SANBI's position


Free and easy access to biodiversity Information

Biological diversity is crucial to South Africa’s economic growth and development, as well as the ongoing provision and protection of ecosystem goods and services, which directly affect our quality of life.  Human well-being, poverty reduction and sustainable development are all dependent upon the sustainable conservation and management of biodiversity.  In this regard, it is essential that we know the geographic spread and configuration of our biodiversity and equally importantly what the status is, and for this we require access to biodiversity information.

The Republic of South Africa is a democratic state founded upon the values of human dignity, equality, the advancement of human rights, the rule of law and accountable, responsive and transparent governance.  These values are enshrined in the Bill of Rights in the Constitution.  In order to give effect to these values, the Constitution provides for the right of access to information held by the state and any information held by another person that is required for the protection of any rights. In addition, South Africa is also a signatory to international agreements to promote easy and free access to biodiversity information.

The South African National Biodiversity Institute is mandated in terms of the Biodiversity Act to manage a wide variety of information about South Africa’s biodiversity.  This includes collecting, generating, processing, coordinating and disseminating information about biodiversity and the sustainable use of South Africa’s biological resources.  SANBI is also required to establish and maintain databases of such information.

The mission of SANBI is to promote the sustainable use, conservation, appreciation and enjoyment of the exceptionally rich biodiversity of South Africa, for the benefit of all people.  The specific functions of SANBI are set out in section 11 of the Biodiversity Act.

By enabling the sharing of biodiversity information, SANBI aims to support national, provincial and local government policy and land-use planning decision-making processes and thus contribute to the broader developmental objectives, particularly sustainable development throughout South Africa.  In doing so, SANBI aims to ensure that decision-makers, including the scientific community, government’s natural resources managers and policy makers, are properly informed and that policy decisions and research are based on the most accurate data.

SANBI therefore has the responsibility of providing easy and free access to biodiversity information whilst conserving and managing our biodiversity as a natural heritage. A Biodiversity Information Policy Framework (see below) has been drafted that inter alia:

  • Provides free and easy access to biodiversity data.
  • Ensures that access to sensitive taxa is provided in a responsible and accountable manner.
  • Protects intellectual property rights of SANBI, partner organisations, participating organisations and individuals.

By enabling the sharing of biodiversity information, SANBI aims to support national, provincial and local government policy and land-use planning decision-making processes and thus contribute to the broader developmental objectives, particularly sustainable development throughout South Africa.  In doing so, SANBI aims to ensure that decision-makers, including the scientific community, government’s natural resources managers and policy makers, are properly informed and that policy decisions and research are based on the most accurate data.