Wildlife & Biodiversity

COP15 Montreal: Why are human rights in brackets in the post-2020 GBF, asks civil society

Members of various non-profits call out negotiators on greenwashing and slow pace of negotiations even after two years’ delay

By Shuchita Jha
Published: Sunday 11 December 2022

Non-profits called out the negotiators of different countries present at the 15th Conference of Parties (COP15) to the United Nations Convention on Biodiversity in Montreal, Canada, December 10, 2022 about human rights being in brackets in the post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF).

Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim, coordinator of the Association of Peul Women and Autochthonous Peoples of Chad asked whether negotiators had actually utilised their time in Geneva, Nairobi and Montreal judiciously or had they treated these meetings like holidays, emitting even more greenhouse gases.

“It has been more than two years now and the negotiators had enough time. But even now, when we come here all the way, we are seeing that there are around 800 brackets in the post-2020 GBF,” she said.

She added that indigenous communities were being the worst hit because of the biodiversity loss, and even now they were just mentioned in the post-2020 GBF as ‘stakeholders’ and not ‘right holders’.

Aisha Siddiqa, environmental justice advocate from Pakistan asked, “Why are human rights in brackets in the text of the post-2020 GBF? Human rights are inextricably linked to biodiversity protection and to preserving nature. You cannot eliminate the rights of indigenous people, those who protect the land from the environment crisis.”

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She asked why women, young people and Indigenous peoples were not being considered as rights holders and were being merged as stakeholders with corporations.

“We have been protecting nature before the global North even had the words for it, and we will continue doing it. For generations we have been doing it for free and look how much we have been able to protect,” she said.

Oumarou Ibrahim demanded that they be given full and effective participation in the targets and the rights to take the decisions over their land territories and resources.

“They are talking about us as ‘commodities.’ We are not commodities. We are the solution that can help restore biodiversity and we want the recognition of the indigenous territories in both land and oceans and all the rest of the ecosystems. Hundred per cent of our land must be recognised and conserved and investment must be put into indigenous communities to conserve those lands,” she added.

Siddiqa added that the amount of greenwashing going on at COP15, with big corporations running the conference, was horrifying and so was the fact that their language was being co-opted to offer green solutions.

“If we keep allowing corporations, fossil fuel industry, big agriculture, big pharma, etc, into spaces like this, we will lose biodiversity and no amount of offsetting biodiversity will make up for the loss of species. You cannot plant trees somewhere else after you have destroyed nature in one place,” she said.

She added that it was on the last leg of planet and nature crises that indigenous people are asking for financial support.

“Now, when we are asking for financial support, it is coming with offsets; it is coming with incorrect and false solutions and on top of that, it is coming at the cost where we are having to negotiate and compromise our morals and ethics. That is absolutely unacceptable,” said Siddiqa.

“I saw the numbers before I came here and more than $1.8 trillion is being invested to harm nature and we have just less than $90 billion for the conservation,” Oumarou Ibrahim pointed out.

“This is a huge gap. So, investment in destroying our nature must be stopped and this had to be put in the decision text. The money has to be directed to the indigenous peoples who are protecting the nature without getting paid for it,” she added.

Marco Lambertini, secretary-general of the World Wide Fund for Nature said that it was time for the negotiators in Montreal to focus on what really needs to be achieved.

He said while they should fully concentrate during these final days, they are still skirting and not reaching conclusions on the main issues.

“We see slow progress; a lot of focus on (unimportant) things, which is leading to loss of time, when time is a rare commodity here,” he said.

“More than 90 world leaders including the president of the European Union have endorsed the leaders pledge for nature, committing to secure an ambitious biodiversity agreement, capable or reversing natural loss by 2030. This has been already done publicly years ago and repeated in the lead-up to COP15. So, the commitments are out there. Now it is time to translate them into a strong GBF,” he added.

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