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COMMUNIQUE OF THE AFRICAN GROUP IN THE MEETING OF THE 5TH CONFERENCE OF THE PARTIES OF THE CONVENTION ON BIOLOGICAL DIVERSITY

15-26 May 2000, Nairobi, Kenya

Preamble

Bearing in mind that almost 90% of the economic life of Africa is based on biological resources;

Noting that approximately 90% of the biodiversity in Africa lies outside protected areas;

Recognising that the sustainability of use of natural resources is a precondition for the continuation of life in all its diversity of genes, species and ecosystems;

Further recognising that unless biological resources continue to contribute to human survival and prosperity in a tangible way, the prospects for taking the measures necessary for biodiversity conservation and sustainable use in Africa are bleak;

Recognizing that the use of biodiversity must become sustainable in all of its consumptive, non-consumptive as well as commercial components;

Mindful of the fact that the farming communities of rural Africa are the generators and managers of its agro-biodiversity wealth, that its local communities are the managers of its biodiversity wealth, and the generators of the knowledge and technologies that have sustained, and continue to sustain, Africa;

Aware that all this wealth of biodiversity, knowledge and technologies is now being unfairly appropriated by external private agents, depriving Africa of immense benefits that could contribute to its development;

The African Group at the Fifth Meeting of the Conference of the Parties of the Convention on Biological Diversity, held in Nairobi, Kenya 15-26 May 2000, calls upon all Parties, Governments and international organisations to:

1.      Give priority attention to the development in terms of trained human, institutional and infrastructural capacity to conserve and sustainably use biodiversity for its development;

2.      Give priority attention to

(a)    poverty eradication, since the sustainable use of biodiversity and the environment is impossible in conditions of abject poverty; and

(b)   environmental education and awareness raising, especially among the policy makers and technocrats, since uninformed decision-taking is the main cause for policies, laws and management systems that are not conducive to the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity and the environment for accelerated development;

3.      Reorient sectoral policies and programmes to become components of a holistic system for the sustainability of both accelerated development and improved environment;

4.      Further examine appropriate opportunities and measures within the Convention on Biological Diversity, the Convention to Combat Desertification and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, to strengthen their complementarities and improve scientific assessments of ecological linkages between the three conventions and their combined implications for Africa's sustainable economic and social development;

Access and Equitable Sharing of Benefits, and Protection of Community Rights and Farmers' Rights

5.      Foster the leadership of local communities in the effective management of biodiversity and, in general, the environment, by ensuring their participation in all decision-making on the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity and the environment as integral components of development, starting from the household level all the way up to the national level;  

6.      Enact national laws, which will put into effect the African Model Legislation for the Protection of the Rights of Local Communities, Farmers and Breeders and for the Regulation of Access to Biological Resources, endorsed by the OAU in its Summit of 1998 in Ouagadougou, the provisions of which are designed to

(a)    recognize Community Rights and Farmers Rights over their biodiversity, knowledge and technologies; and

(b)   ensure that access to biological resources and the equitable sharing of benefits arising from the use of such resources are in accordance with the fundamental principles and objectives of the Convention on Biological Diversity;

7.      Congruent with the recognition of Community Rights, build upon the richness of Africa's existing socio-economically useful biodiversity, knowledge and technologies to contribute to sustainable development and not to look for complete de novo importation of all components of development;

8.      For enhancing the effectiveness and fairness of service from the wealth of community biodiversity, knowledge and technologies, ensure that the benefits derived from the sustainable use of this wealth accrue to the local communities who have generated and conserved that wealth, and who still continue to generate, conserve, manage and sustainably use it;

Patenting of life and the TRIPS Agreement

9.      Protect the rights of the local communities and their wealth of biodiversity, knowledge and technologies from piracy by through continuing to fight to have Community and Farmers' Rights internationally recognised, inter alia, by:

(a)    continuing with, and supporting, the good work begun by the African Group, the Like-Minded Group and the Least Developed Countries in the WTO to have TRIPS, and in particular, its Article 27.3(b), revised (see attached document), to the effect that:

(i) the patenting of life forms, including plants, animals, microorganisms and biological processes, shall be prohibited; and

(ii) any sui generis law can provide for the protection of the innovations of indigenous and local farming communities, consistent with the Convention on Biological Diversity and the FAO International Undertaking on Plant Genetic Resources;

(b)   further strengthening the position of the African Group, the Like-Minded Group and the Least Developed Countries in the WTO, with regard to their proposals for harmonising the provisions of the TRIPS Agreement with that of the Convention on Biological Diversity (see attached document); and

(c)    examining carefully, and carrying out consultations, especially with local communities, on existing and proposed laws on intellectual property rights, especially those aimed at implementing TRIPS so as to maximise room for national development, as well as, the expression and implementation of Community and Farmers' Rights;

Arid, Semi-arid and Dry Sub-humid Areas

10.  Pay particular attention to the vulnerability of the genetic, species and ecosystem diversity of arid, semi-arid and dry sub-humid environments, which are extensive in Africa's semi-desert, savannah, Mediterranean and montane areas, and include such vulnerable biodiversity in national Action Plans to combat desertification, thereby establishing complementary cross-linkages between the Convention on Biological Diversity and the Convention to Combat Desertification towards more effective implementation of both Conventions and their better contribution to sustainable development of the African continent;

