Day 1 - May 16: CBD Capacity Building Day
Ahmed Djoghlaf (Executive Secretary, SCBD): Mr. Djoghlaf opened the session by stating the three aims of the CBD: conservation, sustainable use, and the fair and equitable sharing of access and benefits. He said that civil society and NGOs are key stakeholders in this process and that a strong partnership of local communities, indigenous peoples, youth, and all sections of society is needed to ensure that the views of all stakeholders are heard, represented, and implemented. He also stated the need to engage the private sector in this effort, and make the statement that the business norm has to change, and that we will not buy environmentally unfriendly products. He stated the need to establish a universal global alliance for the CBD, and to focus on this from now to 2010, which is the International Year of Biodiversity. He urged all NGOs and local communities to seize 2010 as a year of events to remind people of the importance of protecting life and biodiversity. Mr. Djoghlaf stated that the environment agenda needs to be addressed politically, and this will require strong international support. He said that the issues of climate change and biodiversity won't be solved by technology alone, and need to be part of the political agenda. He mentioned the ‘Green Wave' event, to be held on May 27th, where schools were to plant a tree on or near school grounds.
Following Mr. Djoghlaf's speech, Guenter Mitlacher, from the German NGO Alliance, thanked the attendees, organizers and presenters. He said that acknowledging the role NGOs is very appropriate, since they have always supported the CBD. Jessica Dempsey of the CBD Alliance said that they look forward to closer collaboration with all. This was followed by a round of introductions among the participants. Jessica then thanked the Equator Initiative, and introduced Elspeth Halverston, of EI. Elspeth talked briefly on EI and its work. This was followed by an open mic session. A representative from the World Rainforest Movement talked about their campaign against monocultures. She said that the WRM were giving a letter to the delegates, signed by over 100 organizations, asking to please not liberate GM trees for mass plantation, and to stop monoculture tree plantations. An Austrian mountain farmer said that her group was campaigning against selling out people's resources to private companies, and that they had a position paper on this, and were meeting on the 19th to mobilize on this issue. Juan Chavez from AIDER, Peru, (an EI prize winner) said that indigenous peoples in Peru need to engage in environmental politics, since there are 12 million ha of land in Peru which are under public development. He said that they need to reach a consensus on how to manage forest developments. A South African representative from the Global Forest Coalition said that they are trying to build a network of contacts for Africa. A Senegalese participant talked about the importance of women's roles in protecting the environment and biodiversity. She said that all women should work together, and should create jobs and inform women on the concerns and issues of biodiversity.
Christine von Weizsacker (Ecoropa): Christine began by presenting some basic information on the CBD and its history. She said that in 1992, highly industrialized countries identified the importance of biodiversity (including its importance for business), and less developed countries included the need to address equity and use issues. The objective on sustainable use was therefore added to the Convention, as was the need to share benefits. She mentioned that the only countries that have not ratified the Convention are USA, Somalia and Iraq. A current area of contention/debate is the negotiations on access and benefit sharing. In the early history of the CBD, the word ‘Party' was changed to ‘country'. This has important implications since countries (unlike Parties) are not bound to negotiations/decisions on access and benefit sharing.
Christine offered some advice to the participants. She said that the CBD has the highest degree of actual participation, and that the possibilities for intervention are very high. She stated that it was important to read the texts and identify the political hotspots, and intervene either indirectly (through delegates) or directly. She said to keep comments slow and short, and to the point that was being negotiated. She also warned the participants that though this was an important task and experience, there would be political games, industry and co-opted science, and ‘dirty actors' posing as NGOs and scientists; but there would also be decent delegates with good mandates. She mentioned African delegates and small island states as the mainstay of the Convention. Christine said that within 3-4 days civil society participants would know whether or not being a part of CoP was their task. She said that even if they decided that this was not their task, they would now know how to bridge with those people who would serve them during these negotiations.
