International Biodiversity Congress Calls for Policies to Shift to Biodiversity-based Ecological Civilization

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THIRUVANANTHAPURAM:
The International Biodiversity Congress (IBC 2018), organised as a joint initiative of Centre for Innovation in Science and Social Action (CISSA, Thiruvananthapuram), Navdanya (Dehradun), Forest Research Institute (FRI), Indian Council of Forestry Research and Education (ICFRE, Dehradun), Uttarakhand Biodiversity Board, Uttarakhand Council for Science and Technology, and Wildlife Institute of India (WII, Dehradun), in Dehradun from 4th to 6th October 2018, has put forward the following recommendations

Recommendations
Shifting to Biodiversity-based Ecological Civilization

IBC requests to initiate and encourage a dialogue among relevant stakeholders of biodiversity, including civil society organisations and farmers, to chart out programmes to facilitate a shift towards an ecological civilization that value, cherish and conserve biodiversity to achieve sustainable development goals, both at national and international platforms. Necessary polices may be adopted by the governments across the world to establish a legal and policy framework that initiates a shift towards biodiversity-based civilization that facilitates green, low-carbon, and circular development and economy, promote afforestation and protect the remaining ecosystems and ecosystem services, strengthen wetland conservation and restoration, promote and promote organic nutrition-rich farming practices, and to ensure stronger action against those who debilitate the environment.

Need for new alliances for a better living planet

IBC recommended launching of new networks and alliances at national and international platforms to promote the philosophy of “Vasudhaiva Kudunmabakam” (One earth one family), with expanded awareness and education packages. IBC requested the leaders from science, media and politics to serve as ambassadors to carry forward the concept of ecological civilization at global levels. The effective use of media, incorporating the potential of social media, should also be ensured to carry forward the philosophy of ecological civilization. It requested the government to integrate biodiversity based ecological civilization in the planning process at all levels, and recommended establishment of a Council for Ecological Civilization in order to integrate the activities towards achieving United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UNSDGs) proposed for the year 2030, as most of the goals including achieving food security, mitigating climate change and conservation of biodiversity are directly linked with UNSDGs.

Biodiversity based livelihoods

As the government has already announced adoption of the concept of sustainable development in planning process, it is high time to put the concept of biodiversity and related livelihoods as central principles of all developmental process. In order to address the issue of biodiversity loss, IBC forwards the need for landscape-level management of wilderness and human-impacted areas and community involvement in conservation initiatives. IBC also requested for developing new food scapes in cities and villages, primarily using resources from the local areas and by promoting the good food culture.

Extending the process of EIA

Recognize in national development plans (including poverty reduction programmes and EIA procedures) the importance of the use and conservation of biodiversity in agro-ecosystems. This necessitates integration of approaches across government departments dealing with rural development, food security, poverty reduction, environment and climate change. The efforts to mainstream biodiversity into sectoral strategies need to be based on how each sector impacts biodiversity provides ecosystem services and help reach the biodiversity targets. The incorporation of biodiversity conservation programmes in Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme should be widened and monitored for its efficacy.

Agro-biodiversity

The genetic diversity of agricultural crops should be better documented and the lesser known food crops of the country should be fully utilised to achieve food security. Community owned seed banks should be established at local levels for the conservation of genetic diversity. On-farm conservation of traditional varieties of crops should be promoted through financial support and subsidies. There is an urgent need to phase in biodiverse, organic farming and in the initial phase farmers engaged in organic farming should be supported by the government. Local expertise may be developed for value addition of the agriculture and fishery products.

Towards organic Himalaya

Besides similarity in talk and action, developmental models with maintaining the integrity of nature should be exchanged across the world so as to ensure conservation of biodiversity of the mountain ecosystems in general and Himalayan state, in particular, for a healthier society, and cleaner and greener world. To begin with, the model of the Sikkim state being 100% organic should be adopted and replicated in other Himalayan states so as to ensure the ecological stability and food security for future.

Transparent and fair labelling of food and other products from biodiversity

IBC demands transparent and fair labelling of food, agricultural products and other valude added products from biodiversity so as to ensure the rights of the consumers and to prevent the misuse of biodiversity.

Preventing Erosion of Genetic Resources

In order to prevent the rapid erosion of genetic diversity, IBC demands strengthening on-farm conservation initiatives of indigenous varieties of flora and breeds of fauna, with proper recognition of and incentives for farmers and pastoralists involved.

Climate Change

Biodiversity has so far served as the feedstock for sustainable food and health security and can play a similar role in the development of climate resilient farming and livelihood systems. In order to prepare for fighting climate change it is the need of the hour to have elaborated high quality data and information on climate, and on environmental, ecological and social systems affected by climate changes. The adaptation and mitigation measures should be partnerships with communities, individuals, and the private sector to frame effective measures to reduce the impact of climate change. Special attention should be given to the islands. IBC also recommends synergies between climate mitigation strategies and development policies in areas such as energy efficiency, fuel substitution, renewables, afforestation, and land and waste management.

