More than 1,000 researchers, political leaders and representatives of the private sector will meet, from January 24 to 28, at UNESCO Headquarters at an International Conference on Biodiversity: Science and Governance, which will seek to help stem the alarming rate of extinction of living species and destruction of their ecosystems. One of the main objectives of the conference, held under the patronage of Jacques Chirac, President of France, and Koïchiro Matsuura, the Director-General of UNESCO, is to assess current knowledge and define the needs for research and scientific expertise. It will also examine public and private approaches to biodiversity conservation and management and look at ways to develop measuring standards and observation systems to monitor biodiversity.
Despite the fact that more than 170 countries have ratified the 1992 Convention on Biological Diversity, and that the international community made a strong commitment at the World Summit on Sustainable Development (Johannesburg, South Africa, 2002) to reduce the loss of biodiversity significantly by the year 2010, many animal and plant species continue to be threatened with extinction. The World Conservation Union (IUCN) estimates that more than 7,000 animal species are threatened while among plants the corresponding figure is nearer to 60,000.
“This conference is an important opportunity both to take stock of scientific knowledge and to make it available to all stakeholders, especially to decision makers. It is also an opportunity to link the scientific community, political, and economic decision-makers, and civil society. All must work together to stem the loss of biodiversity, which undermines humanity’s future prospects on Earth”, declared Mr Matsuura.
To date, scientific literature describes fewer than 1.5 million living species, out of an estimated total of up to 30 million. Biodiversity, however, encompasses not only living species but the gamut of ecosystems they form. The loss of ecosystems, coral reefs for example, has been shown to increase the vulnerability of coastal areas in the event of natural disasters, such as last month’s tsunami in the Indian Ocean.
Main highlights of the programme*:
The first session of the conference (January 24, 9.15 a.m.) will feature addresses by, among others, the Director-General of UNESCO, Koïchiro Matsuura, and Jacques Chirac President of France. Other speakers include: Marc Ravalomanana, the President of the Republic of Madagascar; Olusegun Obasanjo, President of Nigeria; Abdullah Badawi, Prime Minister of Malaysia; Wangari Maathai, Kenya’s Deputy Minister for the Environment and Natural Resources, laureate of the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize; François d’Aubert, France’s Minister for Research; Serge Lepeltier, France’s Minister for the Ecology and Sustainable Development; Klaus Toepfer, Director-General of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP); Hamdallah Zedan, Executive Secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD); Valli Moosa, President of the World Conservation Union, (IUCN).
At 2.30 p.m., the first of four plenary sessions will focus on Challenges of biodiversity, science and governance. Status and trends of the world’s biodiversity will be the subject of the second plenary session (January 25, 9 to 12.20 a.m.) followed by debates on Social and ecological benefits of biodiversity (January 25, 2 to 6 p.m.) and Biodiversity and management of living resources (January 26, 8.30 to 12.30 a.m.).
Fifteen workshops will also be held during the conference:
1. Biodiversity Governance;
2. Agricultures and Biodiversity: policies, institutions and practices;
3. Environmental education and communication for biodiversity;
4. Museums, Conservatories, Collections: strategies and infrastructures for documenting biodiversity;
5. Challenges to achieving 2010 targets: funding research for biodiversity and conservation;
6. For an integrated approach to biodiversity;
7. Biodiversity and Urban Areas;
8. Biodiversity and Health: an ecological perspective for the future;
9. Microbial diversity and society;
10. Biodiversity: challenges for fisheries management;
11. Biodiversity, the new frontier of innovation;
12. Biodiversity Indicators and the 2010 Target: scientific challenges;
13. Sustaining Biological and Cultural Diversity: local knowledge, practices and worldviews;
14. Appropriation regimes and management systems for biodiversity;
15. Sustainable management of tropical and subtropical biodiversity: islands and forests.
N.B.: All the workshops will take place at UNESCO, except for Workshop 1 (Governance and Biodiversity), which will be held at the National Museum of Natural History.
Summary reports of the workshops will be presented between 9 and 10.30 a.m. on January 28. Between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m., a message by the scientific community will be presented in a session that will include the participation of Xavier Darcos, Minister Delegate for Cooperation, Development and French speaking countries (France); Walter Erdelen, Assistant Director-General for Natural Sciences, UNESCO; Stéphane Dion, Minister for the Environment (Canada); Guanhua Xu, Minister of Science and Technology (China); Elliot Morley, Minister for Environment and Agri-Environment (United Kingdom) and François d’Aubert, Minister for Research (France).
* For the full programme, including exhibitions and other fringe events see: www.unesco.org/mab