During the Q&A session that followed, a participant asked for clarification on the status of ‘party' vs. ‘country', and how this relates to the issue of access and benefit sharing. Christine replied that access and benefit sharing relates mostly to the issue of genetic resources. Currently, it is ‘access to all countries', not only countries that are obliged to the Convention. This means that countries (mainly the US) feel free to access genetic resources, but don't adhere to guidelines on access and benefit sharing, using the excuse that these are voluntary. A second question asked why there is more civil society involvement in the CBD. Christine replied that the CBD has 3 objectives that make it clear that you have to include the real experiences of people who live sustainably. The CBD was not decided by environmental experts, but more by civil society. Civil society can talk to the point on the issue being negotiated. Article 8(j) concerns the obligation to recognize and protect the knowledge and innovation of IPs and local communities. She said that the culture-building process had been strong and convincing and had influenced the official process. She advised that the way to take part in the process was through strong action outside, and diplomatic action inside. The next question was on how to put pressure on the USA to ratify the Convention. Christine replied that the only way to apply pressure is to say that there should be no access without compliance with benefit sharing requirements. Since there is a market advantage to those not signing, we need to find a way to prevent the USA from taking advantage of being a non-Party. The next participant asked for more details on how Africa is the mainstay of the Convention, and also why the USA is against the Convention. Christine responded that African countries wrote the model law on biosafety, and passed the first model law for access and benefit sharing, which provided the substance for others. She said that the African delegations pull the international community in the right way. They have good joint delegations, with well prepared, powerful speakers with good positions. As for the US, she said that it would not change its position while it could access resources freely without having to share benefits. The next participant commented that big players and big industries are being granted free access by governments to exploit natural resources and impose conditions on local and IPs. He said that indigenous interests are poorly considered, and therefore IPs need to put forward a consolidated position stating that they do not want patents awarded at their cost, and that they do not want any negotiations about certain issues. Christine said that this described the politics of the next two weeks, and the difficulties and solidarity needed. She warned that many NGOs and scientists were in league with big business and that IPs need to have the right to say ‘no' to access. She said that the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and every single international agreement, needed to be used to say that indigenous and local peoples' position is not naïve or uninformed; they are aware of the contentious politics, and are in solidarity. Christine emphasized that IPs need to defend their right to say ‘no' to access, particularly in the context of the extreme land grab under way for agrofuels, food production, and conservation. A participant from Peru emphasized the importance of a strategic bottom-up alliance in order to make governments understand the rights of indigenous people over their land. CvW made a point of warning regarding the characterization of land by government and industry: the terms ‘degraded', ‘underutilized', and ‘waste-land' are traditionally used by them to describe land that is extensively used by local and indigenous communities and pastoralists. These terms do not honor the land or the people, but are used by those who want to co-opt the land for their own purposes. CvW stressed the importance of not allowing outside agents to characterize the land used by local and indigenous communities as such.
Patrick Mulvany, Practical Action: PM's talk focused on how to deal with the initial confusion of attending a CoP for the first time, the mechanics of the CBD CoP process, and some basic information on the structure of CoP documents. He began by inviting representatives from the International Collective in Support of Fishworkers (Chandrika) and SEARICE (Cheche) to share their memories of their first CoP. Chandrika recalled her group's first CoP experience as being very confusing. She advised new participants to find a support structure to help them in engaging with the process. In her case, Patrick, the CBD Secretariat and the CBD Alliance had proved very helpful. Cheche from SEARICE said that her first CoP was a blur; it was only by her third and fourth CoP that things started falling into place, and she was able to relate the CoP more to issues on the ground. She said that understanding the CoP process does not happen overnight; it makes more sense if one has grounding in what's happening in one's community. By the same token, one has a big responsibility to bring back what happens at the CoP to one's own community.
