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Looking At 2023 And Beyond With Renewed Hopes

FILE PHOTO: A dugout canoe rally from Langolsabi locality of Champu Khangpok floating village along the Yangoi Maril up to Liklai Karong where the Nambul River meets with the Nambol River

The expectation from the Manipur Government in the year 2023 and beyond, in line with the several discussions happening at the global context, is to reconsider seriously on reworking a policy that would address biodiversity conservation on priority basis.

By Salam Rajesh

Amidst the negotiations on global biodiversity conservation to secure many things vital for humankind – regenerating vitality of ecosystems to avail ecosystem services of forests and wetlands, regeneration of plant and animal lives, food and water security, sustainable livelihoods, and many others – the scare of the killer virus that stumped the world during 2020 and 2021 once more returns to haunt mankind.

The year 2023 is about to commence with a bleak message for humankind, unless nature is respected and cared for with loving hands the resulting effect could destroy humans at the blink of an eye. Communist China is already in the grip of the dreaded virus, killing almost five thousand people in a single day. The outflow of the virus threatens to choke the world community once again in the year 2023 and beyond.

To avoid climate catastrophe and the occurrence of human-induced pandemic – such as which devastated life during 2020 – the United Nations has been on the edge crying hoarse for the world community to pay heed to the warning signs that are quite evident, so much as the coronavirus has created havoc for human society in the modern times.

The discussions and negotiations that took place during this year and last year – Paris, Glasgow, Panama, Kunming, Montreal – relatively urge upon the world community to speed up the decisions on safeguarding nature to prevent things from getting out of hands. The Global Biodiversity Framework negotiations that took place at Montreal in December (2022) shifted venue from Kunming in China due to the impact of the killer virus.

Fundamentally speaking, one of the significant targets proposed for discussion at the Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF) negotiations at Montreal was focused on implementing a broad biodiversity-inclusive ‘One Health’ approach which would pay heed ‘especially on the risks of the emergence and transmission of zoonotic diseases, to avoid or reduce risks to the health of humans, wild and domesticated species, and ecosystems’.

Quite importantly, the GBF’s Target 20 sets the context of biodiversity conservation with local communities participation effectively, stating to “Ensure that the best available data, information and knowledge, are accessible to decision makers, practitioners and the public to guide effective and equitable governance, integrated and participatory management of biodiversity, and to strengthen communication, awareness-raising, education, monitoring, research and knowledge management and, also in this context, traditional knowledge, innovations, practices and technologies of indigenous peoples and local communities should only be accessed with their free, prior and informed consent, in accordance with national legislation”.

Relatively important, too, is Target 21 of the GBF, wherein the focus is to “Ensure the full, equitable, inclusive, effective and gender-responsive representation and participation in decision-making, and access to justice and information related to biodiversity by indigenous peoples and local communities, respecting their cultures and their rights over lands, territories, resources, and traditional knowledge, as well as by women and girls, children and youth, and persons with disabilities and ensure the full protection of environmental human rights defenders”.

In an equal footing, Target 22 of the GBF seeks to “Ensure gender equality in the implementation of the framework through a gender responsive approach where all women and girls have equal opportunity and capacity to contribute to the three objectives of the Convention, including by recognizing their equal rights and access to land and natural resources and their full, equitable, meaningful and informed participation and leadership at all levels of action, engagement, policy and decision-making related to biodiversity”.

Meantime, in line with the GBF negotiations, concerned organizations like the Survival International, Amnesty International, Minority Rights Group International (MRG) and Rainforest Foundation UK called for giving priority to the “recognition and protection of collective and customary land tenure systems of Indigenous Peoples, guaranteeing their rights to lands, resources, self determination and to free, prior and informed consent, as required by international human rights agreements”.

The organizations further called for “Recognizing the rights of other subsistence land-users to be protected from forced evictions, to enjoy an adequate standard of living, and to be consulted on all decisions impacting their rights. Focus on ensuring that all threatened species and ecosystems are adequately protected, rather than just increasing Protected Areas. Adequately address the underlying drivers of biodiversity loss”.

This later statement has a sordid reflection on the recent notifications of the State wherein the identification and reinforcing of the Protected Areas status were issued and which since has resulted in a stand-off between the State and the local communities. The valid argument on giving priority to ‘free, prior and informed consent’ of local communities with regard to State’s schemes of things need to be considered seriously by the Government in ensuring a healthy debate on biodiversity conservation to achieve ecosystem services vital to humans.

In brief then, the global negotiations certainly speaks of the concern to rope in Indigenous peoples and local communities in the herculean task of bringing back nature to its near natural status, keeping in mind the devastations that had already taken place in many parts of the world and which fundamentally are said to have certain influence on the processes of global warming and other climatic phenomena.

Thus, in the year 2023 and beyond, the global focus is hard linked to the rejuvenation of ecosystems to a level where the processes of mass depletion is halted and nature leaps back to a condition whereupon humans and the wildlife can have a breather from the threats that are real.

The expectation from the State Government in the year 2023 and beyond, in line with the several discussions happening at the global context, is to reconsider seriously on reworking a policy that would address biodiversity conservation on priority basis.

At the same time, the concern would also call for respecting the fundamental human rights of the local people while pursuing ‘developmental’ schemes, so that instead of inflicting conflicts of interest the focus would be on a partnership model that can contribute enormously to the global concern on ecosystem restoration to help Earth leap back to its natural self.

(The writer looks at environmental stories through the journalistic lens. He can be reached at [email protected])


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