UN biodiversity talks resume in Geneva: what’s at stake and what the IPC is doing there
By Mariapaola Boselli, IPC WG on Biodiversity Facilitator
16 March 2022
The agenda for the third day of the meeting, Wednesday 16 March 2022, saw the discussion of key issues for the IPC Working Group on Agricultural Biodiversity.
In the morning, delegates discussed the second set of targets of the Global Biodiversity Framework, namely targets 9 to 13, which are supposed to “Meet people’s needs through sustainable use and benefit-sharing“.
The current targets are unlikely to set the conditions for meeting people’s needs, especially with regard to food security.
IPC has also on this occasion collaborated with many allies of the CBD Alliance, a group that is giving great support to the IPC delegates who are always facing several difficulties related to the total lack of interpretation in most meetings. Thanks to great teamwork, IPC delegate Gisela Illescas Palma, a small-scale producer in Mexico whose cooperative produces coffee with an agro-ecological and feminist approach, strongly expressed IPC’s positions on GBF target 10, concerning agriculture, aquaculture and forestry.
IPC and the other Alliance organisations reminded all parties present that agriculture, aquaculture, fisheries and forestry must be managed sustainably. Agroecology must be the main approach because it supports systems that use indigenous seeds, varieties and landraces, particularly those managed by smallholders, Indigenous Peoples and local communities, women and youth. Their rights must be protected, including safe access to land, water and sea.
We also call for a reduction in the areas devoted to monoculture and industrial production in agriculture and forestry, and that the concept of sustainable or ecological intensification is not actually acceptable.
In the afternoon the delegates faced another important discussion regarding Agriculture and Biodiversity in the Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice (SBSTTA).
Also in this case, IPC’s position is clear: in the document that the CBD Secretariat provided, concerning the plan of action 2020-2030 for the International Initiative for the Conservation and Sustainable Use of Soil Biodiversity, there is no mention of agroecology; secondly, small-scale food producers, as identified by UNDROP, are not recognized.
The Action Plan should emphasise the fundamental role of Agroecology and dynamic soil management, which small-scale producers and Indigenous Peoples have been carrying out for millennia and which are key to restoring, maintaining and developing soil biodiversity.
Tomorrow will be the last day that IPC delegates will be in Geneva to fight for biodiversity, the rights of Indigenous Peoples and small-scale food producers, and food sovereignty, but our work doesn’t end tomorrow: the meeting will go on until 29 March and we will follow it virtually, confident that the comrades we have worked with and supported this week will continue to work with us, even if we are back in our homes, fields, and offices.
15 March 2022
The IPC Working Group on Agricultural Biodiversity entered into full swing in the last negotiation before CoP15 and the approval of the next post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework that, for the next 10 years, will be the international instrument to which Parties should refer and implement at national level to achieve global targets to protect and conserve biodiversity.
Already in these first days, some problems regarding the process are evident: the Parties and the Observers find themselves negotiating a text that was presented by the Co-Chairs of the process in the past months and that collected the various positions that the Parties presented in the past months, even if with a non-final character given the decision to proceed with the real negotiations only in presence and not through online tools that, indeed, have deeply limited the participation of many Parties, especially from the African region, and of many observers, as it also happened at the IPC. Neither the text nor the methodology used can be considered as adhering to the real negotiations of these last months.
As was the case two years ago, we are also witnessing deliberate attempts by some Parties to the Convention to slow down the process, so as not to have a real negotiation on the targets and to arrive at the COP with a document that has not really been negotiated and that, in all likelihood, will reflect the positions of the Parties who, for political and economic reasons, have the power to steer the processes in the direction most favourable to them.
During the Contact Group on Targets 1-8 of the Global Biodiversity Framework, some crucial issues were discussed, but even Parties did not have a chance to speak as more than 10 Parties had their right to speak postponed until the next Contact Group meeting, scheduled for Saturday 19 March.
Among the most problematic issues that were addressed yesterday, we find the attempt to increase the number of protected areas, up to 30% of marine or terrestrial areas placed under this protection.
