» United Nations Biodiversity Conference mobilises resources for biodiversity protection
23.10.2012 - Natural Sciences Sector

United Nations Biodiversity Conference mobilises resources for biodiversity protection

© Cat HollowayPhoenix Islands Protected Area (Kiribati)

The world’s governments have agreed to increase funding in support of actions to halt the rate of loss of biodiversity at the eleventh meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity, which ended on 20 October 2012. Other key outcomes include special attention for biodiversity-rich marine areas.

The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) was inspired by the world community's growing commitment to sustainable development. It represents a dramatic step forward in the conservation of biological diversity, the sustainable use of its components, and the fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from the use of genetic resources. As biodiversity declines, so too does the resilience of our ecosystems, which have been dramatically transformed as a result of human action.

Biodiversity is crucial to human life and to the reduction of poverty. Our well-being depends on biodiversity and on basic ecosystems goods and services, and they provide the livelihoods of more than 1.3 billion people.
UNESCO works closely with the CBD, as several of its programmes and activities contribute to elucidating substantive aspects of the biodiversity problems and to identifying appropriate solutions to reducing biodiversity erosion and loss.

Increased resources for biodiversity protection by 2015
Developed countries agreed at the conference to increase funding to support efforts in developing states towards meeting the Aichi Biodiversity Targets, effectively doubling biodiversity-related international financial flows by 2015.
These internationally-agreed Biodiversity Targets and Strategic Goals form the structure of the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020. UNESCO’s programme of work contributes directly and indirectly to meeting these goals, by:

  • Addressing the underlying causes of biodiversity loss and reducing direct pressures through its work in education and culture,
  • Improving the status of biodiversity through field-based actions on conservation and sustainable and equitable use of biodiversity, particularly in UNESCO Biosphere Reserves and World Heritage Sites but also through its work in Marine Spatial Planning and initiatives such as the Ocean Biogeographic Information System (OBIS),
  • Enhancing participatory planning and knowledge management through its work with local and indigenous communities, in ecological sciences and on the co-production of knowledge.

UNESCO is also part of the Task Force monitoring progress in their implementation.

Protecting marine biodiversity
The series of agreements made during the Conference on oceans and coasts builds on the commitment of countries made at the United Nations Rio+20 summit in June to protect and restore marine ecosystems and to maintain their biodiversity. Marine areas are to receive special attention by governments as part of renewed efforts to meet the Aichi Biodiversity Target 11 of ensuring that 10% of marine areas are protected by 2020.

The Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (UNESCO/IOC) is providing scientific and technical advice to the Parties to the CBD to support their marine spatial planning efforts and to define Ecologically or Biologically Significant marine Areas (EBSAs). UNESCO-IOC’s Ocean Biogeographic Information System (OBIS), the largest online system for absorbing, integrating, and accessing data about life in the ocean, provides one of the best available data sources on marine biodiversity for policy-makers and environmental managers, and contributed in particular to the identification of EBSAs in the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian Ocean (additional workshops are planned to cover other parts of the World). During the Conference, the 193 Parties to the CBD agreed to classify a diverse list of marine areas as ecologically or biologically significant. Among the areas mentioned, some are renowned for containing ‘hidden treasures’ of the plant and animal world, such as the Saragasso Sea, the Tonga archipelago and key corals sites off the coast of Brazil.

Parties to the Convention recognized the growing challenge of climate change impacts on coral reefs, which will require significant investment to overcome. UNESCO/IOC contributes to our understanding of the impact of climate change and ocean acidification on marine biodiversity and ecosystems through the International Ocean Carbon Coordination Project and the Global Ocean Observing System (GOOS).

Promoting indigenous knowledge and practices for the sustainable use of biodiversity
The Conference recognized that the involvement of local communities has been limited and urged Parties and partners to support indigenous and local communities and ensure their participation in national and international dialogues regarding biodiversity use, conservation and management.

In a closing statement, the International Indigenous Forum on Biodiversity (IIFB), which includes representatives of indigenous peoples and local communities, approved of the new programme of work on the customary use of biological resources (10c), saying that it ‘will make important contributions towards addressing marginalization and widespread poverty in our communities’. IIFB also stressed that ‘Parties must work harder to reverse policies and practices that harm indigenous peoples and local communities in Protected Areas, especially in coastal and marine areas. Coastal and marine management by indigenous communities and artisanal fisherfolk will be central to the success of the CBD.’ As part of the 40th anniversary of UNESCO’s World Heritage Convention, the Danish Agency for Culture, the Government of Greenland and the International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs (IWGIA) recently organised an international expert workshop to enable a constructive dialogue on issues related to indigenous peoples and Protected Areas.

UNESCO and the CBD Secretariat organized a side event to provide an update on recent efforts to bring indigenous and local knowledge into scientific assessment processes. The event included presentations by indigenous peoples of case studies where community-based knowledge complements and advances current scientific understandings, while sustaining cultural integrity and fulfilling local needs. A set of good practices such as these will be compiled as a resource for stakeholders for the implementation of Article 8(j) of the CBD*. At a second side event, UNESCO and the Secretariat of the CBD provided an update on their joint programme of work on biological diversity and cultural diversity.

Science-policy interface for biodiversity
The Conference welcomed the establishment of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) earlier this year and recognized the potential contribution it could make to enhance the effectiveness of the Convention. Co-sponsored by UNESCO, IPBES is an interface between the scientific community and policy makers that aims to build capacity for and strengthen the use of science in policy making. It will contribute towards the achievement of Aichi Biodiversity Target 19: ‘By 2020, knowledge, the science base and technologies relating to biodiversity, its values, functioning, status and trends, and the consequences of its loss, are improved, widely shared and transferred, and applied.’

* Convention on Biological Diversity
Article 8. In situ Conservation
Each Contracting Party shall, as far as possible and as appropriate:
(j) Subject to its national legislation, respect, preserve and maintain knowledge, innovations and practices of indigenous and local communities embodying traditional lifestyles relevant for the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity and promote their wider application with the approval and involvement of the holders of such knowledge, innovations and practices and encourage the equitable sharing of the benefits arising from the utilization of such knowledge, innovations and practices;

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