All posts by christianschwarzer

Mainstreaming Biodiversity & Marine Ecologically and Biologically Significant Areas: Terminology, Treaties, and Timelines

By Charlotte Whitney (Canada), Alejandra Echeverri (Colombia), and Franzi Bäker (Germany)

The overarching theme of of the 13th CBD Conference of the Parties (COP13) is Mainstreaming Biodiversity, which means to consider and incorporate biodiversity for ecological and human wellbeing in all the productive sectors, including agriculture, forests, fisheries, and tourism. The group of up to 10,000 attendees was split into two working groups so as to be more efficient during the two weeks of the COP.

During the first week of COP13 we completed the first reading of the draft decisions on the Convention on Biological Diversity, which are provided beforehand for parties and delegates to consider and propose changes to. In Working Group 2, we worked through 20 Conference Room Papers (CRPs), which are working documents used during the conference. The topics considered included: mainstreaming biodiversity,  the rights of Indigenous peoples and Local Communities, marine management and EBSAs, invasive alien species, scientific and technical issues including synthetic biology, and wildlife management and pollinators.

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Temperate kelp forest, British Columbia, Canada | Photo by Jenn Burt

Charlotte (Canada) a global north delegate for GYBN, was in charge of following Item 15, on  Marine issues and EBSAs (Ecologically and Biologically Significant Areas). The main discussion from the parties about this topic was around conservation issues, related to marine debris, underwater noise, and a diversity of protected areas tools.

On December 5th, GYBN made an intervention on marine issues asking that parties accept the current EBSA list, which should lead to more multinational support for this tool, and work towards more effective marine spatial planning. Following the parties negotiations closely allowed us to tailor our negotiation to the debates and support the stated positions of certain parties in our intervention. As members of civil society, we aren’t allowed to suggest specific changes to the text or the ongoing negotiation, so we spend a lot of time thinking about alliances and lobbying for our perspectives around specific items. Unfortunately, the contentious text about EBSAs continues to be a point of conflict throughout the second week.

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Small scale fishing boat, Canada | Photo by Lauren Eckert

 

Terminology rules at COP. It’s not uncommon for a discussion around a single line or phrase in the negotiating text to take half an hour or more, or to even come to a standstill. During the marine sessions, a lengthy discussion took place about the inclusion of “pelagic areas” or whether to use the more general phrase “open sea areas”, when referring to marine debris and the associated regulations. After talking to some of the more experienced delegates, we think that this disagreement relates to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), and whether some nations are or are not signed on to that agreement. There are so many layers of complexity beyond sometimes simple points of disagreement here! It is important to understand that these discussions over scientific terminology are often referring back to political issues, such as the delimitation of boundaries on national jurisdictions.

 

During the first reading of the negotiating text, parties also discussed Item 10, which refers to mainstreaming and integrating biodiversity within and across sectors. Led by Alejandra Echeverri (Colombia) and Franzi Baeker (Germany), GYBN made an intervention to state that:

1) Mainstreaming biodiversity should be added as a permanent item in the agenda for future COP meetings,

2) Other sectors including extractive industries and energy should be included,

3) When referring to mainstreaming biodiversity on agriculture, sustainable and ecological ‘intensification’ are complex and unnecessary terminology that could be misinterpreted (back to terminology!), and that

4) Youth, and Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities should be added as relevant groups and stakeholders throughout the process of mainstreaming biodiversity.

This intervention was also in line with the values and perspectives of several parties and other groups, and we’re still continuing the progress of these changes a week later. Happily, we can report that our intervention related to sustainable agriculture (not intensification!) was spot on and is now a relatively ‘hot topic’ within the contact groups. Success! It’s good to feel that we’re on the right track. Unfortunately for the results of the COP, this issue is still unresolved.

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GYBN Evening Team Meeting | Photo by IISD/ENB | Francis Dejon

Treaties among parties are complicated and multifaceted. A main topic that continues to arise relates to inequality and funding disparity among developed and developing nations. For instance, last week some debate arose about subsidies and incentives for ecosystem protection and restoration. The debate was led by Nicaragua, opposed by Zambia, Norway, Switzerland. We have spent a lot of time discussing the integration of mainstreaming biodiversity within the CBD COP with other recent agreements (e.g. Honolulu Declaration, UNFCCC Paris Agreement, World Parks Congress, & CITES).

