mexico Agua Azul waterfalls

Friends of the Earth International is part of the CBD Alliance, a group of about 400 members of organizations and social movements around the world that represent the voices of civil society in the discussion processes of the Convention on Biological Diversity. The following is the CBD Alliance’s statement analyzing the decisions taken by the 196 member countries at the Convention at the COP 13, in Cancun, Mexico.

December 17, 2016,

Cancun, Quintana Roo, Mexico

Today, we face a state of emergency, biodiversity is being lost at alarming rates. Mainstreaming is supposed to ensure that all sectors include biodiversity in their decision-making processes. The current decision seems to be more about bringing the interests and concerns of other sectors into the Convention. This seems to reflect the ever increasing openness towards the stakes of business, such as profit and access to resources, at the CBD.

It is proven that it is farmers, livestock keepers, fishers, forest dwellers, indigenous peoples and women who produce food while nurturing and protecting biodiversity. However, what we see is a push to further intensify agriculture, based on the use of chemical pesticides and fertilizers in large-scale monocultures of a few species. This is not sustainable.

We are disturbed that tourism and so-called eco-tourism are being promoted at the CBD, when tourism is actually having serious negative effects. It is heavily reliant on increasing aviation and other infrastructure. Tourism also negatively impacts biodiversity and indigenous peoples, through exploitation of their cultures and sacred sites.

Indigenous peoples
The role of indigenous peoples and local communities in fostering biodiversity is vital. They defend ecosystems from threats, including mining, mega-infrastructure, etc. They have suffered severe human rights violations as a result, including militarization of their sacred lands. Indigenous Communities Conservation Areas have proven to be the best protection of ecosystems.

We are pleased that they have succeeded in achieving recognition of the right to Free Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC). In future COPs we support the IIFB in their request that Parties take their rights fully into account when decisions are being taken and that their voices are invited and respected.

We note that the discussions about valuing biodiversity continue to involve attempts to put a price on biodiversity. As Oscar Wilde said, a cynic is “a man who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing”.
The Precautionary Principle
The Precautionary Principle is fundamental to the CBD process and is no barrier to innovation, as claimed by some. Destructive impacts on biodiversity and health have occurred in the past when it was not applied. We should bear this in mind when further developing synthetic biology, gene drives or new generations of GMOs as well as novel chemicals.

Risk assessment on synthetic biology and gene drives
On biosafety, the common denominator between parties was unfortunately too low to protect biodiversity, ecosystems, livelihoods or human health. As result, new guidance on risk assessments of LMOs may only be available, if at all, in 4 years, including on organisms produced with synthetic biology or on GM fish. Prioritizing financial gains and trade interests played a key role in this process.

However, we want to thank parties for highlighting the global concern about Gene Drives in decision L34, and the call for precaution and risk assessment on these new organisms, although this does not sufficiently address the threat that they may be an aggressive and destructive force against biodiversity. As for digital sequences, they have finally been firmly put on the agenda, even though the COP failed to take a decision that could have stopped digital biopiracy.

We welcome that the CBD has re-affirmed its moratorium on climate-related geoengineering, particularly since geoengineers are falsely claiming that these high-risk technologies for manipulating the climate are needed to fulfill the Paris agreement.

Implementation of National biodiversity strategies and action plans (NBSAP)
National Biodiversity Strategies and Action Plans (NBSAPs) are the principal instruments for implementing the Convention at the national level. But only half of the Parties actually have NBSAPs.
NBSAPs should be adopted at a high political level, provide policy rather than guidance, and involve synergistic implementation with other biodiversity related conventions.
Implementation also involves monitoring, reporting, enforcement, and accountability. There is no point in ratifying and then ignoring agreements. Parties should fully implement them.

Other concerns
The choice of Cancun as a venue for the COP points to some serious contradictions. It represents an economic model that is destructive to biodiversity and to Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities and has to change.
The high costs at the resort marginalized and excluded many developing country delegations and civil society organizations.
They further struggled to deal with the parallel process of a COP and 2 protocols at the same time, through too many contact and informal groups.
Finally, we have seen unacceptable levels of bullying and harassment at this COP. We should all be here to listen to each other, and to build decisions together that lead to a better future for biodiversity.

Further information:
Press contact:
Cecilia Navarro, tel. 52 55 54540678, email:
CBD Alliance at COP 13

Main image: Agua Azul waterfalls, Mexico © Erre/Flick CC