The symposium organized by Conservation International, titled "Defying Nature's End: The African Context," produced a five-page "Madagascar Declaration" that challenges traditional aid and development models for the world's poorest and most disease-ridden continent.
Among its conclusions, the declaration states that African states and international development agencies such as the United Nations and World Bank should recognize that conserving Africa's rich biodiversity is fundamental to achieving sustainable development and reducing poverty.
Noting that biodiversity provides clean air and water, food, natural resources, soil regeneration, pollination and other so-called ecosystem services, the declaration calls such natural benefits essential to any chance for African nations to achieve the Millennium Development Goals set by the United Nations in 2000 to achieve significant progress in reducing poverty worldwide by 2015.
"We believe these goals will not be achieved without a radical change in how the environment and biodiversity are addressed in national development plans and in foreign assistance strategies and investments," the declaration states.
It received immediate endorsement from dignitaries attending the symposium's final ceremony, including Prime Minister Jacques Sylla of Madagascar and Jeffrey Sachs, head of the U.N. Millennium Project. ''I think you've gotten it just right, and I'm very proud to associate the Millennium Project with the Madagascar Declaration," Sachs said. "There will be no escape from hunger, poverty and disease if ecosystem degradation continues at the current rate."