BirdLife South Africa has developed a number of position statements, which summarise our organisation’s stance on various issues of importance to bird conservation. These statements guide our responses, helping to ensure a consistent approach. Position Statements can be found here.

Section 24 of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996, gives everyone in this country the right to an environment that is not harmful to their health or wellbeing and to have the environment protected through reasonable legislative and other measures. Such measures must be aimed at, amongst other things, preventing ecological degradation, promoting conservation, and securing ecologically sustainable development and use of natural resources.

Various legislative measures have been introduced to advance the environmental right. The Centre for Environmental Rights (CER) maintains a comprehensive virtual library to assist the public in accessing these. This virtual library also includes several pre-Constitutional laws that remain in force today, such as the nature conservation ordinances for some provinces.

Laws of particular relevance for those wanting to participate in the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) process include:

  • The EIA Regulations.
  • Various protocols that prescribe minimum information requirements for specialist studies. These were published in March 2020 and October 2020 (see in particular the terrestrial and aquatic biodiversity protocols, the avifaunal protocol for onshore wind and photovoltaic developments, and the animal species protocol, as amended).
  • The National Appeal Regulations.

Laws with an explicit focus on species and habitat conservation include:

  • The National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act (NEMBA) and the regulations introduced thereunder (in particular, the Threatened and Protected Species (TOPS) Lists and Regulations).
  • The National Environmental Management: Protected Areas Act (NEMPAA) and the regulations introduced thereunder.
  • The nature conservation acts and ordinances for specific provinces.

The requirements of, and authorisations issued under, a variety of other statutes are relevant to the conservation of birds and their habitats – including, but not limited to, the National Water Act, National Forests Act, Spatial Planning and Land Use Management Act, Marine Living Resources Act, Conservation of Agricultural Resources Act, and Marine Pollution (Control and Civil Liability) Act.

BirdLife South Africa’s Policy and Advocacy Programme closely monitors, and engages government regarding, developments to this legislative regime, and regularly makes use of the opportunities it provides for interested and affected parties to influence decision-making.

We at BirdLife South Africa encourage other stakeholders to express their concerns during public participation processes for proposed developments in ecologically sensitive areas. Our Policy and Advocacy team occasionally delivers presentations with advice on how to engage in such processes. In addition, we have developed the following Public Participation Toolkit:

A Guide to Effective Engagement in Environmental Impact Assessment Processes

Effective Engagement in Environmental Impact Assessments – Checklist

Effective Engagement in Environmental Impact Assessment – FAQs

Another extremely useful resource is the bilingual Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Guide in English and isiZulu, which was developed by IAIAsa, together with All Rise Attorneys for Climate and Environmental Justice.

South Africa is a Contracting Party or Signatory to a wide variety of international environmental instruments. These include legally binding Conventions and Agreements, as well as ‘soft law’ instruments, such as Memoranda of Understanding and Action Plans. The most relevant of these for the conservation of birds and their habitats are the following:

Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD)
Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS)
Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds (AEWA)
Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels (ACAP)
Memorandum of Understanding on the Conservation of Migratory Birds of Prey in Africa and Eurasia (Raptors MoU)
Action Plan for Migratory Landbirds in the African-Eurasian Region (AEMLAP)
Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES)
Convention on Wetlands of International Importance (Ramsar Convention)
Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage (World Heritage Convention)

In collaboration with other members of the BirdLife Partnership, BirdLife South Africa’s Policy and Advocacy Programme monitors and endeavours to influence decisions and guidance adopted under several of these instruments. In terms of a Memorandum of Understanding with South Africa’s Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment, we additionally support government in implementing its international bird conservation commitments.