Day Seven

18 May 2010 | News story

The meeting here in Nairobi launched into its second week today, reinvigorated after a break at the weekend. Many delegates had made good use of the time to head out of Nairobi and find some real biodiversity and culture in the various national parks and landscapes of Kenya, writes Neville Ash, Head of IUCN’s Ecosystems management Programme.

With renewed energy, discussions progressed quickly, and the first reading of almost all the agenda items for the week was completed – on agricultural biodiversity, drylands, invasive species, on a set of possible future biodiversity targets, and on a strategy for global plant conservation.

Whilst this seems like good progress, we were in a similar state of play at the end of the first day of discussions last week, and yet the meeting went on late into Friday evening in the end. Certainly there’ll be more debate when the revised documents emerge in the next couple of days, the negotiations get underway in earnest, and each document needs to evolve through at least three versions during the course of the week.

One of the underlying challenges that governments are facing during this meeting is in disentangling technical issues from political ones. The current meeting is intended to focus on scientific and technical issues, leaving the political ones for a separate discussion next week. However, almost all of the technical issues up for discussion have political – or financial - implications, and when it comes to setting potential new biodiversity targets, the technical and political issues have become intertwined. This is unfortunate, as the basis for setting new biodiversity targets is very much a scientific one.

Findings of various scientific assessments announced this year have shown that we have failed to meet the 2010 target to reduce biodiversity loss largely because we haven’t managed to address the threats to biodiversity - especially from overconsumption and unsustainable use. We therefore clearly need to base new ambitious targets for the conservation of biodiversity on the efforts required to address these threats – anything less will not be sufficient, and will undermine both the conservation of biodiversity and the ability of biodiversity to provide the many benefits on which we all depend.

So, whilst the discussions will continue here this week in the meeting rooms, and the negotiations will pick up steam as the days go by, it is essential that the end-goal be front and central in the minds of delegates. They should not forget the experiences many of us had over the weekend, seeing Kenya’s people and its biodiversity. After all, it is only when biodiversity is better conserved and more sustainably used that we could claim that the negotiations in this meeting have been a success.