 

The mainstreaming issue continues… we will let you know how the discussion ends!

 

Hasta la próxima,

The GYBN

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What is happening in Cancun should be impossible

by Thomas McAuley-Biasi, Canada
It’s been a week since the 13th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity officially started, and while I could take this time to beautifully sum up everything that’s happened, I’m not going to do that.  This is for two reasons: 1. So I can shamelessly plug our live updates on twitter (@GYBN_CBD), where you can get these types of updates in real time, and 2. Because discussing which brackets were and weren’t removed doesn’t make for the most compelling of blog posts.  What I want to talk about today is more big picture.
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At this very moment, members of 196 parties have come together from across the globe to talk about biodiversity- a term that, arguably, less than 50% of the world knows and understands.  They are spending tons of time, money, and resources to make sure that the correct policies and plans are made in order to protect, sustain, and mainstream biodiversity across our planet- once again, something most people don’t understand- and that’s incredible.  Furthermore, 196 parties are all coming to agreements.  Think about that for a second.  My family can’t agree on what movie we all want to watch, and that decision will only affect what we do as a family for somewhere between 2 and 3 hours.  These decisions affect close to 7.5 billion people, and will affect them into the foreseeable future.
So yes, a lot of what happens at COP13 deals with brackets around single words, sentences, and paragraphs.  And brackets aren’t engaging as a topic in a blog.  The words within those brackets, and the discussions they produce, however, should be.  Almost 200 countries argued about the inclusion of “for example” over “inter alia”, “in particular”, and “such as” for close to an hour.  That’s two words in a document containing 3,188 words.  And that’s only one document.  There are about 115 documents currently on the site, all which of have passed, or will pass, over everyone’s eyes, and need to be agreed upon.  We might look at those 8 words I previously mentioned and think that they’re all the same (or maybe think, “what the hell does ‘inter alia’ mean”), but they’re not, and their minute differences become much larger when you take into account the varying cultures and languages that these words will affect.
From the meeting happening at all, to the fact 100s of people, representing thousands of people, representing billions of people, can come to any agreements at all, is something truly special.  So even if, from an outsider’s perspective, these discussions, negotiations, and brackets may seem tedious, just remember that this entire process is anything but boring.

Tracking policy negotiations at COP13: A quick rundown

by Mika Tan, Singapore

What does it mean to track biodiversity conservation policy at a UN meeting?

At the 13th Conference of the Parties (COP 13) to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), the “negotiating text” (i.e., policy decisions that governments negotiate) is being discussed in two “Working Groups” 1 and 2, each handling about half of the topics, or “Item”s, in the negotiating text. Working Groups (WGs) have their discussions in “plenary” sessions in giant halls that look like this:

blogpost1  Plenary hall where all country delegates, intergovernmental organizations, and NGOs (including youth) negotiate the text. Seen here is the plenary hall from the Youth seat (“Jóvenes” is “Youth” in Spanish, since we are hosted by Mexico). Photo Credit: Thiemo Karwinkel

This COP, the negotiations for CBD-associated Protocols are also merged: the Nagoya Protocol (NP) on Access and Benefit-Sharing and the Cartagena Protocol (CP) on Biosafety. It was decided that WG 1 will cover the topics that are more cross-sectoral and relevant to the CBD and the Protocols.

This means that in one plenary session, Items from the CBD, NP, and CP are up for discussion and our team has to be very on top of things to keep up with the negotiations!

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Screen shot of an example agenda in each Working Group. Notice that WG 1 includes Items in the Nagoya Protocol and the Cartagena Protocol (and in other days CBD as well), but WG2 only contains CBD Items.

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Our amazing dedicated policy team members masterfully tracking negotiations in Working Group 1. Featured here are two social media team members who live tweet main happenings in English and Spanish. From left: Melina Sakiyama (Brasil), Michelle Pazmino (Ecuador), Bharath Kolan Reddy (India), James Kaliisa (Uganda), Amelia Arreguín Prado (Mexico), Miyuki Ando (Japan). Photo Credit: Bharath Reddy

Tracking then means that we listen and note down what country delegates and other organizations are saying about the particular Items. Sometimes these statements they make are more general, highlighting the importance and urgency of, for example, addressing sources of marine litter.

