giovedì 25 ottobre 2012


The the total number of living species on Earth are estimated to be around 8.7 million. These include all the flora, fauna and animals, including micro-organisms. This is the rich state of biodiversity: a natural heritage that nature has created and that man has interacted with and made use of since centuries. So when representatives of 173 nations gather together and they make the topic of biodiversity  a center stage of their discussion for 10 days at, the event is bound to be huge and discussions multifarious . The 11th Conference of Parties on the Convention on Biological Diversity that took place this year in Hyderabad, India definitely lived up to the expected largeness in numbers, discussions, talks and events and pooled in more than 1500 delegates from across the world . These included, country representatives, representatives from the UN and its specialised agencies, independent research institutions , NGOs, Educational Institutions, Youth organisations, Researchers and, more importantly, Indigenous Local Communities etc. The participation was large with diverse stakeholders having diverse interests.

Through an accreditation received from the Young Ambassadors Society, I was able to be present at the 11th COP. As an observer accredited through a youth organisation, I was aware I was representing an important sector, 'Youth' for instance,  at the conference. It was indeed encouraging to observe a large participation from different youth organisations working extensively in this field. The participation contained a balanced mix of youth from different regions. Interacting with the youth delegations from different regions like Philippines, Saheli Regions, Africa gave me a good idea of their geographical diversity, and their concerns towards the biological diversity in their regions. I realised that the common concerns in case of different regions with relation to biodiversity were similar - threatened species on the verge of extinction, loss of biodiversity due to over commercialization, over utilization, the access to genetic resources, loss of fragile ecosystems  

The Convention on Biological Diversity is one of the leading legal instrument on the topic of biodiversity. The conference agendas were, however, centered on supplementary programs and protocols - The Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits arising from their Utilization., the Aichi Biodiversity Targets (a set of decade long targets adopted in the year 2011) . In all the meetings I had a chance to observe, there was a balanced participation from every side: developed and under-developed or developing nations. However, there was a more enthusiastic participation from several under-developed or developing nations, especially from the South American, African, Pacific, South -East Asian nations. Most developing nations were concerned about the access to the genetic resources, preservation of the traditional knowledge and culture of the different indigenous communities. Different nations also gave an idea of the national programs implemented in their nations for preserving traditional knowledge, traditional culture of indigenous communities.

For example,  the representatives of New Zealand, gave an overview of special programs for the Maori Community- the oldest community in New -Zealand and the plans for preserving the Maori Culture. It was heartening to see an active participation of small island nations like Micronesia, Thailand. Djibouti on the topics related to Marine and Ocean Biodiversity. The populations of island nations especially are more dependent on the ocean and marine biodiversity through livelihood needs. Some nations were concerned of the impact that excessive fishing or tourism could have on their marine biodiversity. Equally heartening was the participation of NGOs, and the Indigenous Local Communities themselves. The different indigenous communities stressed their dependence on nature, and gave examples of how their culture was closely linked to their biodiversity. The Indigenous local communities are indeed an important stakeholder, in terms of biodiversity discussions. The indigenous communities who live in close proximity of nature depend on the biodiversity and genetic resources in their surrounding for livelihood. Their culture over centuries has been closely knitted with nature and components of their culture deal with significant medical, cosmetic, food and other heritage, referred to as 'traditional knowledge'. Commercial exploitation of the natural resources, biodiversity, and their traditional knowledge, sometimes through the use of 'Intellectual property rights'  has a lot of implications on them, leading to a loss of their biodiversity and traditional knowledge. Also, since many developing nations hold significant rich biodiversity, their concerns for the protection of their genetic resources and traditional knowledge associated with it are more.  

While there were important debates and viewpoints being exchanged, the conference was also surrounded by a number of interesting 'side -events', which were in the form of presentations, seminars on the latest developments in scientific, political, social and other practices related to Biodiversity. Also, what I observed was stressed during the conference was innovative economic mechanisms to deal with biodiversity threats. These include mechanisms like the TEEB, REDD, REDD+. This echoed with my personal sentiments and approach towards dealing with biodiversity. Since recent years, the area of climate change had successfully created economic and market based mechanisms for dealing with the threats of climate change.

However, an economic modelling for biodiversity would be more complex, since it involves accounting diverse species and in certain cases human societies. A certain percentage of emissions generated in one part of the world may be 'compensated' or be some way easy to offset in another part of the world.  But restoring loss of biodiversity in one part of the world, can not be approached through such a 'mitigation' or offset approach. Every ecosystem consists of its own unique species. Five Asian lions poached in India can not be 'put back' or offset by adding 5 more lions in Africa. Both belong to different sub species.  While climate science may have been able to create strategies for climate mitigation, creating models for biodiversity would be  more complex and a more cautious approach would be needed.  The TEEB model tries to create value for biodiversity by measuring the value of biodiversity and ecosystems for the 'services' offered by them. 

I was satisfied that the Conference did try to address the diverse topics that the issue of Biodiversity encompasses. It was a learning opportunity to witness and hear the latest scientific and policy developments taking place to deal with the loss of biodiversity. Also, I realised that the COP 11, was a megadiverse  crossroad interlinking representatives from the field of bussiness, policy, science, bureaucracy and the issue undergoes different perspectives, when each of these actors deal with it. My presence at such a junction helped me understand the different layers of the problems of biodiversity-biological, social, politcal and economic related problems. But I have always believed that while using any of these streams would be equally justified in approaching the problems of biodiversity, it is important to keep in mind, that nature and diversity need to be first looked at as a holistic 'whole' and all efforts should try to restore such a holistic balance of nature. 

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