MP Richard Benyon on COP11 to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity
When a big UN conference ends, the real work is only just beginning. Last month representatives of nearly 200 nations met in Hyderabad, India, for the 11th Conference of Parties (COP11) to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity. Now they are back at home working to implement the decisions they reached. In this Q & A Richard Benyon MP, the Parliamentary under-Secretary for Natural Environment, Water and Rural Affairs, highlights some key outcomes and explains when the government plans to ratify the Nagoya Protocol.
Q: Is there policy coherence between the Department for International Development’s (DFID) push for development and Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs’ (DEFRA) push for biodiversity? How is the government integrating biodiversity into DFID’s development planning?
A: Absolutely there’s coherence. People in developing countries are heavily dependent on biodiversity because so many, particularly the poorest and most vulnerable, rely directly on agriculture, forests and fisheries for their livelihoods. Biodiversity matters for long-term development and is an important consideration in UK aid. Defra and DFID worked hard in Hyderabad not only on resources (the world agreed to double the total, from both public and private sources, of biodiversity-related international resource flows to developing countries by 2015), but also to ensure that all countries committed to prioritising biodiversity in their national development plans and programmes.
Q: The IIED is working with the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre on a Darwin Initiative funded project to support African countries to address poverty issues as part of the process of revising their National Biodiversity Strategies and Action Plans. How can DEFRA help us promote uptake of this work amongst their environment ministry counterparts in developing countries?
A: National Plans are critical as they set out the framework for what individual countries need to do to meet their biodiversity targets. Defra will be closely monitoring the outcomes from the IIED/UN project in Africa. We are keen to ensure best practice is shared internationally. The UK openly shares our own experience in developing a National Plan, and we will help to ensure that the IIED’s African project outcomes can be widely disseminated.
Q: The Darwin Initiative is supporting an IIED project in Uganda to improve the effectiveness of integrated conservation and development interventions. One of the objectives of the project is to use research findings to influence government policy on such interventions. As a minister what advice can you give on how to influence policy? What kind of information and in what format would you be looking for if you were the Minister of Environment in Uganda, rather than the UK?
A: All Governments face the challenge of integrating the historically separate management of conservation and development policies. As a Minister I always want to see clear evidence which demonstrates the benefits of a change in direction of any policy. I also want to know about others’ experience. That’s why the work Defra does, supporting through Darwin Initiative projects like the IIED in Uganda, which provides hard data, while also openly sharing our experience is so important. I wouldn’t presume to advise another Government how to achieve integration, but we do try to help provide them with the information they need to make their own decisions in the context and needs of their own country. I met the Ugandan minister in Hyderabad and was impressed with his approach.
Q: DEFRA has just provided some support for an IIED publication to assist implementation of the Nagoya Protocol. 50 countries of the 193 Parties to the CBD need to ratify the Nagoya Protocol in order for it to acquire legal status. Although 92 countries have signed it, only six countries have completed all formalities required to ratify the protocol. When will the UK complete these formalities? Will the UK introduce legally binding measures to ensure compliance with domestic legislation on genetic resources and traditional knowledge in provider countries?
A: The UK is committed to the Nagoya Protocol’s implementation and ratification as soon as possible, and before the next Convention meeting (COP12). The European Commission recently published a draft proposal for an EU regulation which aims to allow EU member states to fully implement the Nagoya Protocol, including relevant elements to ensure compliance with domestic legislation. The UK can only ratify the Protocol once the necessary measures are in place, so that both providers and users of genetic resources have the legal certainty they require.