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BIODIVERSITY: ENVIRONMENT MINISTERS PLEDGE TO PROTECT MORE NATURAL HABITATS.

Forests plan challenged.The conference adopted a plan for combating the accelerating disappearance of tropical forests, which Greenpeace promptly dismissed as a "paper tiger". The plan was the fruit of a laborious compromise, drawn up between European countries and leading southern hemisphere tropical timber producers, Brazil leading the fight for the eight Amazonian countries and Malaysia for emerging Asian nations. It includes 131 measures which the 183 countries party to the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity are urged to implement, backed if appropriate by foreign aid. These measures include improvements to forest inventories, the application of best forestry practices in the exploitation of timber without destroying trees or natural habitats, the expansion of protected areas and improvements to regulations, with a view to the application of sustainable management techniques.In particular, Greenpeace regrets the plan's failure to specifically target ancient forests or condemn illegal logging. The environmental organisation, which has stepped up action over the past two months against vessels carrying tropical timber, has pledged to pursue its campaign for the preservation of tropical forests which, according to the United Nations, are disappearing at a rate of 1% a year. It accuses Environment Ministers attending the Conference of having made hollow promises by pledging in their final declaration to stop deforestation, without introducing any provisions to ensure that poor countries are provided with the necessary financial assistance.The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) has also expressed disappointment, describing the Conference as "a missed opportunity for the international community to show a clear commitment to forests". The WWF has therefore called on all governments to make a clear commitment to combating illegal logging and trading in tropical hard woods, and on the protection, restoration and sustainable management of forests at the next international gathering, namely the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg at the end of August.Access to resources and benefit-sharing.The politicisation of the deforestation dossier cast something of a shadow over the conference's principal result, the adoption of "guidelines on access to genetic resources and benefit-sharing". These guidelines include important provisions which should put an end to the pillaging of medicinal plants and other natural resources in the Third World by industrialised countries for the manufacture of drugs and fragrances. Even though they are not binding, the guidelines should act as a framework for national legislation on biotechnology research, which is cruelly lacking in many developing countries. Laboratories and multinationals will henceforth no longer be able to exploit the legal void in pursuing certain less than orthodox practices. The guidelines provide first and foremost for the signing of contracts regarding the traditional knowledge of local and indigenous communities sought by genetics researchers. They also demand fair distribution of the benefits between biotechnology manufacturers and the countries supplying genetic resources. The Conference's Dutch President, Geke Faber, Secretary of State for Agriculture, Nature Management and Fisheries, described the adoption of these guidelines as a "major turning point for the Convention".Invasive alien species.The Conference also adopted fifteen guiding principles aiming to develop strategies for reducing the proliferation and impact of invasive alien species, a phenomenon threatening numerous ecosystems and currently accelerating owing to globalisation. Where any scientific uncertainty persists, these provisions rest on the precautionary principle, a fact which, according to the text, does not justify inaction in the face of potential and irreversible threats. Prevention, eradication and confinement are also recognised as guiding principles. The document recommends a number of measures such as frontier controls, quarantine measures, the exchange of information and the establishment of control capacity. It also provides scope for importing countries to apply prior informed consent procedure in advance of the first intentional introduction of any new species.
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Publication:European Report
Geographic Code:4EU
Date:Apr 24, 2002
Words:616
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