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Organizations From Around the World Attend UN Convention on Biological Diversity in Bonn to Demand Protection for Ecosystems, Wildlife, Forests and Indigenous Rights

Compiled by Anne Petermann, Global Justice Ecology Project and Global Forest Coalition.

Organizations around the world are congregating in Bonn, Germany through the end of the month in an attempt to participate in and influence the outcomes of the Ninth Conference of the Parties of the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD COP-9).

Simultaneous to the first week of the talks, the German NGO Forum organized Planet Diversity, a week of workshops addressing issues related to global biodiversity.  Planet Diversity was organized to “celebrate the biodiversity and cultural diversity of farming, gardening and food cultures with the women and men who preserve and develop diversity as part of their everyday lives and defend it for their communities and future generations.”

Planet Diversity kicked off on Monday, 12 May with a rally against GMOs followed by a colorful march to the Maratim Hotel, where the CBD COP-9 is taking place.  Thousands participated in the march and rally, which featured speakers including Right Livelihood award laureates, Percy Schmeiser and Vandana Shiva.  Schmeiser is a canola farmer from Saskatchewan who was sued by Monsanto when his crops were contaminated by Monsanto’s GE “Roundup Ready” canola.  Shiva is an internationally renowned anti-GMO activist from India.

The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) is the leading United Nations agreement for ecological governance, covering many areas of environmental, economic and social policy, involving thousands of participants and producing large amounts of policies, guidelines and international law.  Hundreds of civil society groups from the Global South and the North will be present in Germany to ensure negotiators face up to some of the most pressing issues for the equitable and socially just survival of life on this planet.  These include the following:

[1] Food, hunger and agricultural biodiversity: The capacity of the world to feed itself depends on sustaining agricultural biodiversity – diverse, and locally controlled seeds, crops, livestock, fisheries and productive ecosystems. The CBD should layout a new path for agriculture, livestock and fisheries in the 21st century, with food sovereignty at its core. Two thirds of current OECD agricultural subsidies are destroying biodiversity and must be cancelled.

[2] Bad “agrofuel” energy: The subsidies and runaway development of the agrofuels industry is fuelling speculation in commodity futures markets and land, so driving food prices, hunger and the destruction of ecosystems and communities. The CBD must act to halt the damage and call for the control of markets in agricultural commodities for food, feed and agrofuels.

[3] Forest biological diversity: Forests are being destroyed at an alarming rate and many legally binding CBD commitments are not implemented on the ground. The CBD must identify and quash perverse economic incentives that lead to deforestation, make real commitments to combating illegal and unsustainable logging, and reject socially and environmentally destructive tree monoculture (plantations). The CBD must promote a systemic approach to forest biological diversity that has, at its core, the rights and interests of Indigenous Peoples and local communities, and ensure their full and effective participation in all negotiations concerning their lands and ecosystems, including the international climate negotiations.

[4] Genetically engineered trees: The release of genetically engineered (GE) trees poses an unprecedented threat to global forest ecosystems and forest biodiversity. Escape of GE trees and their traits into forests would be irreversible. The CBD must put an immediate global stop to the release of genetically engineered trees into the environment.

[5] Damaging climate techno-fixes:  Profiteering companies are promoting extreme technological solutions to climate change such as seeding the oceans with iron – known as geo-engineering. Ocean fertilization is not proven to reduce climate-changing gases in the atmosphere and may cause major changes to marine ecosystems – altering food webs, creating toxic tides or deoxygenated seas – changes that could, in some cases, be irreversible. The CBD must stop these before they worsen ecological destruction.

[6] Ecosystem approach: The Ecosystem Approach has the potential to transform our efforts to conserve and sustainably use biological diversity. The CBD must ensure Indigenous Peoples and local communities are central to the Ecosystem Approach, or else it will fail, taking with it one of the few opportunities to pull the world’s ecosystems back from the brink.

[7] Ownership of life:  The genes, seeds, organisms and knowledge that the worlds poor depend on are being stolen, privatized and often patented. The new “access and benefit sharing” rules being decided at the CBD must prevent, not facilitate such theft, and be based upon the rights of Indigenous Peoples and local communities.

[8] Protected Areas: The global network of protected areas to be attained by 2010 on land and by 2012 on sea is one of the tools to reduce biodiversity loss. So far both terrestrial and marine ecosystem protection has not been realized. The broadening of protected areas governance types is critical to the expansion of protected areas systems, and Parties must fully recognize and respect the rights of Indigenous Peoples and local communities in protected area policies, programmes and projects, and ensure their full and effective participation.

[9] Compensation for victims of genetic contamination: Not every country or community accepts the risks of genetically engineered organisms. Who should be liable and accountable for unwelcome contamination of genetically engineered organisms, or their health or socioeconomic impacts? The COP must develop a strong agreement that would leave no victim of contamination uncompensated.

[10] Invasive species: Invasive species are one of the biggest threats to biological diversity, often transported through international trade and travel. The CBD must take strong action to block the pathways for their movement and turn the tide of alien invasions.

More detailed information on each of these issues, from the perspective of many civil society groups is found within the media advisory (posted at  https://undercovercop.org/media/). These media briefs have been assembled by the CBD Alliance www.cbdalliance.org.

For daily updates on the process of the negotiations in Bonn, readers are encouraged to visit the daily newsletter published by the civil society community (the “ECO”) on www.undercoverCOP.org.

Photo caption: Indigenous peoples perform traditional dance during Planet Diversity march against GMOs outside of UN Convention on Biological Diversity in Bonn, Germany.  Photo: Petermann/Global Justice Ecology Project