Getting the ball rolling in biodiversity


World nations take important step towards restoring the planet’s health by 2020

Nairobi, Kenya – An important step forward in the process to stop environment degradation over the next decade was taken today as governments concluded a UN meeting  with recognition of the need to integrate conservation efforts into economic policies and national development plans – a view strongly supported by Conservation International. The outcome is especially welcome given that the International Day of Biological Diversity is being celebrated across the globe this Saturday.

Representatives from 193 countries met in the United Nations Environment Programme’s building in Nairobi for a two-week meeting known as SBSTTA (Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice). Decisions taken at SBSTTA will provide the scientific basis for the discussions that will take place at the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in Japan later this year, when world leaders will commit to targets to reduce the loss of biodiversity by 2020.

The discussions at SBSTTA ended on an overall positive tone as the majority of participants recognized that biodiversity has multiple values, including monetary, and therefore needs to be taken into consideration in economic policies and development plans. The strategic plan agreed by the participants included, for example, a target to reduce subsidies and policies harmful to the environment and to apply economic incentives that promote the sustainable use of biodiversity – an issue that was not mentioned in the previous CBD plan from 2002.

“Traditionally, conservation is often seen as separate from the core concerns of society. Now, there was broad agreement with the idea that biodiversity is an integral part of local livelihoods and global development, and that we cannot continue to grow our economies indefinitely at the expense of nature. So in this sense, the negotiations in Nairobi were a step forward,” said Lina Barrera, senior manager at the Center for Conservation and Government at Conservation International.

When it comes to setting specific targets to reduce the loss of biodiversity until 2020, however, the majority of countries were cautious. Recent scientific reports confirmed that, despite some progress, they failed to meet the targets agreed eight years ago, and that biodiversity continues to be lost at an alarming rate. None of the 2010 targets have been achieved globally, although some have been partially or locally achieved.

The 2020 target concerning protected areas was one of the most controversial topics in Nairobi. Even though countries did not agree on a dramatically higher percentage of areas to be protected, Conservation International is pleased to see that governments are aiming to protect the most important biodiversity areas. Discussions also touched on the need to improve the management of existing protected areas and the importance of defining protected areas as not just national parks but areas that are managed by communities, private parties and multiple use lands that result in biodiversity conservation. 

“We definitely want to see more of the world protected, but more important than just protecting more, is to protect the right places; those that we know hold unique plants and animals and provide essential benefits for people, like water flows and carbon sequestration,” said Conrad Savy, Science Advisor at Conservation International.

Before global leaders meet in Japan in October to agree on actions to restore our planet’s health, the first-ever summit of Heads of State and Government on biodiversity will take place at the United Nations General Assembly in New York in September. These will be rare opportunities for world governments to embrace the new approach taken in Nairobi and commit to include biodiversity conservation in all levels of government and across economic sectors.

Barrera said: “While it is understandable that nobody wants to set themselves up to fail by committing to more than they can deliver, it is vital that fundamental changes happen in the way we use our natural resources. We cannot do the same and expect things to change. That is why governments have to join hands to stop biodiversity loss and make sure that people can continue to depend on nature for their survival, economic improvement and recreation.”

For more information contact:

Patricia Yakabe Malentaqui
Press Office, Conservation International
Mobile: +1 571 225-8345

Notes to the editors:

Conservation International (CI): Building upon a strong foundation of science, partnership and field demonstration, CI empowers societies to responsibly and sustainably care for nature for the well-being of humanity. With headquarters in Washington, DC, CI works in more than 40 countries on four continents. For more information, visit

The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) opened for signature at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, and entering into force in December 1993, the Convention on Biological Diversity is an international treaty for the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity and the equitable sharing of the benefits from utilization of genetic resources. With 193 Parties, the Convention has near universal participation among countries committed to preserving life on Earth. The Convention seeks to address all threats to biodiversity and ecosystem services, including threats from climate change, through scientific assessments, the development of tools, incentives and processes, the transfer of technologies and good practices and the full and active involvement of relevant stakeholders including indigenous and local communities, youth, NGOs, women and the business community. The Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety a supplementary treaty to the Convention seeks to protect biological diversity from the potential risks posed by living modified organisms resulting from modern biotechnology. To date, 157 countries and the European Community are party to the Protocol. The Secretariat of the Convention and its Cartagena Protocol is located in Montreal.

The United Nations proclaimed May 22 The International Day for Biological Diversity (IDB) to increase understanding and awareness of biodiversity issues. When first created by the Second Committee of the UN General Assembly in late 1993, 29 December (the date of entry into force of the Convention of Biological Diversity), was designated The International Day for Biological Diversity. In December 2000, the UN General Assembly adopted 22 May as IDB, to commemorate the adoption of the text of the Convention on 22 May 1992 by the Nairobi Final Act of the Conference for the Adoption of the Agreed Text of the Convention on Biological Diversity. This was partly done because it was difficult for many countries to plan and carry out suitable celebrations for the date of 29 December, given the number of holidays that coincide around that time of year.

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