The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) is the only international treaty that aims to sustain the rich diversity of life on Earth. When global decision makers gather in Nagoya, Japan, this fall, much will be at stake, and CI will be pushing an ambitious agenda that will impact the framework of conservation for years to come.
Behind this massive effort is Lina Barrera, CI's Director of Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services Policy. As a member of the Center for Conservation and Government (CCG), Lina leads CI's engagement in CBD by identifying key objectives and coordinating the execution of a strategy to achieve these goals.
Laying the Groundwork: Preparing for Negotiations
"CBD is the only international treaty focused on biodiversity," Lina says, "and that's not just species but biodiversity from the genetic to the ecosystem level, as well as its sustainable use and the equitable sharing of benefits."
IN DEPTH: Learn more about biodiversity.
This year, the major focus of the convention is the negotiation of a new strategic plan that will lay out 20 goals to be achieved by 2020, "basically setting the framework for the international community's conservation efforts for the next decade."
Preparing for this major conference was no small undertaking. For months leading up to CBD, Lina and her team have worked with experts throughout the institution to prepare technical briefings that will accompany CI position papers on specific aspects of the negotiations, laying out exact text that CI would like to see adopted and the scientific and policy rationale behind those positions. In addition to preparing documents, CCG provides updates and talking points on the state of negotiations, compiles specific information on individual country positions and develops fact sheets and presentations, all taking into account the context of different countries so field program staff have accurate information and informative materials with which to engage their national governments. Lina also seeks out partners with similar positions to collaborate with in achieving CI's policy objectives.
CI's Goals for CBD
With such overwhelming information flow, it's important for CI to focus on top priorities, taking into account discussions based on science, practicality and political feasibility. Shaping these policies is a cyclical process that involves the expertise from the field and knowledge of various countries’ positions. Just as Lina's team pushes critical information out to the field, they in turn feed information back to help further refine CI's institutional strategy and develop our approach to CBD.
CI is urging the parties to CBD to agree to bring at least 25 percent of the world's land and inland waters and 15 percent of marine areas under protection by 2020, prioritizing areas important for biodiversity and ecosystem services.
Lina’s team is pushing for stronger integration of fresh water, and its role in sustaining freshwater ecosystems and other biomes, including human, across all programs of work. Finally, CI is working to ensure that positive incentives for biodiversity conservation are a part of the strategy for maintaining biodiversity over the long run. This includes payment for ecosystem services schemes and other policies that make conservation an attractive choice for people.
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After these goals are established, CI staff are in a unique position to push our agenda. Field staff have spent a lot of time building relationships with government representatives, helping them to implement new initiatives on the ground and providing information for new laws, programs and protected areas.
"CI program staff are often invited to serve as advisors or members of national delegations due to the excellent technical and policy support they provide," Lina says.
Linking Environment and Development
Lina is marking her seventh year with CI, and hearing about her background, it's easy to see why CI is such a great fit for her. She was born in Colombia but moved to Florida at a very young age. Lina travelled back to Colombia
every summer and spent most of her time outdoors on farms.
"I would run around climbing trees, picking berries on mountain walks, riding horses, playing in streams and just generally enjoying being outside, while occasionally helping to milk cows for the fun of it." But along with the good memories, Lina also remembers seeing poverty there that is unknown throughout most of the United States – both rural and urban.
"This was incredibly influential in my developing a love of nature and an appreciation for how closely people in rural areas live to nature, since this is something that I never saw in the United States." Her experiences spurred an interest in both environment and development issues and, eventually, the connection between the two. "I am fascinated by the relationship between human society and the environment that ultimately sustains us."
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Policy Work: Patience Rewarded
Lina has been able to see this relationship play out through her work at CI, although she admits she hasn't been around long enough to witness the full impacts yet.
"One of the greatest challenges to policy work is that it is a long, slow process that is never really finished. Progress on the ground can also be slow after an agreement and often the achievements are difficult to measure because it is hard to answer the question of 'how much worse would it have been without this agreement in place?'"
One example, however, does come to mind: Protected Areas of Work at the CBD, which she worked on and which calls for specific step-by-step actions that countries should take to increase coverage and efficacy of protected areas. Most of the gap analyses that have been carried out for national protected areas systems have been prompted by this piece of policy – and CI has had a hand in supporting several of them – Madagascar, Indonesia, the Philippines and Ecuador.
For now though, Lina and her team will continue providing the support and resources needed to help enact CI's goals in Japan. When asked about her most successful moment, Lina says "I think I might save this one for after the CBD negotiations!" Although no one can predict the outcome of CBD, CI certainly has an ardent ally on its side, pushing the behind-the scenes action.
"I love what we're doing. My background is specifically in environment and development, so I definitely agree with CI's new mission. We need to be bringing these two worlds together in order to achieve real, lasting change."
LEARN MORE: New Logo, New Mission