Other times the statements are about specific words and phrases used in the negotiating text, because every word that finally gets agreed upon by all Parties (i.e., countries that have signed the CBD or the Protocols respectively) is legally binding.

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In the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, “indigenous peoples” is a recognized, legal term that has been defined and the definition agreed upon by all Parties. Hence, if “indigenous people” without the “s” were included in the negotiating text and agreed by the Parties, it would not hold the same legal obligations as “indigenous peoples” would. Words matter!

Often, if Parties cannot agree on an issue in the plenaries, they move in to “Contact Group” sessions which are smaller informal negotiations. At the CBD, NGOs and non-Parties are usually allowed to enter these Contact Group rooms to observe the progress of negotiations, which can run late into the night.

After the sessions, our hardworking team then prepares a succinct summary for each topic, which we will be sharing in future blog posts. Keep an eye out for them!

Hasta luego,

The GYBN

 

Call for Applications – GYBN Delegation to SBSTTA-20 and SBI-1

Join the GYBN Delegation to SBSTTA-20 and SBI-1 in Montreal from April 23 to May 8!

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We have some good news to share with you all: After several months of hard work by the GYBN Steering Committee we are very happy to inform you that we have secured some funding for a small group of youth from the Global South to join a GYBN delegation to the upcoming SBSTTA-20 and SBI-1 meeting in Montreal.

Depending on the final costs for travel and accommodations, we expect that four (4) places will be available. The delegation will join the negotiations in Montreal, Canada from April 23 to May 8 2016 in order to form a group of change agents for Biodiversity conservation.

The primary goals of this project is to provide young people from a wide variety of backgrounds that are working on Biodiversity issues and that are between 18 and 30 years old with an opportunity to speak up for their generation at SBSTTA-20 and SBI-1. By enabling them to play an active role in the CBD-process, we are aiming to build capacity among young people so that they can contribute to the implementation of the Convention and the achievement of the Aichi Biodiversity Targets. Knowledge and experience gained through this opportunity can then be brought back to their countries, communities and organizations.

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Candidates must demonstrate outstanding commitment to Biodiversity issues in the past as well as a strong track record of voluntary activities in youth organizations and must possess at least a basic understanding of international negotiations. Experience with the CBD-process as well as relevant expertise and knowledge about the items on the agenda of SBSTTA-20 will be an asset.
Ideally, to ensure a good transfer of experience, the delegation should consist of two experienced members who have been to CBD-meetings before and two first-timers.

To join the delegation, please fill out this form until Sunday, March 20th at 23:59 Montreal-time (EDT/GMT -4).
http://bit.ly/gybn-delegation-sbstta20

Please note that due to our donors funding guidelines this opportunity is restricted to youth from the Global South.

If you are a young person from the Global North and you wish to participate in SBSTTA-20 and SBI-1, we are unfortunately not in a position to support your participation financially. However, GYBN is committed to enabling youth from both the South and the North to take part in CBD-meetings. All interested youth from the Global North are most welcome to get in touch with the GYBN focal points Melina Sakiyama (melina.sakiyama@gmail.com) and Christian Schwarzer (christian.schwarzer@gmail.com) and we can try to find other non-monetary ways to help.

Good luck for your application!

Your GYBN Steering Committee

 

SELECTED BACKGROUND INFORMATION ABOUT SBSTTA-20 and SBI-1

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I. What is SBSTTA?
The Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice is one of the CBD’s two permanent subsidiary bodies and is meeting on an annual basis.
SBSTTA’s mandate is to provide:
•    assessments on the status of biodiversity
•    assessments on the efficiency of measures taken under the CBD
•    advice on any question that the COP may direct at it
•    identify new and emerging issues and decide whether these fall under the scope of the Convention or not.
Although SBSTTA was originally conceived as purely scientific advisory body, with the expanding workload and scope of the CBD it has evolved into a platform for political negotiations that plays a crucial role in the preparation of COP. At the end of each SBSTTA session, delegates agree on so called SBSTTA-recommendation, which are suggestions for decisions to be adopted at COP.
SBSTTA has met 19 times so far and adopted 201 recommendations for the COP. For more detailed information about SBSTTA, its mandate, proceedings and structure please check out: http://www.cbd.int/sbstta/

