The Preparatory Action BEST  , a voluntary scheme for biodiversity and Ecosystem Services in Territories of the EU Outermost Regions and Overseas Countries and Territories, was first adopted in 2010 and reconducted twice in 2011 and 2012. It provided seed money of a total of 6 million € for the initiative, and is a result of the strong engagement and support of the European parliament, and in particular the members of the working group “Islands & Overseas Entities”, which is co-chaired by MEP Maurice Ponga from New Caledonia.
In January 2014, before the launch of the last phase, the European Parliament (EP) Intergroup on Climate Change, Biodiversity and sustainable development organized a seminar in order to assess the developments of the EU’s Best Initiative. The event gave the opportunity to receive information from DG ENV on the projects selected under the two open calls for proposals BEST-2011 and BEST-2012, to learn more about the objectives of the three ongoing BEST projects and more specifically to take note of the different European Commission DGs position on the BEST initiative.
During the first two phases (2011 & 2012), the initiative funded a total of 18 projects covering all the regions where the EU Overseas Entities are located.
Mr. Theodore Saramandis, Head of the Task Force, Overseas Countries and Territories (EuropeAid Development and Co-operation) reminded that the aim of a Preparatory Action was to build legislative and financial action and the Task Force therefore looks forward to the results of the three years of EU overseas funding for the BEST project. These expected results will determine DEVCO’s contributions to the next phase (BEST Facility). He also indicated that the EU 2014-2020 funding will be based on the OAD articles which strongly relate to environment, biodiversity and climate change and target “sustainable development”. He insisted on the fact that BEST III project should concretely benefit the ORs and OCTs by implementing specific actions on the ground. Indeed, an ongoing project funded under phase II is supposed to develop a strategy to ensure stakeholders’ mobilization and financial sustainability of the BEST Facility.
Mr. Arnold Jacques de Dixmude, DCI programme officer, mentioned that the GPGC (Global Public Goods and Challenges)  partially covered by the former ENRTP programme, which is part of the Development Cooperation Instrument (DCI), will allocate eight € millions of its biodiversity component to OCTs for field actions over four years (two m €/y). This will ensure immediate supports by 2015 until the BEST Facility will be in place, if it occurs. .
Marie-Aline Deltenre from DG Regio reminded that the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF)’s objectives are strongly linked to green growth and jobs creation including the related biodiversity and ecosystem services. She indicated that Outermost Regions encourage a direct management of the BEST Facility by the COM and concerned territories governments, rather that the introduction of extra governance levels.
Birgit de Boissezon from DG Research and Innovation recalled that FP7 programme had a dedicated budget for networking projects related to biodiversity in OCTs and ORs and promoting regional dialogue on socio-economic and environmental challenges, for instance, Netbiome, Eranet and Pacenet. She explained that, for the next programming2014-2020, the new H2020 programme would also be accessible to the EU overseas entities. She added that in the third priority of H2020, budget lines are allocated to research opportunities related to biodiversity and ecosystem services.
Humberto Delgado Rosa, from DG CLIMA, in his message forwarded to the BEST Preparatory Action seminar organisers, presented the “EU Climate Change strategy beyond 2030” including adaptation and mitigation measures to Climate Change. He highlighted the importance of the innovative strategies as well as cross-effective and cost effective ecosystem based approaches. He also insisted on the Life instrument potential to fund regional and cross-border actions related to these themes and provided references on the green infrastructure guidelines. He stressed that ORs are already recognized by the EU adaptation strategy but not yet covered by the EU’s climate adaptation platform Climate-ADAPT. Due to their particular vulnerability to climate change, ORs and OCTs should raise awareness to be included in such strategy.
Karin Zaunberger from DG ENV reiterated their support to the BEST initiative and ensured the involvement of the EC and MS in the process.
On 31January 2014, the last BEST Preparatory Action project was launched at the European Commission. The consortium of organisations involved in the implementation of the project includes IUCN - which will be acting as the project coordinator - Conservation International (CI), the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF), the French IUCN Committee, the WWF France, The UNEP SPAW Regional Activity Center (SPAW RAC), the Fundo Regional para a Ciência (FRC), the South Atlantic Environment Research Institute (SAERI), the French Antarctic and Sub Antarctic Territories, De Visu and One Agency-Ausy Belgium.
This four year project aims to develop a platform that shall profile BEST projects and facilitate information sharing on funding availability from different sources; potential funders may include the European Commission, Member States and other possible partners, such as international financial institutions, NGOs and the private sector. The project will also develop support mechanisms including regional ecosystem profiles and BEST strategies including investment plans.
These profiles, together with the results and recommendations of the environmental profiles study funded under the EC’s Technical Cooperation Fund (TCF III) will shape financial and technical assistance provided by the EU institutions for the programming period 2014-2020. Indeed, this EU technical and financial assistance will target the main priority issues identified by the EU overseas governments in the framework of these environmental profiles. These issues will also be addressed during the Guadeloupe conference planned for October 2014, which will deliver a Roadmap including financial mechanisms and specific measures to counter Climate Change and Biodiversity loss through sustainable socio-economic development concepts.