Bolivia says UN biodiversity policies boost profits, harm nature

Bolivian delegates María Alexandra Moreira and Diego Pacheco Balanza, at the UN Climate Change Conference in Bonn, April.

Bolivia is one of the few countries that has consistently opposed treating biodiversity as a commodity at the United Nations Conference of Parties to the Convention on Biodiversity held in Hyderabad, India, over October 1-19. It has raised its voice against pro-market approaches in implementing the Strategic Plan and Aichi Targets of the UN's Convention on Biodiversity (CBD).

Diego Pacheco, head of the Bolivian delegation, was interviewed by M. Suchitra for the Indian magazine Down to Earth. An abridged version is below.

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On many occasions, Bolivia has expressed apprehensions about the implementation of CBD objectives. How do you view the processes of CBD?

We are totally against mainstreaming biodiversity and ecosystems with a profit-oriented, pro-market approach.

Natural resources are the treasures of the poor. We are against taking biological resources out of the hands of local communities and indigenous people and making natural resources mere commodities.

Are you saying that CBD has lost its track?

Yes. Why should we conceal the truth? When CBD was concluded for the first time in 1992, before the Earth Summit in Rio, it was considered as something very positive for developing countries. But somewhere along the line CBD has lost its track and now its approaches for implementation of its objectives favour market forces.

Now, the CBD gives leverage and power to the private sector and the market forces for using natural resources only for their profits. Everything connected with nature is being commodified, putting the livelihoods of indigenous and local people at risk.

What are Bolivia’s views on conservation of biodiversity?

Bolivia has recently enacted an important legislation called Mother Earth and Integral Development for Living Well. This law is aims to help reach a balance between conservation of biodiversity, poverty eradication and sustainable development.

The law recognises rights of Mother Earth, rights of indigenous people and local communities, rights of Bolivian people to their integral development for living well and rights of poor people to overcome poverty.

Bolivia does not recognise nature as a commodity. We believe Earth has its own rights we should not violate. These rights include ensuring regeneration and restoration of ecosystems, the right to life and diversity of life.

We recognise the importance of links between environmental, social and economic issues. We need to explore and recognise different understandings about nature and different approaches for conserving it.

It is a philosophy that considers Earth as a sacred living system. Bolivia considers that the way to protect biodiversity into economic and social planning processes is through the recognition of the rights of Mother Earth.

Resource mobilisation was the most contentious issue.

It was decided from the start that developed countries should be committed to transferring funds to developing countries to enable them to implement the targets effectively. But the developed countries show a low commitment on this.

Most of the biodiversity losses and issues were created by developed countries. But they conveniently ignore this fact and ask the developing countries to divert funds for biodiversity conservation.

The Group of 77 countries [which unites many developing countries] are trying hard to make the developed countries stick to their commitments. How can poor countries contribute more? We are a poor country. Half of our people are poor.

There are some serious flaws in the conceptual framework of the strategy for resource mobilisation and reporting of resource mobilisation. The discussions focus only on public and private sector funds for the achievement of the CBD objectives.

The present mechanism totally ignores the role of the collective action or efforts by the common people. This has created a vacuum in the assessment of the overall national efforts towards the conservation of biodiversity, and ignores the outstanding role of the indigenous and local populations in this endeavour.

What is Bolivia’s stance?

Our stance is that the preliminary reporting framework should consider not only the valuation of how much financial resources are invested into conservation, but also how much collective effort is developed.

The indicators regarding resource mobilisation should be revised to make the efforts of communities, indigenous people and local people visible. In Bolivia, the role of collective action is very prominent with respect to conservation of biological diversity. About 70% of our total population are indigenous people.

How will you assess the value of the collective efforts?

We need to develop a conceptual framework regarding how to assess the role of collective action and the effort of indigenous and local populations in the conservation of the biological diversity.

While doing so, we need to keep in mind the critical role of local communities sustainably managing natural resources. We need to fully explore the role of non-market based approaches in this endeavour.

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