India plays mediator at biodiversity summit

October 25th, 2010 - 7:05 pm ICT by IANS  

By Joydeep Gupta
Nagoya (Japan), Oct 25 (IANS) Indian government delegates at the UN biodiversity summit here have taken on the role of consensus builders as negotiators from 192 countries started the second week of talks with rich and poor nations still divided over money.

The Oct 18-29 biodiversity summit, with over 15,000 participants already and more arriving, has become important because developing countries want to nail down two issues here. One, how will pharmaceutical and cosmetics manufacturers from industrialised countries pay for medicinal herbs when they gather knowledge about them from local communities; the so-called Access and Benefit Sharing (ABS) debate. Two, how much will rich countries pay for poor countries not to cut down their forests.

In response, industrialised countries have been wanting to know what developing countries are doing and will do to protect their forests.

In 2002, all countries promised to arrest global biodiversity loss. That promise has not been kept, as more and more species are going extinct all the time. Head of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), Ahmed Djoghlaf, is now proposing that countries put special focus on this in the coming decade.

But on Monday all agreements were virtually on hold as talks over ABS stalled, according to delegates from both rich and poor countries. A senior member of the Brazilian delegation told IANS: “No ABS, no deal”, while a member of the French delegation said: “As developing countries are seeking very high amounts for ABS, the entire financing structure is breaking down.”

India, which is hosting the next biodiversity summit - at Hyderabad in 2012 - played consensus builder in this situation. A senior member of the Indian government delegation told IANS: “It’s only Monday and we have the whole week. We’re trying to build consensus, and we’re reasonably sure we’ll get there.”

While the squabbling went on behind closed doors, hundreds of scientists and NGOs went around providing more and more evidence that loss of biodiversity is affecting every aspect of life, including the fight against climate change.

NGO representatives, who are here in their thousands, have been highlighting their most pressing concerns. “Biodiversity lies at the very heart of the most serious challenges facing the planet today,” said Helena Paul, co-executive director of Eco-Nexus, UK. “If we want to tackle food insecurity and cope with climate change, we have to start with biodiversity.”

“According to the UN, we’ve lost 75 percent of the world’s crop and livestock varieties - and continue to lose more each day. We’re in a crisis of biodiversity, losing species we have not even seen yet. We can’t afford to lose any more of the diversity that helps us create, innovate, and be resilient to shocks. This is the wealth of our planet, this is what feeds people. Let’s be clear - biodiversity is essential to maintain the ecosystems humanity has relied on for the last ten thousand years. It’s a matter of survival and we have to act now.”

The summit should do more to highlight the key role of those who protect biodiversity and use it sustainably, says Chee Yoke Ling, director of the Malaysia-based Third World Network. “There’s so much at stake here for the world’s small scale farmers, fishers, and indigenous peoples. They’re at the frontlines of preserving biodiversity, and knowledge of that diversity.

“Industrial expansion and new techno-fixes are hurting them, and taking their ability to preserve diversity and make a living. Their future is our future, and they need biodiversity justice.”

(Joydeep Gupta can be contacted at joydeepgupta1@gmail.com)

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