11.  Pay attention to the growing relative shortage in amount and deterioration in quality of inland waters, especially in arid, semi-arid and dry sub-humid areas, as well as the reduction in their biodiversity, especially to the negative impacts of salinisation and consequent loss of soil fertility and biological productivity, noting that in light of the observed adverse climatic changes, this problem is likely to grow with time;

Coral Reefs

12.  Take heed of the COPV decision on coral reefs and particularly, coral bleaching and the socio-economic concerns of communities most impacted by such bleaching;

13.  Provide the necessary assistance to affected Parties in the implementation of the said COPV decision;

14.  Take special note of the recognition of climate change as a primary cause of coral bleaching and to pursue the issue in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change;

Forest biodiversity

15.  Make up for the lack of effective action on forest biodiversity taking into account the fact that once removed, many forest species do not re-establish easily, and thus, to develop, with the effective participation of local communities, as comprehensive programmes of forest regeneration and conservation as possible at the national level, and to push for a global enabling condition for forest biodiversity conservation and sustainable use through their representatives in the SBSTTA of the Convention on Biological Diversity, in the Intergovernmental Forum on Forests and in other fora;

16.  In deciding on the conservation of biodiversity, give appropriate emphasis to the whole spectrum, including genetic, species and ecosystem diversity, and thus, conserve and sustainably use the diversity of ecosystems and their components. To this end, though still keeping the current focus on endangered species, also focus on genetic, species and ecosystem diversity so that these components do not become endangered, and if already endangered, are saved and restituted;

17.  Develop environmental databases including information on biodiversity and associated community knowledge and technologies, but to ensure their security so that these databases are not used to facilitate piracy by privatising external interests, especially through the use of unaware or corrupt or corruptible nationals;

Agro-biodiversity

18.  Build on the sustainability dimensions of farming community agriculture by incorporating selected modern scientific and technological inputs to create agricultural systems of enhanced degrees of sustainability, in particular by:

(a)     learning from African polyculture techniques to increase agro-biodiversity and adaptability to the vagaries of weather fluctuations and soil fertility variability;

(b)     using ecological functions of species appropriately combined in space and sequenced in time to maximise soil fertility and water availability as well as to minimise vulnerability to pests and weeds;

(c)     appropriately combining various technologies that, individually, give incremental advantages that add up to significant levels rather than cure-all, simple but expensive single solutions which, if they fail, can do so dramatically, thus hurting the poor rural African equally dramatically;

(d)     therefore, not going into large-scale use of imported seeds and other propagation material by small-holder farmers before these have been tried and found to perform statistically significantly better than farmers' varieties in many locations and over several years; and

(e)     taking particular care to protect farming communities from having the essential inputs they need for their agricultural production controlled by foreign-based firms, which are, because of the fact, unlikely to be sensitive to problems associated with weather and market fluctuations;

19.  Coordinate their political pressures bilaterally and internationally, and especially through various appropriate fora under the Convention on Biological Diversity and the FAO, to push the industrialised countries that collected much of Africa's genetic resources during and immediately following colonialism and now insist on continuing to retain this ill-gotten loot, into accepting that those genetic resources be governed by the provisions on access and benefit sharing of the Convention on Biological Diversity as legitimate resources of the African countries from where they were originally taken;

Alien species

20.  Develop the human and infrastructural capacity and the legal and administrative systems required to prevent the unregulated introduction of alien species, which can be, and have often been, devastating, and to carry out adequate research and impact assessment before introducing any alien species into the territories;

Biosafety

21.  Sign, and as quickly as possible, ratify the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety so that it may come into force as soon as possible;

22.  Clarify the issues of liability, redress, restoration and compensation in relation to the Biosafety Protocol, and further, develop and harmonise liability and redress measures for damage arising from the transboundary movement of living modified organisms (LMOs) at the regional level;

23.  Also in the meantime but continuing into the future, to prepare capacity development programmes, including training, equipment, legislation and administrative capability to regulate, monitor and control genetically modified organisms, and to this effect, present their timely request for support to the Global Environment Facility and to other international and bilateral donors;

24.  Since genetically modified organisms, once released into the environment cannot be prevented from transboundary movement, coordinate legal and administrative systems for implementing the Protocol, and to this end, discuss and develop further the Biosafety model law developed by the OAU and use it as the basis for national laws and, building on the effective unity of purpose and global leadership already shown during the negotiations of the Protocol, develop an African Biosafety Union;

25.  Immediately ban the Terminator Technology from respective national territories and thus, from the whole of Africa, as intolerable politically, economically and ethically and in terms of safety of plant life, and in the future, be constantly on the look out for unacceptable products of biotechnology;

Taxonomy

26.  Since taxonomy is the most basic science for the identification and characterisation of Africa's wealth of biodiversity, develop taxonomic education and research and, to this effect, use the Global Taxonomy Initiative as well as other bilateral and international cooperative agreements for the conservation and sustainable use of Africa's biodiversity; and

Financial and Technical Support

In light of the above, the African Group:

27.  Appeals to the United Nations system, to international organisations and to bilateral donors to support, in the spirit of Agenda 21, countries, to be generous in their technical and financial support to African countries, especially with regard to capacity building; and

28.  Appeals to the GEF to support African countries financially to have better coordination through the office of their GEF Councillor, and to develop and implement programmes and projects to operationalise the decisions in this communique.

 

 


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