II. What is SBI?
The creation of the CBD’s second permanent subsidiary body has only been recently agreed by parties at COP12 in Pyeongchang in October 2014. The Subsidiary Body on Implementation (SBI) is the successor of the Ad-Hoc Open-ended Working Group on the Review of the Implementation (WGRI), which existed from 2004 to 2014 and met five times.
SBI’s mandate is:
•    to review the implementation of the convention
•    to provide advice on how the implementation of the CBD can be enhanced
•    to develop recommendations on how obstacles to the CBD’s implementation can be overcome
•    to develop recommendation on how mechanism, that support the CBD’s implementation, can be strengthened
•    to review progress towards the implementation of the CBD’s Strategic Plan 2011-2020
•    to prepare proposals on how the achievement of the Strategic Plan’s targets can be advanced
SBI is also responsible to provide advice on the implementation of the CBD’s protocols, namely the Cartagena Protocol and the Nagoya-Protocol. For more information about SBI, please visit: https://www.cbd.int/sbi

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III. Why is it important to participate in both SBSTTA and the COP?
If you want to influence the process, it is of crucial importance that you start your advocacy work as early as possible!!
By the time the COP convenes it is quite often already too late: At this point in time almost all decision have already been discussed in great detail, parties have exchanged opinions and text has been drafted on most issues. At this stage it is quite difficult to push for major changes in a negotiating texts and extremely hard if not impossible to introduce new issues or aspects. So the later you start your advocacy activities the smaller your chances that your voice will be heard and your perspective considered!
SBSTTA and SBI are the platforms where all major COP decisions are being prepared by parties and where actual discussion are taking place, so this is really the point where you should be present and lobby for your issues!
Furthermore, now – in the weeks before SBSTTA! – is the time when most parties are preparing their positions for SBSTTA, so if you can – get in touch with your country’s respective
CBD focal point or national delegation, set up a meeting and discuss your issues with her/him!
You can find all contacts to national focal points here: http://www.cbd.int/convention/parties/list/ (just click on the name of country)

IV. Rationale for Youth Participation at SBSTTA and SBI
Civil Society – including youth! – is being recognized as an official major group and important stakeholder of the CBD, so it is your explicit right to make your voice heard!!!
If any party to the CBD should hesitate to take youth serious, please make them aware of Decision XI/8 on “the engagement of other stakeholders and major groups” (http://www.cbd.int/doc/decisions/cop-11/cop-11-dec-08-en.pdf, page 3) which officially recognizes the importance of youth participation in decision making process on all levels.
The paragraph on “children and youth” has been introduced by GYBN youth delegates at COP11 in Hyderabad and was adopted by ALL parties without changes.

V. Logistics and Visa
SBSTTA-20 is scheduled to take place from April 20 to 29 and SBI-1 will be convened between May 2 and 6.
Both meetings will be taking place in Montreal, Canada.
If you need a visa for Canada and if you are accredited for the meeting already, please get in touch with the CBD Secretariat at secretariat@cbd.int to receive a Visa Support Letter.

If you should face any problems during the visa application process or if your visa should get denied, please contact Melina and me and we will check how we can support you!

VI. Coordination of GYBN Youth Delegates
If you are planning to take part in SBSTTA-20 and/or SBI-1 as a youth delegate please fill out this form so that we can connect you with other youth representatives and coordinate our efforts. Thank you!
http://bit.ly/gybnsbstta20

VII. Important Documents

SBSTTA-20
Provisional Agenda:
https://www.cbd.int/doc/meetings/sbstta/sbstta-20/official/sbstta-20-01-rev1-en.pdf

Annotated Agenda: https://www.cbd.int/doc/meetings/sbstta/sbstta-20/official/sbstta-20-01-add1-rev1-en.pdf

Official Documents: https://www.cbd.int/doc/?meeting=sbstta-20

SBI-1
Agenda: https://www.cbd.int/doc/meetings/sbi/sbi-01/official/sbi-01-01-rev1-en.pdf

Annotated Agenda: https://www.cbd.int/doc/meetings/sbi/sbi-01/official/sbi-01-01-add1-en.pdf

Official Documents: https://www.cbd.int/doc/?meeting=SBI-01

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Don’t miss this opportunity! Join the GYBN delegation to SBSTTA-20 and SBI-1 and submit your application until Sunday, March 20th at 23:59 Montreal-time (EDT/GMT -4)!