More than 100 organizations from around the world, the majority from the global South, have signed a letter raising critical points about the UN Summit on Biodiversity (30 September 2020), the biodiversity crisis and the Convention on Biological Diversity.
Signatories do not wish this brief summit to be a distraction from the core issues related to biodiversity. The Convention on Biological Diversity is currently preparing a post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework that is meant to lead us towards living in harmony with nature by 2050, yet the destruction of biodiversity and ecosystems continues apace around the world.
Together with a stable climate, biodiversity and ecosystems are our life support system and the signatories are calling for urgent action for its protection, rather than publicity for an event that has no decision-making power and looks more like a show than a serious engagement with the issues.
The statement, with the full list of signatories, is available in English, Spanish, French and Japanese at http://www.cbd-alliance.org/en/2020/peoples-response-high-level-summit-biodiversity
The UN Biodiversity Summit that will take place on September 30, 2020, will draw the world’s attention to the biodiversity crisis and the urgent need to take action. However, we are concerned that it lacks time for meaningful dialogue and does not ensure adequate participation of civil society, in particular those groups who are most affected by the destruction of nature and who play a key role in preserving biodiversity.
We denounce the fact that there has been no democratic process for civil society to nominate speakers that can reflect our voice. We condemn the fact that indigenous peoples, local communities, women, youth, customary and indigenous farming systems, and small- scale food producers are not adequately represented through their organizations, while the Summit provides a prominent role to some of the world’s biggest corporations and financial actors who are among those most responsible for biodiversity destruction.
We remind states that they have obligations to protect biodiversity, but also they must ensure the realization of human rights. This requires them to ensure effective participation of people and communities as rights holders and to ensure accountability of states regarding their commitments.
We also urge states to engage in good faith in the process towards an ambitious Global Biodiversity Framework which is compatibly derived from all the CBD provisions as a direct tool to implement – not just some other cherry-picked voluntary targets, but – the due totality of the legal CBD obligations – under the auspices of the Convention of Biological Diversity (CBD). The upcoming summit must not pre-empt this process, but support upcoming negotiations and agreements at the CBD, which is the dedicated UN space.
To overcome the current deep ecological crises, the new Global Biodiversity Framework needs to address the root causes of biodiversity loss and pave the way towards truly transformative change that:
Is based on the commitments that states have agreed to under the CBD, the fundamental principles of environmental law and the international human rights framework, including also that: the CBD legally obliges its parties to “regulate or manage” “activities which have or are likely to have significant adverse impacts on the conservation and sustainable use” (1) “to ensure that activities within their jurisdiction or control do not cause damage” to biodiversity “regardless of where their effects occur”, within or “beyond the limits of national jurisdiction” “within or outside protected areas”.(2)
Sets a deadline for divesting from biodiversity harm, and redirects perverse incentives. It makes no sense to ask for increased investments in biodiversity conservation if governments continue to invest far more funding in subsidies, fiscal incentives and infrastructure and other projects that harm biodiversity.
In addition, current unsustainable consumption and production, a major root cause of biodiversity loss, cannot be addressed by voluntary approaches. What is therefore needed is systemic change that includes strong policy measures backed up by the requisite regulatory measures.
Is centered around a strong rights-based approach that: protects, respects and fulfills all human rights, in particular the rights of indigenous peoples and local communities as well as peasants and other small-scale food producers; realizes the right to a healthy environment; recognizes the rights of Mother Earth to exist and flourish with diversity and recognizes ecocide as an international crime.
Creates enabling conditions and reduces hurdles for the implementation of food sovereignty, agro-ecology, small-scale family farming and fisheries, and local small-scale initiatives in ways that also enhance inherent agricultural biodiversity within peasant seeds, livestock breeds and local fisheries.
Includes proper and effective monitoring based on the whole of CBD obligations, rights-based review and accountability systems, harmonized at CBD level, taking into account the capacities of developing countries and providing the support they may need, to make sure implementation is effective to prevent the escalation of global biodiversity loss and degradation. These monitoring systems shall also include critical review by non-State public interest actors and include implementation of Article 20 of the CBD (3).
We’ve tried all the market-based and voluntary approaches since Rio and the evidence of failure is piling up. Now is the time for strong public investment which can be generated through redistribution of wealth by time-tested means – taxes and payments for ecological debts. We cannot afford to repeat past mistakes:
Blanket targets for increasing areas under protection will not halt biodiversity loss. Protected areas have not prevented the acceleration of biodiversity loss so far, but have rather channelled the overall growing biodiversity-degrading impacts of our life and overconsumption into other parts of Earth that have already beforehand suffered more from degradation. Protected areas have often been badly designed and poorly governed, based on the priorities of opportunistic funding, PR value and top-down governance that has harmed local communities and violated human rights rather than promoting equity. Their value has been further undermined as we have seen in the exponential growth of exploitation and extraction that occur in parallel.
Increasing evidence shows that indigenous territories and community-managed lands and forests are more effective for biodiversity conservation than protected areas. Any action for biodiversity, including the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework must thus place indigenous peoples, local communities, women, indigenous farming and small farmers, front and centre of future efforts to conserve biodiversity. At present, it fails even to offer a minimal level of protection for their rights.
The concept of nature-based solutions remains uncharted in the CBD context and could undermine the long-established ecosystems approach of the CBD, to protect and conserve biodiversity. This hype over nature-based solutions is used for instance by fossil fuel emitters to offset their emissions and thus to continue emitting.
We cannot fail to address a major risk – zoonotic disease and future pandemics – in biodiversity policy for the next decade. By overlooking One Health and One Welfare, the connections between human health and wellbeing and the health and wellbeing of plants, animals and ecosystems, the current version of the GBF fails to address the looming risk of future zoonotic disease outbreaks. We must eliminate practices that threaten the health and wellbeing of Earth’s life in its diversity, and transition towards healthier and more sustainable consumption patterns.
The world is going through multiple crises, which threaten our survival. The loss of biodiversity is intrinsically connected to the climate crisis and the current pandemic as well as unacceptable inequalities, which in turn are the product of a predatory production and consumption system that is based on extraction and exploitation, causing the destruction of life support systems.
New and emerging technologies such as synthetic biology and genome editing – including the release of genetically modified organisms containing engineered gene drives – are not ‘solutions’ but have the potential to add to our current crises.
We must be on track to achieve Harmony with Nature by 2050. The planet can only be preserved “through a paradigm shift from a human-centric society to an Earth-centred global ecosystem” and the UN must “be the champion of non-anthropocentrism and a voice on behalf of the natural world and to play a lead role for a twenty-first century global Earth-centred transition, in which the lives of all human and non-human species matter.(4)
We cannot wait for more reports stating what is already obvious and well known, namely the alarming speed of biodiversity destruction and our failure to take action. What we need is courageous action to transform the economic systems and development models once and for all.
Notes and References
1. CBD articles 7 (c) and 8 (l) 2. CBD articles 3, 4 (b) and 8 (c) 3. Do’s and Dont’s document containing more detailed elements of the positions from civil society 4. A/75/266
– Third World Network