Patrick continued his talk by emphasizing how essential it is to maintain linkages between communities and the CBD process, and the importance of reminding delegates of the moral high ground of the Convention. In this context he mentioned the Captain Hook awards for the worst acts of biopiracy (capthookawards.org). He then went on to provide information on the structure of the CoP process. This included the use of acronyms, the SBSTTA process, the meaning of bracketed text, the types of participants at CoP, the role of the Bureau, and the process of negotiations and meetings. He reiterated that the CoP can be a very confusing process if one has not been involved in previous negotiations leading up to it. There is also more opportunity to engage in influencing official documents if one has been involved in the work at the national and regional level.
A representative from the World Rainforest Movement mentioned how difficult it was to make statements on behalf of civil society, and stated that one's presence at the CoP did not necessarily mean that one's voice would be heard. In her experience, one's voice was heard more through demonstrations. PM responded by saying that the avenues of communication at the CoP are not restricted to the linear process of formal negotiations. The skill is to find the right moment to make the right kind of intervention. He advised participants to choose the best candidates to make interventions, and to avoid duplication. He also mentioned the ECO newsletter and the numerous side events as rich sources of information and discussion.
PM went on to describe the different elements of official CoP documents, and the process by which they are reviewed by Parties and civil society. This was followed by questions from the audience. The first question was on whether the US is allowed a vote, considering it is not a signatory to the CBD. PM stated that the influence of the US is huge, that it sends a large delegation to CoP, sits in on most meetings as observers, and that it operates through proxies. A Ugandan lady asked what could be done to prevent the US and rich nations from entering other countries, evicting people, and taking resources. PM responded by stating the importance of witness. In the case of patenting human life and genomes, he gave the example of an individual - whose genome had been patented without his consent - who came to the CoP and said "They have taken my body". PM highlighted the Community Dorf as a fantastic opportunity to get witness from those directly affected. He spoke of the Community Dorf as a venue to influence the decisions of delegates and high level officials. A gentleman from Ethiopia described an incident where he criticized the SCBD's actions, saying that the SCBD did not support the right of his group to comment on an issue under debate. PM commented that it was ironic that the SCBD will call NGO activities and statements disturbing, when these are in fact in defense of people and biodiversity, but won't make the same statement to industry that's harming people and biodiversity. He stated that we need to reclaim our language, our voice, and the moral high ground.
Joji Carino (IIFB): Joji gave an introduction to the IIFB, which is a caucus for indigenous participants to strategize and coordinate how best to be effective in the CBD. The IIFB uses the days prior to the conference to clarify and exchange positions, write out statements, and prepare for the conference. She gave a brief history of the IIFB, and outlined its areas of focus, which center on issues pertaining to Article 8(j) and its related provisions. She informed the audience that indigenous participants meet two days before the conference, and then every day during to coordinate their positions. During meetings, the participants are divided into working groups on various issues. The meetings are open to all indigenous and local community participants.
Joji's talk was followed by questions from the audience. A participant from India asked about funding for indigenous participants who wish to attend the CoP. Joji replied that the CBD has a voluntary fund (whose main donor is Spain) where IP's can apply for funding to attend meetings. She said that this year the indigenous caucus consists of approximately 130 participants. Another participant asked about CEPA (communication, education, and public awareness). Joji replied that CEPA is a cross-cutting area of work of the CBD, and has been identified by IPs as the greatest priority in the next few years in order to make sure that governments implement the CBD. Its aim is to ensure that education on the CBD is increased in indigenous and local communities, societies and schools. CEPA ‘training for trainers' will be offered to trainers in different regions. The IIFB has selected around 3 trainers from each region (approximately 25 trainers) to receive this training. The next question regarded parallels between CEPA and UNESCO's ‘Decade of Education for Sustainable Development'. Joji said that UNESCO's work in this field is similar and complementary to the CBD's work, and that each environmental agreement is doing its best to spread awareness of its work. CEPA is more specialized regarding the issues of sustainable development and education as they relate to the CBD.
