Wildlife & Biodiversity

COP15: Marginalised groups urge ‘meaningful’ integration of human rights in post-2020 GBF

Human Rights and Biodiversity Working Group says there are gaps in the GBF related to human-rights relevant indicators  

By Shuchita Jha
Published: Sunday 11 December 2022
Photo: @antonioguterres / Twitter

Indigenous peoples, local communities, women, girls and youth called for a meaningful integration of human rights in the post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF) at the 15th Conference of Parties (COP15) to the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity in Montreal December 9, 2022.

The Human Rights and Biodiversity Working Group (HRWG) held a briefing to ensure that an effective, inclusive, equitable and just framework is adopted at COP15.

The Group launched a text titled, A Rights-based Path for People and Planet – Proposals for realising Human Rights in the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework on December 8 to serve as a guide for integrating human-rights into the framework.

The HRWG has recognised specific targets within the GBF where human rights have direct relevance.

These include Target 3, where recognition of land and tenure rights can create increased and improved conservation outcomes, Target 1 where participation is critical to success and Target 5 on the use of wild species and the need to protect customary sustainable use.

Read Can Montreal help communities: DTE’s coverage on access and benefit-sharing in the run-up to COP15

The text also gave examples of Target 15 on the responsibilities of businesses and financial institutions, and Targets 21 and Target 22 on rights to participation, to lands, territories, and resources, and to gender equality and the rights of children and youth, women, and girls, which underpin the success of the framework as a whole and are critical to realising a human rights-based approach.

The text read:

“Since the Co-Chairs Reflections Document released in November 20217, general language related to human rights has been included in a section ‘B.bis’. The composite text contains three key paragraphs - 11, 12, 13 - which acknowledge human rights law and recommend the use of a human rights-based approach, among other important commitments such as the recently-recognised universal human right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment.

In the Informal Group report, these same paragraphs have been retained and reordered under a new title ‘the fundamental premises for the implementation of the framework’. We support retention of strong language underscoring that the principles contained in Section B.bis are essential and required in the implementation of the framework, rather than optional or suggested.

In addition to Section B.bis, the most crucial rights elements must also be integrated into specific Goals and Targets so that these components can be both measured and accounted for.”

Some colonial conservation practices violate human rights by evicting Indigenous peoples from their ancestral lands to create national parks, such as in the brutal evictions of the Maasai in Loliondo, Tanzania in June this year.

“The increase in systematic repression, criminalisation and killing of Indigenous peoples around the world in the name of conservation and development must stop immediately,” said Ramson Karmushu, Research, Learning and Advocacy manager at IMPACT on behalf of the International Indigenous Forum on Biodiversity.

Developing and implementing the GBF with a human rights-based approach means that the biodiversity policies, governance and management practices agreed on at COP15 do not violate human rights, said the text.

Read This indigenous tribe of Kenya needs the world’s attention

Milka Chepkorir of the Sengwer Women’s Organisation said that even today, the conservation responses adopted in the colonial times are being sustained, and sometimes with more militarisation.  

As we move into the final rounds of negotiations in December, the question is not if a human rights-based approach is needed, but how such an approach should be integrated into the framework, and what amendments are needed to make it effective, said the HRWG.

The Group pointed out in the text that there are gaps related to human-rights relevant indicators in  the post-2020 GBF.

It said there are no indicators to ascertain the recognition and implementation of the right to a healthy environment in goal B, for ascertaining equitable governance, for traditional territories, or to free, prior, and informed consent in Target 3, to account for human rights impacts and essential role of mandatory obligations on business enterprises in the indicators in relation to all businesses, human rights and biodiversity in Target 15 and an indicator related to the violence experienced by environmental human rights defenders in Target 21.

The HRWG states that the success of the Framework will depend on ensuring gender equality and empowerment of women and girls and reducing inequalities, enhancing greater access to education and respecting the principle of intergenerational equity.

The Global Youth Biodiversity Network, the official coordination platform for youth participation in the CBD have also suggested the addition of a principle in the GBF on intergenerational equity.

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