Backroom work on biodiversity

In October 2010 biodiversity policymakers, researchers and advocates gathered in Nagoya, Japan for the 10th Conference of Parties to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). The CBD conferences are always beehives of intense activity but this year tensions were running particularly high.

The enormous pressure to strike a deal was driven in part by the world’s failure to meet the CBD target to significantly reduce the rate of biodiversity loss by 2010 and growing concerns that we are nearing ′tipping points′ in which whole ecosystems could collapse. But negotiations were also fraught by the contentious issue of access to genetic resources and benefit sharing. Developing countries insisted that a protocol on these issues be finalised before assenting to the two other main agenda items: a deal on financing and a strategic plan for the convention. It wasn’t until the very last minute that agreement on all three issues was reached.

Biodiversity images

The enormous pressure to strike a deal was driven in part by the world’s failure to meet the CBD target to significantly reduce the rate of biodiversity loss by 2010 and growing concerns that we are nearing ′tipping points′ in which whole ecosystems could collapse. But negotiations were also fraught by the contentious issue of access to genetic resources and benefit sharing. Developing countries insisted that a protocol on these issues be finalised before assenting to the two other main agenda items: a deal on financing and a strategic plan for the convention. It wasn’t until the very last minute that agreement on all three issues was reached.

Scope and compliance are key to achieving a successful protocol... You do not want a toothless protocol where issues are excluded. Peter Munyi, International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology, Kenya

Throughout the highs and lows, and in the run-up to Nagoya, IIED, FIELD and partners were there — following negotiating sessions, organising side events, and promoting findings from our work. We focused on three key areas of activity: influencing benefit-sharing negotiations; supporting negotiators from small island states; and working with journalists.

Gains for indigenous communities

When Southern countries agreed to conserve biodiversity and use it sustainably at the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio, it was on the understanding that they would benefit from the use of their genetic resources by Northern countries. But the past two decades have seen very little benefit sharing with developing countries.

The Nagoya Protocol contains important gains for indigenous and local communities. It legally binds the 193 parties to the CBD to follow rules to prevent biopiracy and provide benefits, including financial ones, to countries and communities when using their genetic resources.

Much of this achievement is owed to the tireless efforts of the International Indigenous Forum on Biodiversity over the past six years.  IIED supported these efforts by providing evidence of the importance of customary laws and rights based on research with more than 60 communities in the developing world.

In the year leading up to Nagoya, we worked hard to influence the negotiations, both directly — through formal submissions and statements and UK DEFRA consultations — and indirectly, through policy briefings, side events and media work.

Standing with small island states

To successfully take part in high-stake conferences like the one in Nagoya, countries need capable teams of negotiators that can understand the breadth of issues discussed, navigate intricate sessions and events, and stand firm on key issues.

Heaving with complex legal issues, and against a back-drop of certain failure to meet the 2012 target to establish comprehensive, effectively managed and ecologically representative protected areas, the marine and coastal biodiversity negotiations turned out to be controversial and lengthy.

Negotiating teams from small island states — with limited resources, expertise and technical support — faced a considerable disadvantage in participating effectively. The Foundation for International Environmental Law and Development — until March 2011, an IIED subsidiary — supported delegates from these states and other developing countries on legal matters during drafting sessions, regional coordination meetings and negotiations.

Newsroom networks

In Nagoya, parties to the CBD agreed that by 2020 all people should be aware of the values of biodiversity and the steps they can take to conserve and use it sustainably. To meet this target, global media coverage of biodiversity will need to improve in quality and quantity — showing how biodiversity underpins economies, livelihoods and wellbeing but is under serious threat the world over.

At the COP, I heard a lot of passionate communities... identify the need to share more with others so they can scale up the impact of their work. They are calling for support and assistance to build their capacity so they can benefit and we can have biodiversity conservation as well.Nicole Leotaud, Caribbean Natural Resources Institute, Trinidad

Journalists need training and more access to sources and information if they are to tell this under-reported story and what it means for humanity. To support this, IIED, the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Internews created the Biodiversity Media Alliance, launched in Nagoya.

The alliance has created an online social network — http://biodiversitymedia.ning.com — where more than a thousand journalists and biodiversity experts can interact. Over the longer term, it aims to develop training for journalists to report biodiversity in ways that are relevant to their audiences.

Online extra

Vlog from Nagoya

Nicole Leotaud from the Caribbean Natural Resources Institute in Trinidad shares her thoughts on the UN biodiversity talks.

 

Internal links

Biocultural Heritage

External links

Convention on Biological Diversity COP10

Biodiversity Media Alliance