Knowledge Generation, Education

Equitable sharing or rather democratizing of knowledge is an important challenge the society is facing. There is an immediate need to implement nation-wide “Biodiversity Literacy Programme” based on ecological civilization in order to spread the message of biodiversity and its conservation.

Improving Science Policy Interface

Increased communication between scientists and policy makers through programs like capacity building seminars for policy makers, people’s representatives, bureaucrats and PRIs. Expert committee Reports and studies commissioned by government of India should be made accessible to all. Scientific as well as traditional knowledge about ecosystem and habitat should inform restoration. It should not be seen simply as re-vegetation by fast growing exotic species.

Intellectual Property Right (IPR), Traditional Knowledge (TK) and Biopiracy

A Review and Reform of the IPR Regime is an imperative need. This is to ensure Life, Life Forms and the Traditional Knowledge and Practices associated with Biological Diversity, are kept totally out of its purview, and should not be subject to any IPR. As a matter of fact, a few amendments to the Patents Law had ensured this, but it needs to be explicitly enacted though in all other IPR policies and laws. The conventional approach of opposing illegally taken patents in the patent offices abroad proves to be largely ineffective in stemming the tide of biopiracy and instead harness the legal weight of Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in the courts of law of offending countries. It is unfortunate that the CBD article 15 on Access and Benefit Sharing (ABS) that was exactly formulated to render biopiracy an international offense has not been invoked in a court of law even as the country is losing patents to unscrupulous foreign multinationals at a rapid rate. The issue of biopiracy must be brought to the Conference of Parties (CoP) and its subsidiary bodies. The National Biodiversity Authority (NBA) must vigorously pursue the cases of biopiracy of the recent past as well as the current ones.

Protected Areas

There is an urgent need to increase the Protected Area Network in India. The marine and coastal protected areas are poorly represented in the country and therefore more areas should be brought under PA network. Recognizing the role of ocean biodiversity in carbon storage, promoting blue economy, and food security, systematic and scientific efforts are needed for its judicial exploitation, and sustainable and utilization. Further, considering the increased frequency of coral bleaching in Indian waters, urgent steps are required for effective monitoring of sea surface temperature and restoration of coral ecosystems.

Sustainable life styles

There is need to change lifestyles of the citizens across the globe. Strong emphasis must, therefore, be given on hand print instead of foot print as range of climate friendly traditions and practices could promote more sustainable life styles, production and consumption of biodiversity. Sustainable livelihood programmes must also focus on skill development for biodiversity conservation. Reskilling and upskilling of professionals is also needed to maintain the biodiversity outside the forests. More emphasis should be given to the principle of resilience, human and social values, cultural values, and food, nutrition and health in remote areas should be linked to the biodiversity. The law of ecological returns should be followed and emphasis should be given on Gross Happiness Index (GHI) rather than GDP.

The children who participated in the Future Leaders of Biodiversity Summit of IBC initiated a campaign to reduce their foot prints and increase their hand prints for better life in the planet.

About 1,000 delegates and biodiversity experts from India and abroad attended the historic event at the Forest Research Institute, Dehradun. The IBC was inaugurated by Chief Minister of Sikkim, Pawan Kumar Chamling. Presenting the successful model of 100 per cent organic state and its resultant multifarious socio-economic and ecological benefits in his inaugural address, Pawan Kumar Chamling highlighted the need to exchange of the developmental models across the world with maintaining the integrity of nature besides similarity in talk and action so as to ensure conservation of biodiversity of the Himalayan state and mountain ecosystem worldwide for healthier society, cleaner and greener world. In his broadcasted inaugural message, Union Minister of Commerce, Industry &Civil Aviation, Suresh Prabhu emphasized the role of ocean biodiversity for storage of carbon and food security.

Lectures were presented in theme topics such as Biodiversity Crisis: Challenges & Way Ahead, Legal Framework for Protecting Biodiversity; Mountains, Ecosystem Services and Sustainability of Fragile Mountain Ecosystems; Biodiversity For Food, Nutrition & Health, Biodiversity; Climate Change and Planetary Health, and Towards Eco-Civilization Vasudhaiva Kutumbam. Twenty seven lectures were presented in the plenary session. Five parallel sessions were conducted on 5th and 6th October 2018, where 103 participants made oral presentations in five parallel technical sessions (Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, Legal and Knowledge Systems, Threats and Conservation Strategies, Agro-ecosystems and Food Security). The sessions were chaired/co-chaired by eminent experts in the field.

Chief Minister of Uttarakhand Trivendra Singh Rawat was the chief guest at the Valedictory Session, on 6th October 2018. Rawat complemented the organisers for selecting “Vasudhaiva Kudumbakam – Towards Ecological Civilization” as the focal theme of the IBC 2018, and opined that “we live in a world where pluralistic thinking and networking are essential not only for the conservation of biodiversity but also for mitigating the threats, especially from issues such as climate change. It is the rich variety of life on Earth that is essential for the welfare and prosperity of people today and for generations to come. India, as a mega biodiversity country can plan for and dream for any developmental activity only taking into account the rich biodiversity that we have, which ensures all the services of nature. It also ensures the food security, livelihood security and nutritional security of the people.

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