13th Global Biodiversity Forum an Example of Teamwork Among Union Consituents
Compiled and adapted by Rocío Córdoba
Volume 1, No. 3

In response to the call issued in the Global Biodiversity Strategy, the World Conservation Union (IUCN), the World Resources Institute (WRI), the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the African Centre for Technology Studies (ACTS) and other organizations created the Global Biodiversity Forum (GBF) to design appropriate mechanisms for promoting analysis, discussion and debate on key ecological, economic, institutional and social issues related to the maintenance, sustainable use and fair and equitable distribution of biological resources.

The purpose of the GBF is to enhance the development and implementation of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and other biodiversity instruments at the local, national and international levels. These forums complement intergovernmental processes by offering a wide range of experiences, perspectives and proposals from interested groups. Forum participants also seek innovative orientations to enrich national policy and intersectoral positions; generating cooperation among interested groups and identifying areas of agreement and points of conflict on different elements.

The GBF is held just before most of the meetings of contracting parties to world conventions related with biological diversity. It offers opportunity for broad participation by diverse actors, as opposed to most signatory meetings, which limit participation to international delegations.

To date 12 global biodiversity forums have been held to support the evolution and effective implementation of the CBD.

  • GBF1-Gland held in October 1993, prior to the first meeting of the Inter-Governmental Committee on the CBD.
  • GBF2-Nassau: November 1994, prior to the first CBD Convention of Parties (COP1)
  • GBF3-Jakarta: November 1995, prior to the CBD COP
  • GBF4-Montreal: August 1996, prior to the CBD SBSTTA2
  • GBF5-Buenos Aires:November 1996, prior to CBD COP3
  • GBF6-New York: April 1997, along with a meeting of the CSD
  • GBF7-Harare: June 1997, prior to the CITES COP10
  • GBF8-Montreal: August 1997, prior to the CBD SBTTA3
  • GBF9-Kyoto: December 1997 during COP3 of the Convention on Climate Change
  • GBF10-Bratislava: May 1998, before the CBD COP4
  • GBF11-Buenos Aires: November 1998, before the UNFCCC COP4
  • GBF12-Dakar: December 1998, during the Convention on Desertification COP2

The Convention on Wetlands of International Importance, especially as Habitat for Waterfowl (Ramsar, Iran, 1971), an international treaty generally called the Ramsar Convention, or Wetlands Convention, is designed to help countries manage their wetlands resources in order to improve environmental benefits from these ecosystems and quality of life for inhabitants. The objectives of the Wetlands Convention are compatible with the Convention on Biodiversity, and there is close cooperation between the two treaties at all levels (contracting parties, technical bodies and secretariats.) In January 1996 the secretariats signed a letter of understanding by which the technical bodies of both conventions (SBSTTA and STRP) have established practical working relations.

Given the great biodiversity present in wetlands ecosystems and the large number of goods and services they provide (supply of water and primary productivity on which uncountable species¾ including humans¾ depend), special emphasis must be placed on the relation between the two treaties. Concerns shared by the Wetlands Convention and the Convention on Biological Diversity include:

  • identification and monitoring of wetlands
  • conservation in-situ
  • sustainable use of wetlands components
  • raising of public awareness on the importance of these ecosystems and their components
  • fair and equitable distribution of resources
  • exchange of information and cooperation
  • financing mechanisms

Because of this close relation between the two conventions, the Ramsar Convention has called for GBF13 to be held in Costa Rica immediately prior to the 7th Meeting of Contracting Parties (May 7-9, 1999.) GBF13 will focus on mechanisms for ensuring that the joint work plan of the two conventions is implemented. This plan was approved at the 4th meeting of contracting parties to the Convention of Biological Diversity (May 1998). GBF13 will also try to create synergies between the Ramsar Convention and other biodiversity-related conventions, such as the United Nations Convention on Climate Change and the Convention to Fight Desertification, with respect to topics concerning conservation of biodiversity in aquatic continental, coastal and marine ecosystems.

