As the headlines fade over the new Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF) agreed on 19th December 2022 at COP15, 12 years after Nagoya’s Aichi Targets, a question remains as to whether the new set of goals and targets is enough to ‘make peace with nature,’ in the words of the UN Secretary General, and to address inequalities and injustices that have also resulted from ecosystem degradation and environmental conflicts. The agreement was hailed as historic in the media.
From the perspective of a Human Rights-Based Approach (HRBA), there have been remarkable achievements that we need to celebrate. For the first time, and first among the Rio Conventions, the CBD adopts a stand-alone target on gender equality (target #23) in addition to a strong and transformative Gender Plan of Action. The new framework has a target stating the need for a full, inclusive, gender-responsive, equitable and effective participation and representation of Indigenous Peoples and local communities in decision-making related to biodiversity, and their rights to lands and resources, access to justice, and the full protection of Environmental Human Rights Defenders as key conditions for biodiversity conservation and sustainable use. The conservation practices and governance models of Indigenous Peoples and local communities, including their rights over traditional territories, have been acknowledged and included as an essential contribution to achieving the conservation of 30% of the planet (target #3). These are some of the strong, decisive steps towards a Human Rights-Based (HRB) framing of the GBF.
That the GBF should ‘be understood, acted upon, implemented, reported and evaluated, consistent with’ a Human Rights-based approach (HRBA), including the human right to a clean, healthy and sustainable development, is stated in a preambular section of the GBF under “considerations.” This is a much weaker language than ‘principles’ or ‘premises’ that was initially proposed.Notwithstanding, the advances for rights are clear and unquestionable in the new GBF, and, in this respect, historic. Equity and rights are being integrated in the targets and actions for halting and reversing biodiversity loss. But the real testing ground will be implementation, starting with the revision of the national biodiversity action plans. Civil society needs to keep engaged and play an active role in supporting and monitoring actions and decisions for biodiversity at national level to be in line with the principles of a human rights-based approach. Collective advocacy and mobilization of civil society need to continue to hold governments and other stakeholders accountable for the implementation of all elements of the framework, including human rights. This is a must if we want to ‘make peace with nature’ and bequeath a thriving and just Earth to the future generations.
Written by Cristina Eghenter