Jessica Dempsey, CBD Alliance: JD introduced the work of the CBD Alliance, which is a loose network of representatives from all civil society organizations. Its purpose is to facilitate more diverse, coordinated input from civil society to the CBD process. There is no membership and it is open to all. The list serve is the primary form of communication between civil society groups. The Alliance also facilitates inter-session communication amongst civil society, works with the SCBD to continue and expand the openness of the Convention, and conducts some fundraising to support some participation in meetings. JD provided information on meetings scheduled for CoP9. These included preparatory sessions (on the weekend before the opening of the conference) on substantive issues at the CoP, with the aim of drafting a civil society statement for the plenary session. She also mentioned a press conference scheduled for Monday, May 19th. She informed the participants that the Alliance as well as the IIFB would be holding daily morning meetings, at the same time and next door to each other. JD also mentioned the ECO newsletter, brought out by the Alliance, which is distributed to the delegates and is widely read.
Eileen de Ravin and Esther Mwaura (Equator Initiative): EdR gave a brief description of the work of the Equator Initiative, and stated its goals of rewarding grass-roots innovation in biodiversity conservation and poverty reduction, and encouraging South-South collaboration and dialogue. She announced that the Equator prize nominations were open till the end of May. She also mentioned the role of the Community Knowledge Service in fostering South-South exchange on a continuing basis.
Esther began her discussion by asking the participants a few key questions: How many of them had been to large international meetings? What was the biggest obstacle to participating that they faced? What was their expected contribution to that meeting? Esther summarized the responses by saying that there was a general desire to share experience and expertise, and bring information back to the communities; however, protocol barriers prevent sufficient time for this. She said that the Equator Initiative, realizing that indigenous people have a great deal of expertise, decided to create a space for communities to share their expertise in an organized way. The Community Dialogue Spaces offer an extensive amount of time for participants to share experiences. They facilitate meetings with high-level personnel, and help participants identify areas of intervention and develop a collective voice. Esther spoke about how the Equator Initiative has promoted innovations from the ground, and how winners of the Equator Prize are given the opportunity of coming to the Dialogue Space to share their expertise. She invited all the participants of the workshop to the Community Dorf. A participant from Costa Rica asked if there was a way to share information and innovations among participants. Esther said that the Community Dorf had an open space for sharing, and to register if one had an innovation to share.
Esther's talk was followed by Chandrika, from the International Collective in Support of Fishworkers, who briefly outlined the work of the Collective. She then introduced a representative from the World Forum of Fisher Peoples, who spoke about their work and mission. Chandrika followed with some comments on how to influence the process of the CoP. She said that to do this one has to influence the language of the documents. For this purpose, it is important to participate in regional processes, and see that local communities are represented. Representation in these processes has not been easy in the past because of limited space and sponsorship. The key issue of access has to be recognized: since the CBD gets very limited funding for sponsoring participants, those organizations who can afford to fund participants can then influence who gets access to these processes. Chandrika mentioned the issues that the Collective was following with respect to the CoP, and said that they had prioritized one or two issues, since it was not possible to follow every issue. Their main focus is on Protected Areas, and the marine biodiversity Programme of Work.
Patrick Mulvany welcomed the representative from WFFP, and said that they represented an important caucus. He asked how WFFP perceived their ability to work with the CoP, and what kind of useful outcomes they perceived from being in the CoP. The WFFP representative replied that they represent the marginalized voice of fisherfolk, and their aim in being here was to learn, and to begin to make their presence globally felt. He said that the needs and challenges of these communities need to make their way into CoP issues, particularly with respect to marine and coastal issues. The impact that WFFP wanted to make at this particular point, at the CoP, was to argue for spaces to be created for debate on these issues to continue, and for mechanisms to be put in place to allow their communities to be involved. There were a few comments from participants following this. One participant stated, in the context of Protected Areas and benefit sharing, that it was important to have a consensus and state it firmly, since outside ‘experts' were keen to exploit differences among IPs and communities.
