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Integrating biodiversity for poverty removal still not binding for this UN body

Reacting to a statement of the executive secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), United Nations, Elizabeth Maruma Mrema, on the occasion of the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, which fell on October 17, well-known Thiruvananthapuram-based ecologist S Faizi has objected to the CBD’s plan for “effective integration of biodiversity for poverty eradication”.

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I compliment you for issuing this statement. However, I am disappointed to see that the CBD COP's output on poverty and biodiversity, namely the Chennai Guidance is not even referred to in your statement, particularly so since the 12th COP has asked the Executive Secretary to "continue the work requested by the Conference of the Parties in decisions X/6 and XI/22, for the effective integration of biodiversity for poverty eradication and development, taking into account also the related decisions of the Conference of the Parties at its twelfth meeting" and to promote the Chennai Guidance. This only reflects the Secretariat's conventional relegation of the issues of particular concern to the developing countries.
I had been a member of the Expert Group on Biodiversity for Poverty Eradication and Development that prepared drafts of the Dehradun Declaration and the Chennai Guidance for the COP (the former was subsumed into the latter by COP 12), this all important debate happened in CBD after two decades of the treaty. And this happened quite reluctantly, and was subsequently relegated to not just the margins but to oblivion, although your predecessor Mr Braulio Dias had promised me on record that the he would provide adequate importance to the Chennai Guidance and to the issue of poverty/biodiversity in the work of the Secretariat.
As a negotiator in the INC CBD that formulated the treaty, I found several amusing things in the conduct of the Secretariat in the proceedings of the Expert Group, I take the liberty of sharing a couple of them here. There was a Secretariat document that mentioned that CBD was 'not legally binding', it was tragic that I was the only delegate shocked by this, but when I raised the issue the Secretariat discreetly removed that sentence without an apology, they feigned ignorant of it when the Co-Chair (India) referred to my email on the subject in his inaugural speech itself.
It was I who prepared the first draft of the Dehradun Declaration, as requested by the Secretariat (Mr Ravi Sharma) after our first round of discussion, we had focussed discussion on it and a near final version was prepared when the meeting ended. But the version the secretariat sent to the COP had points we didn’t discuss or actually rejected. The reports of the proceedings also had similar additions and deletions that are procedurally unacceptable.
Some delegates have even attempted to confuse the objective of the Expert Group as something to deal with the protection of biodiversity in poverty eradication programs and projects, rather than the real objective of sustainably using biodiversity in the efforts to eradicate poverty (I would also forewarn that this attempt to invert the objective will also happen in the case of Target 14, unless it is put in a language that doesn’t allow such a wrong interpretation).
Without meaning to dampen your enthusiasm for the anticipated adoption of the GBF at the December COP, may I respectfully submit that CBD is meant for enforcement, every article of it, and not meant for generating further documents. Nowhere does the treaty calls for the creation of a series of strategic plans. What is actually happening through these mace of documents and chain of conferences that the CBD process has been generating after the first few years of enforcement is a virtual unmaking of the hard negotiated treaty. Virtually amending a finely balanced treaty by carefully ignoring those provisions that are important for the developing countries, the GBF process is also a victim of that.
Let me ask you for example where is the substance of the all important Article 16 and its crucial subsections on access to technology in the GBF draft. The US had made it clear that they were opposed this and such provisions in the treaty, the reason why they have refused to ratify the treaty, and that is an honest position. Their western partners are also opposed to such provisions but they have ratified the treaty and succeeded in silencing those 'difficult' articles through Strategic Plans and by guarding the COP from performing its statutory mission of reviewing the progress in the implementation of the treaty, meaning reviewing the cases of infractions and non-compliances.
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Response from UN CBD secretariat:
Please rest assured that the Secretariat attaches great importance to the linkages between biodiversity and poverty alleviation, as well as sustainable development more generally. The very fact that we issued this statement is testimony to this. In this context we also continue to promote the Chennai Guidance whenever appropriate (see e.g. here: https://www.cbd.int/development/sdg1/ ).
However please also understand that this statement of the Executive Secretary is intended for the general public and not geared to an expert audience, and it is therefore general practice in our communications to prioritize the general scientific facts and associated messaging as rooted in the top objectives of the Convention over more detailed institutional information on the many work streams under the Convention and its resulting policy guidance documents. Even while the latter would perhaps be more satisfactory to the experts, it would make for a very dry read indeed for the vast majority of people. And, as you point out yourself, over-emphasizing this institutional information may actually risk taking away from the Convention itself and its overall objectives and key messages.
Thanks again for your continued interest in the work of the Convention.
-- David Ainsworth

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