unit, has been implementing and contributing to a series of key initiatives in the field of economic valuation of ecosystem services and natural capital accounting, such as the Inclusive Wealth Report (IWR) initiative, the Economics of Land Degradation (ELD) initiative for the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification in those Countries Experiencing Serious Drought and/or Desertification, Particularly in Africa, Wealth Accounting and Valuation of Ecosystem Services (WAVES) with the World Bank, and the the System of Environmental-Economic Accounting (SEEA) Experimental Ecosystem Accounting with the United Nations Statistics Division.



The overall objective of the international conference on VANTAGE is to showcase successful efforts by countries and various organizations in valuation and accounting of natural capital that have contributed to promoting a transformation to a green economy, and to promote awareness and buy in for future such efforts. The first day of the conference will be focused on capacity development in VANTAGE, targeted to high-level government officials dealing not only with environmental issues but also with finance and development planning, by providing opportunities for awareness raising, generating political buy-in, networking and policy-oriented discussions in the field of valuation and accounting of natural capital. The first day’s presentations and discussions will be followed by high level political dialogues on VANTAGE among representatives of key African Governments and collaborating agencies on the second day, which will lead to the development and adoption of recommendations, providing a road map and political support for promoting VANTAGE in Africa.

The specific objectives of the conference include:

  1. To demonstrate the rationale and evidence base of valuation and accounting of natural capital in the context of a green economy, highlighting the merits of valuation and accounting towards achieving a green economy;
  2. To build consensus among policymakers on the need for valuation and accounting of natural capital, especially in the African region;
  3. To discuss and develop an overall plan to implement valuation and accounting of natural capital in selected countries;
  4. To promote the sharing of information and lessons learned from various ongoing initiatives in the field of valuation and accounting of natural capital;
  5. To contribute to capacity development among high-level government officials in the field of valuation and accounting of natural capital towards achieving a green economy.



Participants in the conference will comprise senior Government officials and key decision makers from developing countries in Africa and other parts of the world, as well as prominent experts in the field of valuation and accounting of natural capital who have been involved in key initiatives such as ProEcoServ, IWR, WAVES, TEEB, the joint United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and UNEP Poverty-Environment Initiative (PEI), and SEEA Experimental Ecosystem Accounting.



The conference is being convened by UNEP in partnership with the World Bank, the United Nations Statistics Division, the African Union Commission and the Government of Kenya.


Structure of the conference

The first day of the conference will take the form of a capacity-building workshop, focusing on developing capacities and generating awareness among African countries on economic valuation and accounting of natural capital. It will be attended by senior-level officials and technical experts from African Governments who deal not only with environmental issues but also activities related to finance and development planning. The capacity building workshop is intended to generate political buy-in and to promote networking and policy-oriented dialogues in the field of valuation and accounting of natural capital.

The second day will comprise high-level policy dialogues, including in the form of ministerial dialogues, with the aim of reaching agreement on a number of recommendations, providing a clear road map for future activities under the VANTAGE programme. The road map will guide follow-up activities to be implemented in the African region on the basis of capacity needs identified during the meeting, and support to be provided by relevant collaborating agencies in the coming years.






Concept note and provisional programme of work for the International Conference on Valuation and Accounting of Natural Capital for Green Economy (VANTAGE) in Africa (UNEP/DEPI/CONF/VANTG/1)

PDF:     English     French
Word:    English     French

2. Conference brochure (English only)

Final conference report with outcome document as an annex: International Conference on Valuation and Accounting of Natural Capital for Green Economy (VANTAGE) in Africa held in Nairobi on 3 and 4 December 2013 (UNEP/DEPI/CONF/VANTG/3)

PDF:     English     French
Word:    English     French


Conference Presentations


List of Participants (UNEP/DEPI/CONF/VANTG/4)


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