Pernilla Malmer, SWEDBIO: Pernilla's talk focused on the ways in which civil society can influence the CoP process. She began by talking about her own role, and that of SwedeBio. She then described daily life in a delegation, and made the point that delegations are always very busy, vary a lot in size, and that even within a delegation there are different opinions. It is therefore very important to understand who is who within a delegation, and who the expert on what issue is. It is important to find an entry point in your delegation to take your message forward. Pernilla spoke about the long process that was required to reach a consensus within delegations, a process which culminates in the CoP. She advised the participants that if they wanted to influence the process, they would have to start much earlier, since at the CoP most positions have already been decided. Pernilla presented the results of an informal survey she had conducted among the delegates: The most immediate responses were: 1) delegates regretted that they had so little time; 2) they were looking for concrete, usable, text proposals, with a good argument and a short background. Pernilla said that the best entry point for participants was within their own country delegations. She advised them to meet their delegations, and introduce themselves. Different country delegations have different views of civil society participation, but most countries appreciate contact; their main constraint is time. Prunella said that in order to create a positive relationship with delegations it is important to try and find common ground, while recognizing different viewpoints. You need to impact those who are not in agreement. Even if you think differently, it is the dialogue that will move things forward. It is also important to understand how different groups of countries/political constellations work together - it makes it easier to make the right arguments. It is necessary to coordinate civil society as much as possible. It is also essential to bring back decisions to one's own country, and fight for implementation.
During the Q&A session after Pernilla's talk, a participant asked whether there was a venue for the exchange of know-how on the monitoring of the implementation of CBD decisions. Pernilla replied that different countries have different conditions/states of implementation, and that there are many networks that are doing serious preparation work on this, and are presenting their findings at the CoP. She said to start with the CBD Alliance to see how they will follow-up on the decisions of the CoP, and get support/advice for one's own particular country. A participant from the Solomon Islands (Nelson Bako) said that countries like his were worst affected by climate change, were wondering and waiting to see what would happen to them, and were apprehensive of saying anything more against industrialized countries. Another participant spoke about supporting consumer activism.
Martin Keiser, Greenpeace International: Martin spoke on the evolution of the Programmes of Work (PoW) on forests and protected areas. Regarding the PoW on Forests, he listed three points that would probably dominate the discussion: 1) illegal logging, driven by the forestry, industry and agricultural sectors; 2) the participation and rights of indigenous and local communities; and 3) the links between forests, biodiversity, people and climate change. The forestry and agriculture sector together account for 1/3rd of greenhouse gas emissions. He said that climate negotiators need to be aware that forests are more than just carbon - they represent biodiversity, life, and the homes of people. He also mentioned the issue of agrofuels for consumption among the rich as an issue that would be a hot topic. Regarding the PoW on Protected Areas, he spoke about Greenpeace's stance that PAs need to protect biodiversity and the rights of local communities from industry. He also said that there was a need to go beyond small scattered PAs here and there. A critical area of hot debate would be the criteria for establishing PAs in the high seas, since this involves a number of sectors, including the whaling and military sectors, as well as the issue of rights over international waters. He stated that this was a key issue for the CoP because it was not only a question of biodiversity in the oceans, but a question of food for people, since ocean fish stocks are being increasingly depleted due to industrial fishing.
Martin's talk was followed by questions. A Kenyan participant spoke about the destruction of main forests in Kenya, which has affected the water system, and asked whether there was any punitive action in the CBD to deal with this. Martin replied that 3 points under negotiation related to this question. The first issue is how to strengthen governance on the ground, and the best avenue to address this is by strengthening domestic laws. The second issue focuses on how, in cases related to PAs, to strengthen protection and make it live on the ground. The third issue is how to support these measures financially on the ground. A Ghanaian participant spoke about the illegal timber industry in Ghana, and said that this was largely the work of industrial companies. He asked what it is in the Convention that allows transnational companies to do this. Also, regarding the issue of PAs, he asked why the issue of marine and coastal freshwater was not dealt with, though the issue of PAs comes up repeatedly. He asked whether there were any best practices to share. Martin responded by saying that we need to change the Convention from being an ineffective policy discussion to one that makes a difference on the ground. He said that as far as PAs go, there are a lot of good examples of win-win situations where both people and biodiversity have benefited, and that it is important to expand these successes into areas where this doesn't happen.