While this may seem very positive at first glance, in reality these areas often become state-run places which, as is often the case, use this pretext to expel Indigenous Peoples, Local Communities and small-scale food producers who have inhabited these areas for millennia and protected and strengthened their biodiversity through their seed systems and traditional knowledge.
The IPC wants to remind us that it is crucial to recognise and support the role of IPLCs as stewards of ecosystems by increasing the area under their management. It is necessary to expand the areas sustainably managed by IPLCs and local food-producing communities, ensuring that their human, cultural, social, economic and environmental rights are respected and protected. Protected areas often result in land grabbing or exclusion from areas that are fundamental to the food supply of many, such as marine protected areas that exclude small-scale fishers.
Unfortunately, the IPC, nor other allied organisations, had the opportunity to speak.
We will continue to build relationships with allies and supportive Parties to continue to advance the positions of small-scale food producers and Indigenous Peoples, who not only have the right to continue living where they have always lived, but who should have access to additional areas because of their irreplaceable role in protecting biodiversity and, therefore, global food security.
14 March 2022
It has been more than two years since an IPC delegation met in person. That was at the end of February 2020, in Rome, for the second working group on the post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF), the global policy framework for biodiversity protection that is due to be endorsed by the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) later this year, and implemented in national policies to try to halt the huge loss of biodiversity we are facing.
We, the WG on agricultural biodiversity, are now in Geneva, Switzerland, to attend the third meeting of the GBF Working Group. We will also be attending the 24th meeting of the Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice, a subsidiary body tasked with providing assessments on the state of biodiversity and the compliance of adopted policies with the Convention, and the third meeting of the Subsidiary Body on Implementation, a body whose purpose is to monitor the effective implementation of the Convention and its Protocols.
The IPC delegation on this first occasion will be composed mainly of representatives of peasant and indigenous organisations from Latin America and the Caribbean, specifically Mexico, Guatemala and Brazil. Unfortunately, the difficulties that still affect travel have prevented our delegate from the African region (Burundi) from joining the team.
The stakes are high at this meeting: the outcomes of these consultation and review meetings will be reported to CBD COP15, scheduled for next August in Kunming, China. Our delegation will work hard in the coming days, including with our allies, to secure support and guarantees that the next global biodiversity framework does not follow the failed path of the Aichi targets.
We will work on the Global Biodiversity Framework to ensure that the positions of the peasant and indigenous movements are recognised and taken into account. Ssmall scale food producers and Indigenous Peoples have been protecting and enhancing global biodiversity for thousands of years, while we know for sure that among the major drivers of biodiversity loss there is the agro-industry and the industrial fishing, human activities that have not only devastated global biodiversity, eliminated unique ecosystems and polluted the land and water, but are also the cause of ongoing repression of human rights, denial and cultural appropriation of Indigenous Peoples and local communities, and the theft of ancestral and sacred places. In addition, industrial food production systems have failed in what they promised to do in the first place, which is to ensure food security. In the last two years, the food production industry has demonstrated all its shortcomings, limitations and lies, making it clear that small-scale producers have not only succeeded in feeding communities, creating places of support not only for food but also for people, but have also managed to expand food production and distribution thanks to the support of people who, because of lockdowns, have found themselves in a position to cultivate, as happened in Mexico, in the community of Gisela, one of the coordinators of the WG on agricultural biodiversity.
The approval and implementation of the GBF is already seriously behind schedule due to the obstacles that the pandemic has put in the way of negotiation, yet the current text does not seem to perceive the great urgency we are experiencing now, leaving targets still vague and without any precise commitment on the actual timing of implementation.
Two years ago, the WG on Agricultural Biodiversity reminded to a crowded room – not yet aware of what would happen two weeks later – that the GBF and Parties’ targets were already late, that 2030 was already yesterday.
Two years have passed, very hard for everyone. In the coming days we will have a chance to see whether the urgency with which civil society is calling for a decisive change of course towards sustainable production systems that do not harm biodiversity and do not violate human rights has been taken up by the Parties to the Convention. If not, the 2050 vision of “Live in harmony with nature” (with, or within?) will be very difficult if not impossible to achieve.