We embrace Alternative Renewable Fuels and Green Solutions for a Sustainable Biosphere
Governance and Biodiversity
Effective Governance Systems
Politicians and legislators reside in locations far removed from the land where decisions that affect biodiversity and sustainable use are made by farmers. As a result, there is disconnection between and within countries where ministries within the same country often take conflicting approaches to the issue of biodiversity management. Biodiversity concerns are addressed in numerous international and regional agreements, many of which have been adopted in the past 2 decades. In 2004, key global biodiversity related conventions created the Biodiversity Liaison Group to facilitate a coordinated approach to policy development and implementation. UNEP has established the Modules project whose goal is to assist countries and stakeholders to understand the roles of the various conventions. The WSSD has stated that governments should focus upon implementation instead of additional policy development and adopt integrated approaches to biodiversity management.
There are multiple stakeholders in biodiversity governance, including landholders, community and political bodies at local, national and regional levels, the private sector, specific sector bodies such as fisheries councils, species protection agreements and global agreements. There is a lack of financial and human capacity to effectively manage biodiversity. Clear policies do not guarantee compliance or enforcement as is revealed by the continuing illegal international trade in species and their parts in contravention of CITES.
In many cases, the proliferation of governmental authorities has created confusion, spread resources thinly, and slowed policy implementation. There are coordination problems among and inside the government levels, e.g. local vs. national, among agencies, regional vs. international. Also biodiversity concerns are often administered by weak, underfunded and understaffed environmental ministries. For example, land use change and other decisions that severely threaten biodiversity and the introduction of invasive species are often made by agriculture, fisheries, commerce or mining departments. Decisions and actions are taken without consultation with authorities responsible for the environment and the costs of environmental loss are not considered.
Biodiversity governance is in a period of change. Historically, biodiversity has been considered as a common heritage for the public good. However, a decade ago there was an unprecedented shift to recognizing biodiversity and genetic resources as a set of products to be owned in whole or in part. On the one side, there has been activity involving gene patenting, gene expressions, functional gene products and derivative life forms and the fundamental shift to the concept of ownership of genetic resources that arose via the CBD and the FAO International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources in terms of national sovereignty over biological diversity. At the same time, the importance of biodiversity is recognized as a source of new products and as a basis for the supply of ecosystem services.
The CBD in 2002 adopted the Bonn Guidelines on Access to Genetic Resources and Fair and Equitable Sharing of the Benefits Arising out of their Utilization, referred to as Access and Benefit Sharing (ABS). The WSSD later sought elaboration of the international system on access and benefit sharing. There have been discussions and negotiations over international biodiversity. Resources such as plants, animal extracts and micro-organisms may be used to produce items such as the active ingredients in medicinal products.
However, the green gold predicted by early advocates in the CBD, and the gene gold predicted by the push to patent genetic information have not materialized. These ABS discussions continue to focus international negotiations on biodiversity and also on trade and intellectual property. Pharmaceutical companies have been exploring other technologies as sources for new drugs so that it is becoming apparent that poor countries may never realize the full benefits of their genetic endowments.
Further research and understanding on how to capture and distribute the benefits arising from the use of biodiversity will add to these discussions. The CBD has taken a new and progressive approach to identify a method to respect the importance of traditional knowledge on the uses for biodiversity. Indigenous communities have raised important, unresolved issues, including conflict between different types of knowledge, e.g. western science compared to local customs and practices. In addition, there is the question of valuation of diversity; should an economic based model be used or a culturally based model. The question of governance must be addressed. What format should be chosen: the western format of formal written responses or the traditional system established by customary law. Local and indigenous communities continue to be stewards of biodiversity and national systems of land tenure. Respect for indigenous communities is interconnected with biodiversity policy making at the local and international levels.
New Governance Arrangements
Biodiversity, its role and uses, and the governance structure of enclosure is under international debate, as regions, nations and indigenous populations are examining options, and finding opportunities and roadblocks. Further analysis and assessment of assessment methods and new governance measures are needed to formulate best practices and take advantage of available information. As more policy tools and instruments are developed, new methods will be adopted to preserve and enjoy biodiversity. It is clear that based upon the known rate of habitat conversion and degradation and reductions in population and genetic resources, prompt action is essential to preserve biodiversity for future generations to enjoy the entire scope of environmental opportunities and uses.