David Cooper, SCBD: David spoke on how civil society can be involved in the CoP process. He said that the CoP should be looked at in a broader context, and that action has to be at the national and local level overall. Forest laws, for example, can only be enforced at the national level. At the national level, the instruments for implementing the CBD are the National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plans (NBSAPs). Nearly all countries have these, and they have proven to be very motivating, because community members are working in government agencies to implement these decisions. David gave the audience the following pointers: 1) Work/engage with people in your own countries. Probably the biggest role of civil society is back home, through consumer activism, holding governments accountable, supporting governments' implementation, etc. 2) Since the CoP represents the culmination of a long process, some things can only be influenced over a longer period of time.
David explained the value of the CBD by saying that it is: 1) a legal instrument to set international norms and standards; and 2) a huge forum for people working on biodiversity to express their views, demands and statements. The margins of the official discussions can also be very important to affecting current and future discussions. Regarding how to influence the process, he offered the following advice: The channels available to make inputs here and now at the CoP include: 1) Formal statements: The NGOs have an opportunity at each session to make statements, at the discretion of the Chair. Unfortunately this happens after countries have made their own statements, so there is limited impact. He urged NGOs to join forces when making statements. 2) Distribution of NGO materials, which are read by delegates. 3) He urged participants to have discussions with and lobby their national delegations, which is often one of the most effective ways of influencing the process.
The general advice David offered was that one needs to be clear about what one is trying to achieve. The aim might be simply to disseminate information, or make general principles and statements. However, if the aim is to amend a draft decision, it is necessary to be as specific and precise as possible, and to also recognize that one can't make major changes at this stage. He also said that the side events are important in influencing these discussions, and in the longer term. He concluded his talk by saying that one can do a lot more work back home in raising awareness, holding governments accountable, and working with the media. He said participants should make contact with their national focal points while at the CoP, and should keep up that contact.
John Scott, SCBD (Focal Point for Indigenous and Local Communities): John said that IPs and NGOs need to focus on the unconverted, which is very difficult, and that the Focal Point is a resource to help them. His brief introduction was followed by questions for both him and David. A participant from the Indian NGO, Kalpavriksha, asked what the SCBD did when it received information on governmental non-compliance. She also asked if there was a place to get information from other civil society groups on the state of implementation. David responded by saying that the SCBD could not intervene in such situations. They don't have the mandate to monitor compliance. Since governments react to internal pressures, these issues should be raised at home. Regarding comments on the implementation of Progammes of Work, all organizations' comments are valid and should be made available. If this is not being done, the SCBD should be informed, and they will look into it. John commented that the 4th National Report was due soon, and that Parties should be strongly encouraged to include civil society participation. Another participant commented that Northern countries should increase their awareness of CBD issues, and also asked how civil society can help ensure the implementation of binding recommendations, when there is no obligation to implement these. David replied that civil society action is effective in raising awareness, and that international agreements are tools in this process. Regarding enforcement, the SCBD cannot enforce compliance, they can only try and make the process more transparent, through reporting requirements etc. In order to assess compliance, countries need to report on what they're doing, and civil society needs to raise the alarm if these reports are not fully representing reality. John commented that yes, it was very important for consumer societies to address the issues related to the CBD.
Following this, the audience voluntarily divided up into small groups, each small group discussion being led by a facilitator from a particular NGO. After the small group discussions the workshop was closed, with thanks from all panelists.