A proposed alternative institutional approach to meeting international biodiversity targets

10 December 2010 | Article
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Considering that the 2010 biodiversity target has not been met, a more practical approach is required to mitigate biodiversity loss, says Dr Tamar Ron, an independent conservation consultant and member of IUCN’s World Commission on Protected Areas and Species Survival Commission.

According to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Global Biodiversity Outlook 3, despite efforts related to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and other international agreements, both global and individual state measures were insufficient to meet the 2010 biodiversity target to significantly reduce the rate of biodiversity loss. There is, therefore, an urgent need to revisit existing measures and to consider diverting resources and efforts towards more effective solutions.

I would suggest directing international and national conservation efforts, funds and human resources towards implementing centrally-administered cooperation with individual states. The emphasis would be on reducing biodiversity loss at national and local levels, rather than continuing to rely on costly and not very effective multilateral negotiations.

Protracted negotiations

The factors and core causes of biodiversity loss are diverse and complex and are local in their nature. However, the international community has become accustomed in the last several decades to trying to reach measures that are agreed by all countries, through multilateral negotiations.

At the same time, states are concerned that international agreements can infringe on their sovereignty through binding measures, especially in regard to biodiversity loss, where land use and use of natural resources are main factors. The required action is often too controversial to be solved by negotiations between more than 190 UN member countries. The innumerable multilateral meetings do not normally result in any immediate binding measures or clear biodiversity conservation impact.

The differential impacts of the direct causes of biodiversity loss—between and within countries—require focusing on different measures. The underlying core causes are infinitely harder to solve and consensus-based international agreements are not the solution. While cooperation between countries to reduce global biodiversity loss is essential, the unique and specific set of problems of each country must be dealt with individually.

Time better spent

Moreover, multilateral negotiations amount to a very large number of regional and international meetings annually. Supporting the participation of delegates from the member states and organizations in these meetings places a serious burden on international and national conservation budgets. A further impact is that key officials and qualified professionals that are desperately required to deal with conservation issues in their countries end up spending a good part of their time in international meetings, in preparations beforehand and in reporting afterwards.

The practical approach proposed here would enable re-directing conservation efforts, funds and human resources to focus on conservation measures at the national and local level, through cooperation with a simple central structure by individual states, while significantly reducing the number of multilateral meetings.

National responsibility

Each country would cooperate with a central UN-based structure, but would be responsible for the loss of the biodiversity located within its territory, as well as for its impact on global biodiversity loss through acting as a ‘sink’ for unsustainable use of biological resources imported from other countries.

A structured, tailor-made package of conservation measures would be developed with each state, integrating existing programs and partnerships. Gaps would be identified and aid would be extended as required, in accordance with the country-specific core causes of threats to biodiversity.

A small international task force, comprised of experts in essential fields, would be established within the UNEP system in order to develop and facilitate the implementation of the suggested approach, and to coordinate all of the UN activities related to achieving the biodiversity targets.

Cross-border cooperation

This task force would cooperate with national and local expert teams that would be established in each country and guided by national and local stakeholder committees, headed by the ministry responsible for environmental affairs. Existing partnerships and programs of each state would be centrally coordinated and extended as relevant, in accordance with identified geographic and thematic priorities. Cross-border and regional cooperation would be encouraged for the joint protection of shared ecosystems and resources, as well as international cooperation between source and sink countries in implementing joint measures.

Emergency mitigation plans and long-term conservation programs would be developed and implemented for each state, integrating existing national conservation strategies (especially National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plans), policies, structures, and programs. This would include mechanisms for monitoring results and adapting the measures accordingly. Existing information would be supplemented through extensive consultations with stakeholders, focusing on the engagement of local communities.

Country-specific programs would focus especially on addressing national and local capacity and skill building requirements for creating sustainability, through national and local level ownership and leadership over natural resources use and biodiversity conservation.

Dr Ron is based in Jerusalem but works mostly in sub-Saharan Africa. She can be contacted at tamarron@bezeqint.net


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