Conflicts of interest between States and local communities on the question of ‘development and nature’ have been a perpetual concern during the past decades, with solutions eluding and none ready to step back.
By Salam Rajesh
The year 2020 was supposed to be a ‘super year’ for biodiversity with several important and significant global events scheduled throughout the year to deliberate on biodiversity issues but quite unfortunately the Covid-19 pandemic disrupted everything, limiting discussions to virtual and hybrid events in miniscule platforms. During 2021, the emphasis is being set on prioritizing focus on the post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework which is set to design work plans at global and local contexts to meet exigencies on biodiversity loss in the backdrop of the projected climate change crises. The first draft of the Framework for public scrutiny was released on July 4 earlier this month by the UN Environment Programme and the Convention on Biological Diversity.
The post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework basically aims at in facilitating the implementation of the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity (2011-2030) through activities at the national level, with supporting actions at the subnational, regional and global levels. This prioritization is designed to ‘galvanize urgent and transformative action by Governments and all of society, including indigenous peoples and local communities, civil society, and businesses, to achieve the outcomes it sets out in its vision, mission, goals and targets’.
Biodiversity loss is a recurrent topic for multi-layered discussions at various platforms, right from the grassroots up to the highest level of global platform at the United Nations and its various subsidiary bodies. Biodiversity loss is attributed to several factors of which the most pervasive is human activity in large scale, negative in context and which in both short and long terms induces extensive loss to biodiversity rich areas and the extinction of species.
Biodiversity loss is intrinsically linked to the processes of desertification, greenhouse gas emissions and finally rebounding in the concerns on global warming, and thence to extreme weather conditions that threatens life on planet Earth.
The post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework builds on the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity as outlined during this decade simultaneous to the broad theme of the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration (2021-2030), and sets out an ambitious plan to ‘implement broad-based action to bring about a transformation in society’s relationship with biodiversity and to ensure that, by 2050, the shared vision of living in harmony with nature is fulfilled’.
The speed in which ecosystems have been devastated, some beyond redemption, by human processes have raised the question on the very existence of life on this planet, whereby biodiversity loss and the corresponding impacts visibly had induced processes that are making life difficult for all. Extreme weather conditions that are attributed to climate change processes have ravaged nations globally – increasing instances of severe cyclonic storms, wildfires, cloudburst floods due to incessant rains, freak hailstorms and snowfalls, and many more.
The Framework is simultaneously outlined in contributing to the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in tune with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, focused in its seventeen goals targeting achievements on several fronts including better living conditions for humans, safer refuge for the wildlife, and in addressing the climate crises. It also is focused on the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD)’s broad theme on “Living in harmony with Nature by 2050” which captures the urgency in restoring ecosystems to reduce pressures on both nature and humanity.
The Framework puts forward a ‘theory of change’ philosophy that basically assumes that ‘transformative actions are taken to: (a) put in place tools and solutions for implementation and mainstreaming, (b) reduce the threats to biodiversity, and (c) ensure that biodiversity is used sustainably in order to meet people’s needs and that these actions are supported by enabling conditions’.
The CBD’s broad thematic campaign on “living with harmony with nature” outlines an underlying urgency for humans to retrace the steps taken to devastate nature for pure commercial gains – destroying forests, peatlands, wetlands, mangroves, grasslands, and many other aspects of natural landscapes in the name of development. The contradictory views on ‘destructive’ development and nature have been at the forefront of intense discussions during the past years, often inflicting extremities in the stance taken by governments on the one hand and by communities on the other hand.
Conflicts of interest between States and local communities on the question of ‘development and nature’ have been a perpetual concern during the past decades, with solutions eluding and none ready to step back. Indigenous peoples and local communities throughout the globe have resisted developmental processes that seek to have tremendous negative impacts on land and people. The UN has since recognized that lands that are managed and controlled by indigenous peoples and local communities (IPLCs) have fared much better than those under the States’ oversee.
This defines the UN’s priority and new-look strategy on giving emphasis on the role of IPLCs in managing biodiversity rich areas, which otherwise are traditionally managed by the IPLCs as their “territories of life”. The forests provide food, shelter and building material for the IPLCs, and therefore they are concerned that the forests do not die. The forests become synonymous with their living and existence, and so it is a priority for the local people to save, protect and manage the forests sustainably.
In Manipur, too, there are growing activity amongst IPLCs to protect and manage the forest lands in their backyards, concerned with issues on food and water security while also addressing biodiversity regeneration and rejuvenation of the wildlife. The Dailong Biodiversity Heritage Site in Tamenglong district and the Phayeng Carbon Positive village in Imphal West district are good case studies in this regard. This is in keeping to the global concerns on bringing back the past glory of forests and other natural landscapes to their original status. It also concerns the global campaign on ecosystem restoration to address climate emergencies.
“Living in harmony with nature” is a long term strategic campaign to re-look into how nature sustains life, and to achieve this it is very much essential for humans to respect nature in the best sense of the word. Respecting nature can be interpreted as re-wilding depleted forest lands – letting forests to regenerate healthily, bringing back the corals to life again, and restructuring natural landscapes once more in the way they were – thriving with life and supporting the existence of plants, animals, and humans.
Quite significantly, the vision of the Framework is of a world living in harmony with nature where, “By 2050, biodiversity is valued, conserved, restored and wisely used, maintaining ecosystem services, sustaining a healthy planet and delivering benefits essential for all people”. The vision runs parallel with the UN’s concern and the urgency in meeting the deadline of the Paris Climate Agreement which broadly states that the world has to control and limit the rise in global temperature by 2050 to avoid catastrophe.
(The writer is a media professional working on environmental issues. He can be contacted at [email protected])Strategizing action plans, biodiversity beyond 2020