GBF13 is being convoked by the Government of Costa Rica, the World Conservation Union, the World Resources Institute, the African Centre for Technology Studies, the United Nations Environmental Programme, the Biodiversity Network for Autochthonous Peoples and the Network for Biodiversity Action (Bionet), in association with the Office of the Ramsar Convention and the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity (SCBD).

This thirteenth GBF meeting is the first to be held in a developing country in Mesoamerica. It will be hosted by four IUCN members in Costa Rica: the Centro Agronómico Tropical de Investigación y Enseñanza (CATIE), the Centro de Derecho Ambiental de los Recursos Naturales, (CEDARENA), the Asociación Preservacionista de Flora y Fauna Silvestre, (APREFLOFAS) and the Asociación Centro de Capacitación del Noratlántico, (ACECAN). With the IUCN Regional Office for Mesoamerica (IUCN/Mesoamérica), all these organizations have made valuable contributions to local logistical preparations for the event. GBF13 thus represents a new opportunity for teamwork among the different components of the Union.

GBF13 has six workshops on different topics that complement technical issues discussed at the seventh meeting of Ramsar Convention signatories:

Wetlands and the Private Sector: Analysis of the role the private sector can play in promoting sustainable uses of wetlands biodiversity, particularly with respect to the fishing, tourism, energy and transportation industries. Special emphasis is given to connections between the private sector and communities near wetlands in the area of resource conservation. This workshop is coordinated by CATIE.

Mitigation of Impact from Exotic/Invasive Species: Plants and animals introduced in wetland areas have become such a serious problem that some are now inhibiting the functions of wetlands. One important example in the Mesoamerican region is the Palo Verde Ramsar site, in Costa Rica. Water surfaces in this valuable wetland are disappearing as they are overtaken by cattails (Typha sp.) The workshop examines case studies to help establish guidelines on identification, risk appraisal, management of incursions, control programs and effective communication to prevent and mitigate the impact of exotic/invasive species in wetlands.

Ecosystem Approach to Rehabilitation: There are few examples of wetland ecosystems rehabilitation in Mesoamerica, so this discussion is particularly useful. The workshop will analyze what orientation signatories of the Ramsar and Biological Diversity conventions can use in deciding when and where rehabilitation should be a priority. The workshop will also explore how an ecosystem approach can provide a guiding framework for rehabilitation under these conventions and the integration of rehabilitation processes in national planning and management for the conservation and wise use of wetlands resources.

Global carbon problem: effective use and management of peat bogs. Despite their importance in the production of fossil fuel, peat bogs are not well represented in the Ramsar List of Wetlands with International Importance. The workshop will analyze the critical role that could be played by the World Plan of Action for Peat Bogs in linking the economic and environmental agendas of the conventions on Climate Change, Wetlands and Biological Diversity.

Participation by Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities in Wetlands Management: The workshop will aim at facilitating dialogue to develop instruments and mechanisms within the Ramsar Convention to ensure genuine participation by indigenous peoples and local communities in wetlands management and recommend actions on this topic by the conference of signatory parties. Participating in this workshop will be representatives of indigenous and local peoples from all over the world. In the case of Central America, these will include two representative community groups that participated in preparing the" People's Declaration on Wetlands," read during Ramsar COP7.

Management of Aquatic Resources and World Change: This is a particularly important theme for the Mesoamerican region, given the serious environmental, economic and social consequences of Hurricane Mitch (October 1998). Similarly, IUCN's work in the Mesoamerican region has shown that management of freshwater ecosystems is a vital field of action, especially when carried out by local communities within the context of integrated watershed management. This workshop will discuss how integrated management of water resources and wetland ecosystems can help mitigate the impacts of unsustainable land use practices, patterns of water consumption and climate change. Ties will also be forged among the Ramsar Convention, the Biological Diversity Convention and other environmental instruments such as the Convention on Climate Change and the Convention to Fight Desertification, which have made freshwater management a priority. A resolution based on workshop results was read at Ramsar COP7.

A document was prepared containing the presentations given at GBF13 and resolutions from each one of the workshops.

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